Community action research: A qualitative analysis of Hispanic/Latino cultural competence and agency capacity

Smith, Susan Faye
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Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the United States. From 1980 to 1990, the Hispanic population increased from 15 million to 20.8 million (United States Bureau of the Census, 1992). According to Census 2000, 281.4 million people resided in the United States, and 35.3 million, or 13%, are Hispanic (Grieco & Cassidy, 2001). In Southwest Florida, the number of Hispanics almost doubled over the past 10 years (DeSantis & Halberstein, 1992); in this study of a county in Southwest Florida, the actual Hispanic population increased by 140%. This unprecedented increase resulted in a gap between the needs of the Hispanic/Latino community and the community agencies' ability to provide culturally competent services.

Serving the community in a leadership role, the Human Services Planning Association quickly learned that a model for success to fit the disparity within its community did not exist. In collaboration with community partners, a plan was developed and successfully implemented to conduct two community surveys: one to the Hispanic/Latino community and the other to the service agencies. There were twenty-eight agencies that participated in the Agency Cultural Competency Survey with a return rate of 74%. There were three hundred eighty-five Hispanic/Latino respondents who were interviewed and participated in the Hispanic/Latino Survey.

The purpose of this study was to analyze the data from the two community surveys to determine community assets and barriers; what was working well and what was not. Through application of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, retrospective analysis of the Hispanic/Latino and Agency Cultural Competence Survey data was completed. Purnell's Model for Cultural Competence (Purnell & Paulanka, 1998), with its twelve domains of cultural competence, provided the organizing framework for presentation and discussion of the study findings.

The plethora of findings from the Hispanic/Latino Survey and the Agency Cultural Competency Survey has proven invaluable in formulating a picture of agency capacity in provision of culturally competent services to the Hispanic/Latino community. The community assets can be used as building blocks of success for agencies to incorporate into their organizational plans. The community barriers in this study should be treated as opportunities for improvement. Recommendations for developing an agency outcomes measurement system and service action plan are suggested. Exploration of the conditions in this community that led to successful community engagement could assist health educators in planning for successful action in community settings that are experiencing dynamic change and have a need for culturally competent community services.

Social sciences, Education