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MSI Fellowship Week: Julia Lechuga on Culturally Competent Evaluation: A Reflection from a Health Psychologist

Hello. My name is Julia Lechuga and I am honored to be part of the AEA 2015 Minority Serving Institution (MSI) fellowship program. This year’s cohort was tasked with inquiring the manner in which different academic fields conceptualize the practice of culturally competent evaluation. Deep thought regarding the meaning of this statement for the practice of evaluation within my profession led me to ponder about the following question: in what way could a health psychologist contribute to make evaluations more culturally competent? My attempt at answering this question follows:

Lesson Learned: Division 38 of the American Psychological Association is the leading professional organization for health psychologists. Division 38 defines a health psychologist as a professional “engaged in academic research, professional practice, in clinical, occupational, and acute health care settings” (APA Division 38, 2015, “what is a health psychologist”). Regarding academic research, an intricate part of a health psychologist’s training is to become well-versed in behavior change research theory, espousing the individual determinants of health, to evaluate the effect of implemented behavior change interventions to better the health of ethnic minority, medically underserved individuals. It is in this tradition that I wish to highlight a potential opportunity within the field to facilitate cultural competency in gauging the merit of particular initiatives.

When looking at the state of the field regarding the behavior change theories that are currently guiding research and practice in the field, it is inevitably to notice the dearth of theories espousing the role of culture and cultural context in behavior change. In fact, a recent review indicates that researchers and practitioners continue to rely predominantly on behavior change theories such as the Health Belief Model and the Theory of Planned Behavior to inform the development and testing of behavior change health interventions aimed at bettering the health of ethnic minorities. These theories fall short of delineating important determinants of health, at the individual level, that influence the health of ethnic minority population as these theories were developed and tested in affluent ethnic majority populations.

Hot Tip: As a potential solution, I would like to advocate for the intra-disciplinary collaboration between cross-cultural and health psychologists as a way to increase the cultural competency, research methods wise, of health psychologists. Cross-cultural psychology is making headway in the expansion of theory to account for the influence of culture on health-related behavior. The integration of cross-cultural research findings into evaluation practice within health psychology will pave the way for a more culturally competent health psychology evaluation theory and practice.

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=230 Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “MSI Fellowship Week: Julia Lechuga on Culturally Competent Evaluation: A Reflection from a Health Psychologist”

  1. Ms. Lechuga,
    You make a valid point in regards to the need for cultural context and diversity in evaluation and the lack of health and behavioral theories that cater to the ethnic minority groups. As part of an ethnic minority group I understand the lack of cultural competence and hope to one day see evaluators work outside their familiar cultural contexts.

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