Sometimes I’m tempted to skip to the comments.

NPR storyA recent NPR story highlights how people’s perceptions of what affects their health differ according to socioeconomic status.  I read the article but then I rushed to the comments.  Some comments come from the “pull yourself up by the boot straps” philosophy while other comments call for increased federal aid.

food is powerThe comments are all over the map politically and I realize I see my own conflicted attitudes reflected there.  I have seen inspiring success stories of students overcoming adversity but I also see the soul crushing effects of poor housing and unsafe neighborhoods.  I’ve seen struggling families make healthy choices and I’ve seen families give in to the limited choices available to them in a food desert.

The School Nursing community is beginning to address the health disparities we see every day in our practice.  We are learning to utilize community mapping and GIS technology to identify health disparities.  We seek to upgrade our cultural competency skills and our political advocacy skills to help decrease those disparities.

The NPR site reminds readers to “Please keep your community civil.”  The persistence of health disparities in this land of plenty is a call to action but at the same time, we need to engage families and health care providers in discussion of the root causes of these disparities.  As long as we “keep our community civil”, we don’t have to fear the comments section.

Can we talk about #culturalhealth?

My office is located on the sixth grade hall in a busy Middle School so in many ways I’m literally stuck in the sixth grade.  That’s not always a bad thing because sixth grade is a year full of exploration and learning.

When I sat down to explore why School Nurses need to start conversations about cultural competency, I reverted to one of our strategies on the sixth grade hall – the writing prompt.  Here is a sample of some writing prompts I see on the sixth grade hallway.  “You wake up and reach for your phone.  It’s not there because you just woke up in Rome, circa 100 C.E.  What will the rest of your day be like?”  Or how about, “Anacondas should be allowed to populate the Everglades if they can survive there.  Respond for or against and your scientific rationale.”

photo (11)The writing prompt I came up with to guide my personal assignment took me into some unexplored territory but not nearly as hair raising as Imperial Rome without a cell phone or wading through anaconda infested waters.  I searched for the terms cultural competency, health disparities, and health literacy on Twitter, on facebook, on Tumblr, and on Pinterest.  I found that many professionals are asking what does it take to be a culturally competent nurse or doctor or teacher.  Professionals are asking where they can find training resources to help them work towards cultural competency.

Parents and students too are posting about cultural sensitivity and disparities.  Over and over again parents and professionals are saying we have to find a way to start the vital conversations about disparities, about cultural sensitivity.

Professional conversations, modeling,  and sharing – that is the Nursing way of learning.  We invite you to start those conversations in your schools and with your school nurse colleagues.  The NASN2014 Cultural Competency work group and the NASN2014 Twitter Mentors will host a Twitter chat on the topic of Cultural Competency January 6 at 6 pm EST.  We hope you will take part in the conversation.