Culture Counts: A Guide to the Best Practices for Developing Health Promotion Initiatives in Mental Health and Substance Use
with Ethnocultural Communities
In chapter 5 - Translate and adapt:
The percentage of Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English or French is projected to increase from 17% in 2001 to
21-25% in 2017 (Statistics Canada, 2005). A major difference between creating a health promotion initiative with ethnocultural
communities and other types of communities is likely to be language.
Health promotion initiatives produced with ethnocultural communities and presented in their language will likely have a bigger
impact than those that are produced for other audiences and then adapted and/or translated for use by the community.
One reason that adaptations and translations are often used is that it is believed to be less costly than producing original
initiatives for each community. You and your partners should test this assumption, however. The real question is, how can
you get the greatest impact with the resources you have? Perhaps a community activity, such as a community lunch or local
art fair using your initiative’s message as its theme, will produce the same or better results than a costly translated brochure.
Cost savings may not be the only reason for adapting an existing health promotion initiative rather than creating a new one,
however. When you are presenting scientific or medical information, you want to ensure the information is accurate. Using
an existing initiative that is based on scientifically verified information may be a better choice than trying to create a
new initiative that has to be reviewed by subject matter experts and may need special approval from others, such as funders.
Use a three-phase approach
Internationally recognized standards and guidelines for developing multilingual health information recommend a three-phase
process for developing culturally appropriate health promotion initiatives:
- cultural adaptation
- translation (if needed)
- cultural validation.
Expect to do many revisions before you have a product or tool that will be effective for the community. Explore fully which
specific group of people you want to influence in the community and, whenever possible, involve them in the adaptation and