Public Health student creates resource to increase cultural humility for health care providers

Portrait of Rhetta Vega against the walls of the UNE Art Gallery
Rhetta Vega (Public Health, ’23)

Rhetta Vega (Public Health, ’23) recently published a resource on the importance of cultural humility for prevention specialists in health care, focusing specifically on Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx populations.

Vega created the resource, titled “Increasing Cultural Humility for Prevention Specialists who work with Hispanic, Latino, Latinx Populations in New England,” while interning for the New England Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network. The organization, based in Augusta, provides technical services for the prevention workforce.

Vega described the goal of the project is to help health care providers increase their cultural humility — the ability to acknowledge one’s own biases and having an openness to earnest understanding of another’s cultural identity — of the Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx populations when discussing substance misuse and addiction. She provides information covering geography, linguistics, risk, and protective factors of these populations for providers to consider.

“I've always had an interest in helping contribute to advancing minority health and health equity for marginalized communities,” Vega stated. “As someone who is of Hispanic ethnicity, having the opportunity to focus on a community that I am a part of was really cool for me.”

A lack of knowledge of a patient’s cultural background could lead to a disconnect and even mistreatment between provider and patient, Vega said. “It's really important to have a solid understanding of who you're working with so you can best address their needs and wants,” she remarked.

Vega stated that both new and seasoned providers should take advantage of educational opportunities to learn more about the populations they serve. She suggested providing more training and booster programs for companies and networks to help increase cultural humility and prevention efforts and contribute to the reduction of health disparities.

Vega’s tool also provides a list of organizations and specific resources for each New England state that support prevention within the Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx communities.

Additionally, with more resources available, Vega said she hopes that Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx communities feel more confident in the care they receive.

“I hope [the resource] helps create a more welcoming environment for people who need services and knowing that, when you're seeking a service, the provider you're working with really does have a full understanding of where you're coming from.”

As a fourth-year public health major, Vega said she hopes to continue her work as a prevention specialist for marginalized communities in Maine after she graduates.