Cultural Health Beliefs

What defines illness? What defines what is the right cure? Not cultural beliefs. Cultural beliefs throughout the world are divided between the individual’s cultural beliefs towards medicine and medical treatments and another individual’s beliefs. Throughout many traditional Asian cultures, the eldest male figure in the family is the patriarch and is the decision maker including when it comes to health decisions. This often comes under fire because of the fact that this side of the argument is often met with the opposing or different viewpoint from a doctor or medical professional. However, lack of disagreement does not indicate that the patient and family agree with or will follow treatment recommendations. Among Chinese patients, because the behavior of the individual reflects on the family, mental illness or any behavior that indicates lack of self-control may produce shame and guilt. As a result, Chinese patients may be reluctant to discuss symptoms of mental illness or depression. In other cultures such as India and Pakistan, the people are reluctant to accept a diagnosis of severe emotional illness or mental retardation because it severely reduces the chances of other members of the family getting married. In Vietnamese culture, mystical beliefs explain physical and mental illness. Health is viewed as the result of a harmonious balance between the poles of hot and cold that govern bodily functions. Vietnamese don’t readily accept Western mental health counseling and interventions, particularly when self-disclosure is expected. Russian immigrants frequently view U.S. medical care with a degree of mistrust. The Russian experience with medical practitioners has been an authoritarian relationship in which free exchange of information and open discussion was not usual. As a result, many Russian patients find it difficult to question a physician and to talk openly about medical concerns. Fatalistic views are shared by many Hispanic patients who view illness as God’s will or divine punishment brought about by previous or current sinful behavior. Many cultures and communities with different ethnic backgrounds view medical opinions in different ways. Many people (on the outside looking into that opinion) will view that as being naive while in fact it is just their opinion. Many people will refrain from judging in every situation except in a medical sense. One example of this is the ongoing debate of whether or not a parent is required to vaccinate their child. In every other sense, a parent’s wishes for their child is up to them but when it comes to a medical setting, everyone is all up in arms about “neglecting their children” or “not caring about their health” when in fact it is just the opinion of the parents that really matter.



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