BACKGROUND: The importance of cultural adaptations in behavioral interventions targeting ethnic minorities in high-income societies is widely recognized. Little is known, however, about the effectiveness of specific cultural adaptations in such interventions.
AIM: To systematically review the effectiveness of specific cultural adaptations in interventions that target smoking cessation, diet, and/or physical activity and to explore features of such adaptations that may account for their effectiveness.
METHODS: Systematic review using MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials registers (1997-2009). Inclusion criteria: a) effectiveness study of a lifestyle intervention targeted to ethnic minority populations living in a high income society; b) interventions included cultural adaptations and a control group that was exposed to the intervention without the cultural adaptation under study; c) primary outcome measures included smoking cessation, diet, or physical activity.
RESULTS: Out of 44904 hits, we identified 17 studies, all conducted in the United States. In five studies, specific cultural adaptations had a statistically significant effect on primary outcomes. The remaining studies showed no significant effects on primary outcomes, but some presented trends favorable for cultural adaptations. We observed that interventions incorporating a package of cultural adaptations, cultural adaptations that implied higher intensity and those incorporating family values were more likely to report statistically significant effects. Adaptations in smoking cessation interventions seem to be more effective than adaptations in interventions aimed at diet and physical activity.
CONCLUSION: This review indicates that culturally targeted behavioral interventions may be more effective if cultural adaptations are implemented as a package of adaptations, the adaptation includes family level, and where the adaptation results in a higher intensity of the intervention. More systematic experiments are needed in which the aim is to gain insight in the best mix of cultural adaptations among diverse populations in various settings, particularly outside the US.