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Service Learning: A Vehicle for Developing Cultural Competence in Health Education

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Objective: To discuss the connections between multicultural education, service learning, and the development of professional competencies. Methods: Qualitative data were collected from reflective papers, classroom observations, and pamphlets of students (n=125) involved in community-based learning. Results: The findings of the study revealed three major themes related to service learning and cultural competence: (1) the development of “ethnic consciousness” (2) the importance of both personal and intellectual development for cultural competence with regard to health issues and (3) the role of service learning in empowering students to be contributing citizens to their community. Conclusion: Community-based service learning moves students beyond cultural awareness toward the development of cultural competence that is grounded in both health education and in the realities and complexities of a multicultural community.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Health and Community Services, California State University Chico, Chico, CA. 2: School of Education Studies, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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