Culture, Heritage and Diversity


Ireland: Health Service Executive Intercultural Guide


The Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland has responsibility for the provision of health and social services to the population. This is achieved by delivering services directly, or in partnership with a range of organisations funded by the HSE.


Census 2006 confirmed the unprecedented increase in diversity of the population in Ireland, with more than 10% of the total 4.2 million population born outside the country. Migration was a dominant factor in the unprecedented increase in population. This broadening of diversity demanded an integrated response to the unique health and care needs of the growing communities of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, foreign students, Roma, and members of new and established minority ethnic communities. This was in addition to the importance of addressing the health needs of members of the Irish Travelling community, which is a distinct group with its own cultural and ethnic heritage.


The HSE National Intercultural Health Strategy 2007-2012 (NIHS) was developed by the National Social Inclusion Unit of the HSE. It provides a framework within which the health and support needs of people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds may be addressed. A key theme of this strategy arising from extensive consultations with service users and staff is the need to provide support and training to staff in enabling them to deliver responsive, culturally appropriate services.


The Health Services Intercultural Guide was subsequently developed under the umbrella of the NIH as part of a framework of initiatives designed to build capacity to deliver culturally competent care in Irish health settings. This resource profiles the religious and cultural needs of 25 diverse groups 21 religious groups, 3 ethnic/ cultural groups and people with no religious belief - who are cared for in a range of healthcare and associated settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. It is intended to be a practical resource for staff working in these services.


The Guide was developed in partnership with key cultural informants, as well as with input from healthcare providers and practitioners. In all cases, information in relation to a specific group was approved by the informant/s who contributed to a particular section.


The guide is organised into sections to allow staff to access relevant information easily. Sections include guidance around terminology and descriptions, good practice in person centred intercultural care, and information about other useful resources. The main body of the guide describes the profiles of each group, together with essential practice points to be observed in rituals such as birth, care of the dying, post mortem practices, availability of prayer facilities, provision of food and dietary obligations, and availability of ablution facilities.


The Intercultural Guide has proved very useful since its rollout nationally in 2009, with more than 6,000 copies circulated and additional copies being accessed via the HSE website. Feedback has been very positive, from service users as well as from service providers. Copies continue to be requested and consideration is being given towards printing more to meet this demand.


The HSE National Intercultural Health Strategy, Intercultural Guide and a number of associated resources are available for download on the website


Comments and queries are very welcome and should be forwarded to


Diane Nurse

Lead National Planning Specialist: Social Inclusion

Health Service Executive