Family engagement and “familiar” settings: an important component of culturally-appropriate services for minority communities (international)

minority baby

A review of projects to provide culturally appropriate maternity care services for minority communities has revealed that involving families and creating a “familiar” environment is a particular strategy in some projects to overcome the cultural distance between the woman and the services provided for her.

Family engagement, however, is not picked out in the review article as a theme: only the individual women, professionals and communities are considered.

Half of the 15 projects reviewed addressed family dimensions. Including families in the birth process was a component of a programme for Quecha language speakers in Peru. The importance of advice from family and friends was recognised in a project for minority women in Indiana, USA. Family support was considered important for teenage mothers in a project in Norfolk, USA. Social support from family and friends was considered important in a project to support Latino women in Phoenix, USA. Four projects to support Aboriginal women in Australia all recognised the importance of the extended family, including them in antenatal consultations and creating “familiar” settings.

Birth used to take place always in a familiar setting. The transfer of birth to health settings, and the stripping away of family support for the woman that so often goes with it, is a universal problem, but it is more acute when the cultural difference between the family and the service is wider. It is perhaps unsurprising that a method often adopted to close the cultural gap is to focus on restoring a “familiar” environment for antenatal care and the birth.

The World Health Organisation has recently made a recommendation that supporting culturally appropriate maternity care services is important, because it improves maternal and newborn health. The same WHO report also identifies engaging with fathers and families as a global priority.


Jones E, Lattof SR & Coast E (2017), Interventions to provide culturally-appropriate maternity care services: factors affecting implementation, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17

Photo: The White Ribbon Alliance. Creative Commons.