Lindsay Ahalt


Education: Bachelor of Science in anthropology, biology, and microbiology (May 2009)

Currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in anthropology at the University of Michigan

McNair Project: Health Care Provider Attitudes towards Counseling Diverse Patient Populations for Preventative Health Behaviors (2008)

Mentor: Elizabeth Fallon, Ph.D.

Compared to White/Caucasian populations, minority populations have increased morbidity and mortality from obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Because these conditions can be preventable through proper diet, physical activity, and weight management practices, it is important to develop and implement cost-effective interventions that successfully promote these health behaviors. Initial studies were successful in training primary healthcare providers to counsel patients for preventive health behaviors, but most were conducted with primarily White/Caucasian populations. Furthermore, minority patients report that healthcare providers lack the cultural competencies to effectively counsel them. Formerly overlooked, however, is the healthcare provider’s perspective on counseling patients from different ethnic backgrounds and their ability to demonstrate cultural competency during such interactions.

The purpose of this study is to better understand providers’ attitudes concerning their abilities to effectively counsel patients who may be of a different ethnic background. Using the Kansas list of state-licensed health professionals, surveys were sent to 1000 randomly selected Physicians, 1000 randomly selected Nurses, and all 647 Physician Assistants. Preliminary results indicate that most health care providers are confident they have the cultural competencies necessary to effectively counsel patients of a different ethnic background. Men report more confidence in their cultural competencies than women, and physicians were more confident than physician assistants. Thus, there is a stark contrast between the providers’ perspective and their minority patients regarding the providers’ cultural competencies and ability to provide effective counseling. This suggests it may be important to provide further experiential training to increase the cultural competencies of health care professionals.