Today in society there are many diverse culture and ethnic backgrounds, each with their own habits, traditions, preferences, and of these includes health. Different needs of the whole person should be evaluated in detail. This paper will discuss results from three different cultures through the interviewing of them using the Heritage Assessment Tool. It will also review, compare, and address health traditions between the cultures as well as identify common health traditions based on cultural heritage. The purpose is to evaluate and discuss how families subscribe to these traditions/practices, address health maintenance, health protection, and health restoration according to the assessment.
Why Heritage Assessment?
One method for determining an individuals or groups needs is to use some type of tool in order to complete the assessment. Over 20 years ago an assessment tool was used in order to promote public health and awareness (“Heritage Assessment Tool | Researchomatic,” n.d.). The name later became known as “Healthy People 2000 and 2010” and 2020 is soon to come (“Heritage Assessment Tool | Researchomatic,” n.d.). The tool contains twenty-nine different and varying questions to obtain detail of birth, siblings, immigration, religion, school, ethnic activities/cuisine and other topics. The usefulness of applying a heritage assessment is because it enables the research to identify how “Different people have different beliefs regarding health, sickness, infection, virus, birth as well as death. All these different beliefs regarding health direct the various forms of culture. Therefore, the assessment of heritage is a significant step in order to build better understanding of cultural capability” (“Heritage Assessment Tool | Researchomatic,” n.d. , p. 1).
Health Maintenance, Health Protection, and Health Restoration
Many traditional health beliefs and practices exist today among people who know and live by the traditions of their given ethno cultural heritage. Health, in this traditional context, has three dimensions each of which has three aspects, physical, mental, and spiritual (Giger, 1995). The three health traditions are maintaining, protecting, and restoring health, each with subcategories mentioned above as physical, mental, and spiritual. Those interviewed express a variety of each aspect. The interviews for this study were conducted to see if there is comparison of the differences in health maintenance, health protection, and health restoration among the cultures involved. The three cultures involved were American, Hispanic, and Native American (Navajo Tribe).
In maintaining health the American view was to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains were reported to be consumed. Although a variety and balanced nutrition was encourages it is all to be consumed in moderation. Birth control is permissible but immoral acts are only for those who are legal and lawfully married. Common to American western society is permissible to consume alcohol and other legal drugs, but religious preferences restrain those interviewed from any alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, or any beverage containing caffeine, and nothing that is harmful to the body. Entertainment was only to be sought if it was uplifting, wholesome and moral.
Exercise is important and viewed as their body being sacred and should be maintained. Spiritual prayers were daily with individual and family to protect, maintain and restore health. A sacred oil is sometimes used in blessing those who are sick or afflicted. Fasting was observed monthly for either personal strength or for that of someone else who needs blessings pertaining to health be it mental, physical, or spiritual. Attending a temple where they participate in ordinances with specific clothing is observed in order to protect health as well, however details of this were not to be mentioned specifically. Only those worthy and have authority to bless and heal are able to do so to restore health.
The Hispanic member of the interview expresses maintaining health as eating often with immediate family and frequently with close relatives. Main dishes include rice, beans, enchiladas, tortillas and other recipes custom to their culture. They pray often to maintain spiritual health. Thin is a sign as a problem and they would rather be more obese then skinny. Objective data concludes both parents and children are all obese. They protect health by having God Fathers and Mothers who help to watch out and take care of their children.
They are involved in the Catholic Church and state that they attend weekly as a family and participate in sacred ordinances that allow them to grow mentally, spiritually, and physically. Birth control is seen as unacceptable. Seeking medical attention first from health care is not their first option, they state they would rather seek help from parents, grandparents, or friends for remedies or treatments before seeking help from a medical professional. They were familiar with the term curandero which is a holistic healer, but they did not state having ever used such services for their family in particular.
The Native American woman interviewed has a strong holistic approach when viewing medicine compared to Western civilization. Before seeking any medical attention she states she will first try teas, herbs and other supplements in soothing common ailments. She often bakes breads, brews teas and gives to others of her family recipes to promote their health. Family unity is viewed as the upmost importance. Contact is maintained with parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Though common for Navajo to view illness and sickness as curse or what is deserved, she reported this is more and better observed by her elders as well as speaking native language of Navajo.
They do not attend any specific congregation of religion but view ancestors and current family and those they associate with now as their religion because they are those who they will be with after this life. There is a reported problem with alcohol abuse within the home and with other close family members. They view this as an individual’s own choice and decision to consume such beverages. Relationship with the children in a structured home is most valuable. Frequently they visit grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles on the reservation, at least a few times a month. There are those they recognize as healers and Elders who have a calling to be able to heal and teach, these individuals however do not participate in this as distance makes it difficult. Conclusion
Cultures are unique for their habits, traditions, practices and beliefs. Health is a mainstream for all individuals, families and groups to ensure a progression and effective lifestyle is obtained. No matter how health is viewed or practiced it is entailed of a physical, mental, and spiritual makeup that requires attention. How that attention is given is decided by the culture and the people of that culture and should be viewed as an individual’s right to practice and perform as they choose. Living in a world with such diverse culture it is pleasing to see the different ways cultures and people address their health traditions and how they approach any need for adopting health traditions.
Giger, J.N. and Davidhizar, R.E. Transcultural Nursing Assessment and Intervention, 2nd ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 1995.
Heritage Assessment Tool | Researchomatic. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2015, from http://www.researchomatic.com/Heritage-Assessment-Tool-104596.html