Culture Views on Health

Culture Views on Health:
?  All groups of people face issues in adapting to their environment. Humans adapt to varying environments by developing cultural solutions to meet the needs for survival. Indeed, culture is a universal experience, but no two cultures are exactly alike. Cultural patterns are learned, and it is important for health care providers to note that members of a particular group may not share identical cultural experiences.
Culture refers to learned patterns of behaviors, beliefs, and values shared by individuals in a particular social group. It provides people with both their identity and a framework for understanding experience. In its broadest sense, a culture is a group of people with similar ethnic background, language, religion, family values, and life views.
Africans and the Traditional Views of Health Care:
Spirituality is a predominant aspect of African cultures. The universe is seen as a living system with such connection, through a living spirit, of the individual, the family and community, the environment, and the world beyond the grave.
For the most part, the multicultural and pluralistic societies of Africa, made up of members of different ethnic, racial, religious, and social groups, live side by side and maintain their own values and traditions.
African cultures define health not only as the absence of disease but also as the balance between the individual, the community, the environment, and the spiritual world illness is caused by imbalance of these systems. The sangoma can identify the cause of the imbalance and will advise as to the most appropriate intervention to restore the balance, which may include western medicine, herbal treatments, or sacrifice to the ancestors.
There is No Disease without a Cure:
Most Africans believe that every disease has a cure, placed there by the Creator-God to save life. This cure can be derived from any living or non-living entity. The duty of the living and their specialists is only to find the cure with God??™s ancestors themselves are viewed as powerful sources of medicine and healing because they remain united to their families and are often invoked to protect the lives of their relatives and communities. The Sun, Moon, Stars, and all other realities above are considered medicinal for many diseases (Baulkham. R, Hart TA, 1999).
Asians and the Traditional View of Medicine:
The differences in traditions and culture make it difficult to comment on all traditional view of medicine. Many views for the small isolated communities can be undocumented altogether. The Chinese have practiced a worldview on health for more than 3,000 years. Chinese medicine views the mind, body, and spirit as a holistically; each component influences the function of the others. A balance, therefore, is extremely important to good health.
Many Asian Americans believe that opposing elements must be held in balance. Most are more familiar with the Chinese terms yin and yang. In health these are translated as hot and cold. Each illness is caused from a force that is too hot or too cold. The cure, therefore, must be the opposing force, bringing balance to the body. When ailment present, the traditional cures rely on herbal medicines.
Herbal medicines were typically prescribed to bring the body back to equilibrium. Medications as a whole are thought of as bodily maintenance and repair, and not as long term answers. This concept can be a barrier for treatment of chronic diseases, such as hypertension. For this reason adherence can be a challenge for Asian populations. They believe that medication can be interrupted when one simply feels better. (National Library of Medicine- Asian American Health, 2010).
Family is a concept of much importance to Asians in almost any traditional Asian cultures the individual puts the family??™s needs above his or her own. Included in this concept of family is respect for parents and respect for elders. It is not uncommon for extended families to live together in homes or villages. These extended families may include uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc. Children are expected to obey elders without exception.
This cohesive family structure in times of stress and illness creates becomes a natural source of social support. For chronic diseases, social support is a strong indicator of successful management.
Sensitivity to culturally appropriate behaviors is of the utmost important so as to not offend the patient.
The first and most basic step of providing culturally competent care is providing linguistically and culturally appropriate services. The lack of health care access for Asian-American groups is most commonly the result of language barrier.
While developing and understanding of cultural normal takes time, seeking a translator or intermediary agency to assist, particularly with a language barrier can often be the most beneficial step in bridging a gap in the short term. Families will often use younger children or friends who speak better English as interpreters. The caveat is that information can be lost or not understood at all without a proper interpreter.
Culture is a very important part of healthcare and knowing just a little of each culture makes it a lot easier for the healthcare providers to treat patients (Cultural Diversity, 2000). When understanding a patient or a caregiver of a different culture it helps build the experience for the future. I think it??™s very important to study other cultures when working in the medical field to help make the communication easier for the caregiver and help make the patient feel comfortable.

R, Hart TA. 1999. Hope against Hope: Christian Eschatology in Contemporary Context. London: Bauckham, Darton Longman and Todd Retrieved: April 30, 2010 from: (website)

United States National Library of Medicine 2010, Asian American Health Retrieved: April 30, 2010 from: (website)

St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Cultural Diversity: African Americans, 2000 Retrieved: May 2, 2010 from; (website)

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