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Cultural-Competence vs. Cultural-Responsiveness

Cultural-competence is your ability to understand, embrace, and genuinely interact with individuals whose beliefs and cultural backgrounds differ from your own.

Cultural-responsiveness is the practice of putting your cultural competence into action. In other words, applying your knowledge of unique beliefs and cultural backgrounds into professional practice to ensure your nutrition practice applies to each individual client/patient you serve.

How to Improve Your Cultural Understanding and Practice

Both cultural-competence and responsiveness are essential in dietetic practice.

To expand your understanding of beliefs and cultural backgrounds that are different than your own -- and integrate your knowledge into practice -- follow these action steps:

  • Take the time to research and learn about the communities you’re serving, including dietary preferences and restrictions

  • Provide clients with nutritional content that is relevant to their cultural backgrounds

  • Re-examine foods that you consider ‘healthy’ based on cultural standards and biases

  • Follow RD organizations that focus on culturally-specific nutrition education, gardening, and cooking (such as Eat Well Exchange)

  • Attend educational webinars focused on cultural-competence and responsiveness

  • Continue to actively learn and attain knowledge that improves your cultural-competence and responsiveness practice

  • Prioritize Expanding Your Cultural-Competence and Cultural-Responsiveness

Practices like cultural-competence and responsiveness require a lifelong commitment to learning and expanding beyond your current knowledge. It’s important to remember, failing to expand beyond your current cultural knowledge is limiting to practice, and to the success of the communities you serve.

Prioritize expanding your culturally-relevant practice today.


Written by: Vanessa Pérez (she/her), SDA DEI Student Representative

(Reviewed by: Allie Lansman (she/her), IAND DEI Liaison)

Diversity Equity Inclusion Liaison -


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