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Cultural Competence: A Life Long Journey to Cultural Proficiency

Gannotti, Mary PT, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3181fac37c

Department of Physical Therapy, University of Hartford

Book Reviews: Manuscripts for this department should be sent to Ann F. Van Sant, PhD, PT, Editor, Temple University, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Allied Health Professions, 3307 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140.

Leavitt, a physical therapist and the editor of the book, is also the author of 6 of the 12 chapters of the book. Her background includes experience in anthropology, public health, disability studies, physical therapy, and education. Physical therapists with expertise in anthropology, education, and sociology and anthropologists contribute the remaining chapters.

The book initially introduces the concept of cultural competence and its importance to physical therapy. Leavitt relates cultural competence to the affective domain in the APTA code of ethics and core content areas for physical therapy education. In chapter 2, Loveland, a professor of anthropology, writes about the nature of culture and current understandings of culture. In chapter 3, Leavitt reviews the theoretical models of culture and health and summarizes the literature about culturally sensitive assessment of disability, and in chapter 4, she describes how to elicit a client's ethnography or “story.” In chapter 5, she describes cultural variation in how disability is experienced worldwide.

In chapter 6, Lefebvre and Lattanzi review issues concerning racial and ethnic disparities in health status, health care, and physical therapy. In chapter 7, Reviere and Stackman describe major determinants of health and its association with poverty. Smey, in chapter 8, discusses the origins of racism, its prevalence throughout society, and its effect on social interactions, especially in the health care setting. In chapter 9, Masin reviews major concepts in communication and the effect of culture on communication including rules for eye contact, personal distance, and touching. She provides powerful examples of how cultural differences can create communication barriers and lead to barriers for optimal care. Reynolds provides guidelines for creating service learning opportunities that promote increased cultural competence in chapter 10. In chapters 11 and 12, Leavitt discusses the importance of using a social justice model for understanding the effect of physical therapy and challenges for practitioners to continue to develop cultural competence and fight for equality in the 21st century.

As a whole, the book provides the framework and content for 1, perhaps, 2 social science classes in the physical therapist doctoral curriculum. The book is a summary of the salient concepts, methods, theory, and practice across many disciplines as they relate to disability studies, and provides new insight on disability studies and physical therapy. In addition, this book provides a mechanism for physical therapist students to reflect on their own capacity for compassion, sensitivity, and social responsibility.

For practicing clinicians, this book provides an overview of the field of disability studies, with specific information for physical therapists. This book is recommended for clinicians who want more information about broad social issues as they relate to physical therapy practice. With this book, Leavitt has made an important contribution to the development of social responsibility and sensitivity in physical therapy practice.

In summary, the field of “disability studies” is a content area that warrants attention in the doctoral curriculum for physical therapist students. Disability studies represent the body of knowledge that draws from the traditional fields of medicine, sociology, anthropology, education, psychology, and public health, and are focused on the contributions, experiences, history, and culture of people with disabilities worldwide. A relatively new field, disability studies grew academic and political attention during the multiple national and international civil rights movements from the latter half of the 20th century. There currently are only a handful of books, compendiums, or collections of readings that focus on disability studies. There are no comprehensive texts, and certainly none to date tailored to the needs and interests of physical therapists. Leavitt has filled that gap with her new book.

Mary Gannotti, PT, PhD

Department of Physical Therapy, University of Hartford

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.