The Community Health Nurse (CHN), an individual who works outside of the hospital setting and typically with a specific community to provide basic health care systems (All Nursing Schools, 2009) can be perceived as the bridge to address the gap between western medicine and cultural traditions. In cases when cultural practices cause physical harm and health risks, the CHN can be the tool to provide information and educate individuals to inform them of the tangible health risks and often permanent damages caused by such practices. What is also important to acknowledge is that there is an imminent health risk that needs to be addressed.
According to Megan Costello (2004), in an article about female circumcision, sometimes making a practice illegal does not serve as a good enough deterrent. Costello (2004) explains that what people need is more information to understand the health risks and the unwarranted, in terms of perceived health benefit, practice. In North African countries, an average of 94 percent of women are subjected to female circumcision (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 2008). In the United States there are an estimated 228,000 girls and women at risk of female circumcision (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 2008).
The CHN through community agencies or organizations can work to create care systems that will facilitate the dissemination of information. The CHN can effect policy change that will bring health care to the disadvantage populations or minority groups, such as refugees, who may have little understanding of western health care systems. Essentially, to address the gap between large health care institution and individual members of small communities, the CHN has the task of developing a system that will inform members of these groups of the serious harm caused by their practices.
Similarly, the CHN through the same system can protect the young adults often subjected to these traditional practices. In the case of female circumcision, Bien Aime of Equality Now (quoted in Costello, 2004) says, “… people need education. We need people on the ground who have access to girls and young women at risk, to help them understand that not only is this procedure against the law, but also that there are harmful effects. ” As more and more cultures and ethnic backgrounds are assimilated through migration activities there is a need to provide health care that is culturally competent.
The CHN becomes integral in the task of providing adequate care to all individuals with equity regardless of cultural or ethnic backgrounds through a sensitive approach. In cases where the cultural practice causes permanent injuries and prolonged negative complications to health the CHN can contribute to changing these practices. References All Nursing Schools. (2009). Become a Community Health Nurse. All Nursing Schools. Retrieved March 7, 2009, from http://www. allnursingschools.
com/faqs/community-health-nurse. php Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (2008). African Women’s Health Center. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Retrieved March 7, 2009 from http://www. brighamandwomens. org/africanwomenscenter/FGCprevalence. aspx and http://www. brighamandwomens. org/africanwomenscenter/education. aspx? subID=submenu4 Costello, A. (2004, February 19). Two in U. S. Accused of Genital Mutilation. Women’s E News. Retrieved March 7, 2009 from http://www. womensenews. org/article. cfm/dyn/aid/1718