Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Adaptation of health care for migrants: whose responsibility?

Marie Dauvrin12* and Vincent Lorant1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Society IRSS, Université catholique de Louvain, Clos Chapelle aux Champs 30 boîte 1.30.15, Brussels 1200, Belgium

2 Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS, rue d’Egmont 5, Bruxelles 1000, Belgium

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:294  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-294

Published: 8 July 2014



In a context of increasing ethnic diversity, culturally competent strategies have been recommended to improve care quality and access to health care for ethnic minorities and migrants; their implementation by health professionals, however, has remained patchy. Most programs of cultural competence assume that health professionals accept that they have a responsibility to adapt to migrants, but this assumption has often remained at the level of theory. In this paper, we surveyed health professionals’ views on their responsibility to adapt.


Five hundred-and-sixty-nine health professionals from twenty-four inpatient and outpatient health services were selected according to their geographic location. All health care professionals were requested to complete a questionnaire about who should adapt to ethnic diversity: health professionals or patients. After a factorial analysis to identify the underlying responsibility dimensions, we performed a multilevel regression model in order to investigate individual and service covariates of responsibility attribution.


Three dimensions emerged from the factor analysis: responsibility for the adaptation of communication, responsibility for the adaptation to the negotiation of values, and responsibility for the adaptation to health beliefs. Our results showed that the sense of responsibility for the adaptation of health care depended on the nature of the adaptation required: when the adaptation directly concerned communication with the patient, health professionals declared that they should be the ones to adapt; in relation to cultural preferences, however, the responsibility felt on the patient’s shoulders. Most respondents were unclear in relation to adaptation to health beliefs. Regression indicated that being Belgian, not being a physician, and working in a primary-care service were associated with placing the burden of responsibility on the patient.


Health care professionals do not consider it to be their responsibility to adapt to ethnic diversity. If health professionals do not feel a responsibility to adapt, they are less likely to be involved in culturally competent health care.

Responsibility; Cultural competence; Health professionals; Factor analysis; Multilevel model; Negotiation of values; Communication; Health beliefs; Migrants