April is National Minority Health Month. During this time, we raise awareness about differences in the burden of disease or the opportunity to achieve optimal health experienced by minorities. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Better Health Through Better Understanding.” This theme focuses on improving health care outcomes by providing culturally competent care, health literacy, and improved access to information for people with limited English. When individuals are provided appropriate and relevant information, they are empowered to live a healthier life. With that in mind, the dietary guidelines provide guidance that can be customized to meet individual needs and preferences. This helps individuals and communities identify nutrient-dense foods from every food group that reflect their own culture and traditions. This can help people across the country eat and enjoy a healthy dietary pattern based on the foods that they prefer and enjoy.
- Understand the culture: The first step is to make every effort to understand the culture of the individual or community with which you are working. This will be appreciated and involves learning about traditional foods, cooking methods, and dietary practices. This will help you identify foods that are culturally relevant and align with their dietary needs and preferences.
- Identify nutrient needs: Identify individual nutrient needs. This will help you determine which food groups they need to prioritize to meet their nutrition goals. For example, if an individual needs more iron in their diet, you can recommend foods that are high in iron.
- Together, create a list of culturally relevant foods: Based on feedback, your understanding of the culture and the nutrient needs of the individual or community, create a list of culturally relevant foods that align with their dietary needs. For one community, you may recommend foods such as black beans, avocado, and corn tortillas that are traditional in their culture and provide essential nutrients.
- Provide recipe suggestions: Provide suggestions for recipes that incorporate the culturally relevant foods you have identified. This will help individuals understand how they can incorporate these foods into their diet. You may also suggest modifying some of their favorite recipes to make them more nutritious such as swapping white rice for brown rice to increase the fiber content.
- Educate on portion sizes: It’s important to educate individuals about appropriate portion sizes to ensure they are getting just the right amount of nutrients without the excess. Providing visual aids or hands-on demonstrations can be helpful in teaching these skills.
As you can see, better health through better understanding can be achieved with only a few simple changes to traditional teaching methods. These small changes will have a big impact on the individuals and communities that we serve.