Cultural diversities have facilitated challenges within health care. To educate our patients there must be recognition of traditional heritage practices. The Heritage Assessment Tool has been devised to discover cultural characteristics of individuals and families along with communities. This tool allows one to understand and respect the role of cultural awareness in health and illness. There is a framework for evaluation of physical, mental and spiritual values and beliefs in which outlines health maintenance, protection, and restoration. The difference in values and beliefs has a huge impact on the way people live their lives in all cultures. “Cultural differences affect patients’ attitudes about medical care and their ability to understand, manage, and cope with the course of an illness, the meaning of a diagnosis, and the consequences of medical treatment.” (Euromed Info, n.d., para. 9).
By examining three different cultures and know how their heritage affects the way they look at healthcare, it allows a person to realize there are so many different heritages and beliefs within the United States that everyone should be accepting of. First, the Liberian culture as stated by Raymond Gwenigale perceives themselves as being in pretty good shape overall and nobody smokes. This culture works very hard, especially in the fields and that helps to keep them in shape, and their diet is quite healthy with eating many fruits and vegetables along with rice as being the main staple. Liberians believe in both indigenous medicine such as witchcraft and medicine men, but also believe in western medicine. They do not use western medicine to prevent sickness and death and do not go to the doctor unless they are very sick. This culture uses a lot of witchcraft to prevent sickness and death. For example, many Liberians believe that the witches are evil and prefer boys.
So moms pierce the ears of baby boys, or braid their hair because they try to make them look like baby girls so the witches don’t take them. Many Liberians also wear amulets on their bodies to ward off spirits. They also put wooden bracelets on baby’s feet to ward off illness so if the child is going to die, you can grab the bracelet and pull the baby back into this world. Liberians do not wear seatbelts or bike helmets so when there are money bus accidents, they are usually pretty bad. Money busses are the public busses which are pick-up trucks with benches in the back. Some of them are covered and some are not. There are usually 14 people in one of these money busses, catching a ride to the market. When there is an accident many people are injured quite badly. The cities and towns have plumbing but the rural villages in Liberia do not.
One thing they do to help protect their health is to make sure that people are going to the bathroom in designated spots so it does not get in with their food and water supply. Another belief Liberians have is that men do not have intercourse with women that are breastfeeding. They say that this spoils the milk. For Liberians, babies must to be able to eat other food before another baby comes along. Having babies too soon together would mean there was not enough milk to feed them all. This is considered spoiling the milk supply for the current baby if a woman becomes pregnant. Also, in Liberia the water is not good in villages. Everyone must boil it to get the bacteria out and not everyone does that so it is quite bad to use formula because babies get sick from it as it is mixed with bad water. Therefore breastfeeding is a great way to keep the babies healthy.
Raymond stated that Liberians combine Western and indigenous health care systems pretty easily. They call Western medicine Qui Medicine. They usually try traditional medicine before western medicine, so frequently their disease has spread or become very bad when they go into the clinic or hospital. Most Liberians have no problem believing in both biological and supernatural causes for their diseases. They say that their disease is caused by something biological, but at the same time they ask “Why did this happen to me?” They then attribute this to something like witchcraft, the breeze, a dream they had, the cold, or the evil intentions and thoughts of other people. When they are sick they will frequently say someone cursed or witched them. As part of the healing process they spend a lot of time trying to figure out who did this to them and much energy is spent hearing witchcraft stories.
In the Liberian culture many times people will be in the hospital getting treated by Western medicine and also having witch doctors visit them to do chalk rubbings. They really use both simultaneously because they believe in both. The second culture to elaborate on is the Irish culture in which Stephen Kane was interviewed. Northern Ireland is Protestant and Catholic. The Catholics are pretty strict about things like birth control and abortion is illegal in Ireland even for medically indicated reasons. In this culture it is considered to be doing heavy physical exercise by running once every few months versus on a daily or weekly basis like in the United States. They do wear seatbelts and helmets, but do not have a great diet due to drinking and smoking. Because smoking is more acceptable in the European culture than in the United States, the Irish do smoke much more. A staple to eat is fish and chips which is just deep fried fish and french fries.
There is a national health care program in Ireland which is so different than the healthcare in the United States. Resources are more limited in Northern Ireland and are a little more rationed out. Everyone that needs care gets care. In Ireland they do not stress out about medical bills and nobody goes bankrupt or loses a home because of an accident. In this culture they also are more likely to get help earlier on because they can afford it as it is part of a national program. One thing the Irish are bad about doing is following doctor’s orders. In this culture, people stop doing what their doctors tell them to do once they start feeling better, which is not a good practice as they are not allowing their bodies to fully become healthy again. Lastly, the Hmong culture is generally quite healthy. Sonja Her states that their diets are based largely on soups, vegetables, rice and noodles. Also, many people in this community are gardeners. They tend to have big gardens and grow their own foods to sell at the farmer’s markets. This also allows for more exercise and healthy food.
The majority of Hmong people are either Shaman or Christian. Most families have someone that know how to use herbs to keep healthy and many make different teas or ointments from herbs they buy at the Hmong markets or grow in their gardens. Families also try to take care of basic aches and pain, colds, flu and things like arthritis at home. By trying to treat these types of things at home, many Hmong woman do spooning or rubbing an area of skin vigorously with a spoon. They also do cupping, which is applying negative suction pressure on the skin with a cup. Most Hmong people follow all the major rules in the Unites States concerning helmets and seat belts. They also highly believe in amulets and protections strings which are red necklaces with silver and brass, white cloths with red or white strings on the neck, wrists or arms. This culture believes these accessories carry a power and will protect them.
Like most Americans, Hmong believe that illnesses are caused by things like diseases, accidents, environment and hereditary factors. They also believe that the soul can cause some illnesses which is believed more so by the older generation. They feel that when a person becomes sick it is because they upset the spirits making them wander away from the body. They feel they become sick at this moment because the spirits are unable to find their way back to the body. Sometimes it’s an injury that causes the spirit to leave, or feeling sad, lonely or afraid. They also believe people can get sick after a frightening event and the spirit might leave out of fear. The newer generation of Hmong does utilize the tradition of using the herbs, tea, cupping and spooning but generally prefer to see their doctor for any illnesses so they are able to be treated appropriately and quickly.
By examining the differences of these three cultures, it is very apparent that each of them are quite different but this writer did find some similarities with each of them. We all continue to stay in close contact with relatives even though they do not live in close proximity. We all attended public school, celebrate religious holidays, and prepare foods from our ethnic backgrounds. When comparing their health traditions to this writer’s, it seems as though we all will see a doctor for our health care but generally do not go in until it is absolutely necessary.
“Culture is shaped by values, beliefs, norms, and practices that are shared by members of the same cultural group and cultural values are unique, individual expressions of a particular culture that have been accepted as appropriate over time” (Edelman & Mandle, 2010, p. 33) With this said, it is so incredibly important to be non-stereotypical so it is easier to be accepting of other cultures and truly have the opportunity to appreciate how they live by their traditions.
Edelman, C. L., & Mandle, C. L. (2010). Health Promotion Throughout the Lifespan (7th ed.). [Evolve]. Retrieved from http://pageburstls.elsevier.com/#/books/9780323056625/pages/49129901 How culture influences health beliefs. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.euromedinfo.eu/how-culture-influences-health-beliefs.html/
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