Culture Counts: A Guide to Best Practices for Developing Health Promotion Initiatives in Mental Health and Substance Use with
In chapter 5 - Translate and adapt:
Once you and your partners have adapted and/or translated a document and are satisfied with the results, it is still important
to test it on the intended audience as well with key informants in the community to ensure it is culturally valid—that is,
the document truly incorporates cultural norms and beliefs of the community.
For example, one of the basic concepts behind the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines is that of the “standard” drink size, which
in turn relates to the standard sizes of drinking glasses and containers in which alcohol beverages are served and sold in
Canada. However, drinking often occurs in private settings where the size of drinks poured does not correspond to standard
units (e.g., alcohol served in bowls), therefore making it difficult to determine the number of “standard drinks” consumed.
For example, in the Punjabi community a good host does not measure drinks, while a good guest accepts the host’s offer of
alcoholic drinks; a “standard drink” in the Punjabi community is a “triple” drink. Thus, even where a word may be easy to
translate, the concept it represents may not be culturally valid. Working with the intended audience is the only way to ensure
the message gets through and makes sense to them.
The document needs to work for the intended audience, but it also has to be acceptable to the credible communicators in the
community whom you hope will support and help promote your initiative in the community.
“The final LRDG brochure is still not ideal for our clients. Many struggle with literacy skills. We would have preferred something
with fewer words and more pictures, but there were limits to what we could change. However, one way we overcome this, is by
always verbally reviewing the brochure and its message, whether individually or as part of our group counseling sessions to
—Maria J. Benevides, MSW, RSW, Portuguese Mental Health and Addiction Service