by Trina Laube, CWP and Suzanne Hunt, MPH, CHC, CWP

This is the fourth article in a six-part series on the role of competencies in wellness promotion.

According to the National Wellness Institute’s overview of wellness, one of the core tenets of wellness is that it is “multicultural and holistic, involving multiple dimensions.” The holistic aspect has been a pivotal part of the definition of wellness for decades, but recent years have also witnessed a renewed and intentional focus on multicultural competency and inclusion for enhanced well-being. In fact, employers are increasingly recognizing that diversity, equity, and inclusion must be part of the employee value proposition. Furthermore, the National Wellness Institute (NWI) dedicates the third of the five domains within its Wellness Promotion Competency Model to “Inclusive and Responsive Practices.”

The six competencies within this “Inclusive and Responsive Practices” domain assist wellness professionals and those who hire, train, and certify wellness practitioners in understanding the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support professionals’ ability to assist and engage diverse groups of individuals in maintaining and enhancing wellness and to build inclusive cultures of well-being for all. By developing these competencies, wellness practitioners are better able to communicate, engage, and connect with individuals whose backgrounds and experiences may differ from their own, thereby increasing the effectiveness of wellness interventions and programs and resulting in more impactful outcomes.

Employing inclusive and responsive practices requires wellness practitioners to practice authenticity and self-awareness, as well as self-regulation, to minimize the effects of personal biases in working with diverse individuals and groups. Additionally, multiculturally competent professionals recognize the dynamics of oppression and privilege on an individuals’ lived experiences. They demonstrate compassion, integrity, and respect for diverse individuals and groups, including but not limited to diversity in sex, age, culture, race, ethnicity, disabilities, body-size, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and gender identity. As illustrated in the NWI Multicultural Wellness Wheel, wellness professionals must be inclusive in their methods, recognizing that wellness is not one-size-fits all, as they implement approaches to enhance the well-being of individuals, communities, and worksites.

Multiculturally competent and responsive professionals work to uncover individuals’ strengths, concerns, and values using a person-centered approach to inquiry that includes active listening to help set appropriate wellness goals and strategies. They assist individuals in identifying barriers or resistance to change that are interrupting their ability to integrate wellness-promoting behaviors into their lives. Finally, they adapt wellness strategies to fit individual, geographical and cultural needs, acknowledging that there are no universally correct models or processes.

By developing the competencies within the “Inclusive and Responsive” domain of the NWI Wellness Promotion Competency Model, professionals and champions are better equipped to provide guidance, support, and instruction to diverse groups by guiding them through the active process of learning to make informed, achievable, and positive wellness choices that align with their cultures and values.