Cultural Competency – Appalachian Region

The Appalachian region and its people have been misunderstood and misrepresented in media portrayals for over half a century. Appalachia is the 205,000 square mile region that ranges from southern New York to northern Mississippi, as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); it includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Appalachia’s population is 42 percent rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population. Fortunately, the growth of technology in healthcare delivery encourages healthcare professionals to access this population via telehealth technologies. However, it is critical that healthcare professionals understand (1) characteristics of the Appalachian region and its people and (2) how to effectively communicate with patients in this region. This understanding or cultural competency is vital for positive interactions and positive health outcomes.

In this course, we discuss Appalachia’s complexities and highlight distinctions between myth and reality so that healthcare professionals can develop cultural competency. We cover the demographics, history, dialects, cultural traditions, and religious beliefs of Appalachia’s people.

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