Systemic Cultural Competency

Systemic Cultural Competency2017-05-02T06:37:53+00:00

Cultural Competency (sometimes called Cultural Competence) is the ability of systems and individuals to effectively and positively adapt themselves to relevant identities, cultures, ethnic groups, etc. Cultural competence applies to service provision, human resources practices, etc. Cultural competence is also the ability of all residents to be able to access rights and services guaranteed them by international law. Our approach to our work was further refined in the May 2016 conference that we organized together with the Jerusalem Foundation – Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City. Cultural competence applies to service provision, human resources practices, etc.

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker

Ms. Uzma Shakir, Keynote Speaker at the May 2016 conference: “Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City”

At the JICC, we believe that Jerusalem must be culturally competent, regardless of the significant political and social rifts that embroil it. This means that Jerusalem today should be adapted to all the different groups in the city. It is hard to claim that nowadays there is equality in service provision in Jerusalem… but even equality is not enough! The saying – “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people” – is central to the application of cultural competence to a city as Jerusalem, since the needs of different groups are sometimes very different, and their status might be very different too. Hence, citywide cultural competence  means an ongoing sincere effort to respond well to the needs of the various needs, while ensuring a just distribution of the city resources.

Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Based on world experience, we started our efforts to promote cultural competence with the Jerusalem healthcare system. In partnership with the Jerusalem Foundation, in 2008 we  initiated our first cultural competence program with the ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility. Since then, Alyn has become, with our continued help, the first culturally competent hospital in Israel. Almost all its staff, including administrative employees, have undergone our day-long training seminars; linguistic interpretation has become a habit; translation of materials has become the norm; signage and services have become more and more adapted to the many groups that receive services . In short, cultural competence has become an everyday tool.  In parallel, we also helped some of the Clalit Health Services HMO clinics in Jerusalem, who have many Ethiopian immigrants among their patients,  to provide culturally competent services. We then moved on to Hadassah Medical Center, Bikur Holim Hospital, the Jerusalem Mental Health Center (that includes two hospitals and a number of walk-in clinics) and Shaare Tzedek Medical Center. We are now continuing the process with the other HMOs and hospitals in the city and throughout the country. In 2016 we worked with the Assuta hospital and clinic chain, making it the first national chain of medical centers to become culturally competent.

Discussing experiences in medical interpreting

Discussing experiences in medical interpreting

As the JICC became a leading expert at the national level, we found ourselves impacting the Israeli healthcare system as a whole. Based on our local experience, in 2011, the Israel Ministry of Health formulated national standards for culturally competent care. Although far from being perfect or comprehensive, these regulations help us pursue cultural competence. We published a comprehensive guide for cultural competency, and using this guide, cultural competence coordinators – a role that we invented in Israel which is now a standard in all health care organizations – are advancing their programs in the field, in hospitals and clinics throughout the country. We are continuing to publish detailed expansions to parts of this guide from time to time. The JICC is coordinating the national forum of cultural competence coordinators, and the relevant internet discussion group. Using the training kit that we developed, that includes original video vignettes that are specifically adapted to Israel/Jerusalem, presentations and other materials, we are helping staff to learn basic and advanced tools in practical cultural competence.

Some of the materials were translated into English and can be found on our English publication page.

Our current main focus in health care is to increase sustainability, and beginning in 2015 we’ve been operating Training the Trainers workshops. As of the end of 2016, two workshops have been held. Participants come from a range of health care institutions around Israel, and, together with the cultural competency coordinators of those institutions, are responsible for implementing cultural competence training in their home institutions. Training was based on the short training videos and instruction handbook that the JICC recently produced, in cooperation with Bar-Ilan University, the courses and included skills on how to integrate and facilitate training workshops on cultural competence.

From Healthcare to Other Municipal and National Systems

Based on our experience, and as demonstrated in the Jerusalem as a Culturally Competent City conference, we are now moving on to other areas – welfare departments, community workers, education, museums, police, municipal departments, etc. Step by step, we seek to improve these services in the city (and sometimes beyond). In each of these areas and disciplines, cultural competence takes a different form. Indeed, our main challenge for the future is to find ways adapt cultural competence to these many services and make sure that this approach become a norm.

Israel Police

Beginning in 2015 we began to work extensively with the Israeli Police. This work expanded even further in 2016 to include training at the National Police Academy; and training in most of the precinct stations throughout the country. When finished, the project will reach most of the tens of thousands of police officers and commanders throughout the country. As a result of this work, training has been expanded even further, to include Border Police and special forces.

Police in training course

Police in a training course

How will this training affect police officers’ responses to everyday incidents? One officer noted: ”The training opened my eyes to the different populations we serve. That, when we’re called to an incident, I might need to act a little differently, try to respect the people’s particular customs. Our main goal is to try to ensure that the incident is over as quickly as possible, that it’s been dealt with in the most professional manner as possible, in the calmest way possible, so that we can do our jobs as best as possible.”

National Insurance Institute, East Jerusalem Branch

Since 2015 the JICC has been working with the senior management of the National Insurance Institute, East Jerusalem Branch, to develop a system to implement cultural competence principles. This is the first cultural competence work that has been done in any NII branch throughout Israel. During 2016 the JICC held training sessions with the workers, and is working with the branch’s “Excellence Team,” a dedicated group of professionals who volunteered to improve the level of service given at the branch. They are exploring different models and helping to design principles for action at the branch.

"The first site to respond in French to your questions about the Israeli health care system

“The first site to respond in French to your questions about the Israeli health care system”

Santé Israël

Begun in 2015, Santé Israël is the first web site to make Israel’s health care system accessible to French speakers. In its first year some 10,000 people visited the site, most from Israel but also 2,000 from France. In addition to developing the content of the web site and its accompanying Facebook page, Santé also holds a number of community meetings throughout Jerusalem. In addition, Santé participated in the “Olimpiada” information fair for French-speaking new immigrants, and began a partnership with AMI Israel, which helps French-speaking immigrants in Israel. You can read more about it on our relevant blog category.

Holiday Information Sheets

Ethiopian Sigd Information Sheet

The JICC continued to distribute one-page Holiday Information sheets to a broad range of health and welfare professionals throughout the country. The project began in 2013, and in 2016, 50 information sheets on a wide range of holidays, were distributed. You can find them on our Hebrew publications page.

Jerusalem Municipality

We’ve been working with the Jerusalem Municipality on an informal level for some time, and in 2016 we began working with the Community Services Administration, which includes the Welfare Department, the Employment Authority, the Absorption Authority and the Public Health Department. We also began working with the Comptroller’s Office and the Municipality HR group to incorporate Cultural Competence throughout the municipality.


We’ve been working in-depth with the Hadassah Academic College, providing workshops to both staff and students. We have also been working with medical and nursing students at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine and the Jerusalem College of Technology, respectively.

You can read more about what we do with regard to cultural competence at the relevant category on our blog.

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