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It is a fact that healthcare professionals attend to people who they are separated from by culture. This implies that the way services are offered has to vary from one patient to another to accommodate all cultures. This is so because culture has an immense impact on health consciousness. Different cultures hold different perception about health thus; consciousness levels vary from one place to another. Culture is defined as a set of beliefs, values, practices, attitudes, and or aims that describe a particular group of people (Hollins, 2009, p. 2). This means that culture is extremely much diverse, thus; difficult to define using all that it entrenches. Cultural diversity is characterized by phenomenon such as religion, ethnicity, and politics among others. Therefore, culture has a significant effect on health consciousness. This paper seeks to evaluate the effects culture has on health consciousness and what is being done to seal the resulting gaps.
Culture Effects on Health Consciousness
Traditional folk healing is a phenomenon that has an enormous impact on health consciousness. This is characterized by religious and spiritual beliefs held by a group of people towards health. Studies have revealed that traditional folk healing affects health consciousness mostly in Hispanic communities, in both South and North America (Arizona State University, 2011). These people have certain cultural inclinations, which dictate that, diseases are because of God’s will, and they have nothing to reverse the situation. This belief hinders them from knowing the true disease mechanism such as the role of pathogens in diseases. The belief makes them turn to natural healer who they believe has the supernatural ability to facilitate their healing. Otherwise, attempting to use any other methods is believed to be futile. The cultural distrust in conventional medicine keeps such group away from modern healthcare facilities. Instead, they opt for traditional folk medicine because it is culturally acceptable.
Different cultures will affect the way some people will react and respond to illness and treatment. According to Hollins (2009, p. 6), some cultures have made people believe that illness is because of lousy luck or even a supernatural calamity. Just as those who opt for folk medicine, illness and health are believed to have a spiritual dimension. Therefore, before sick individuals seek medication, they have to consult the natural healing powers. Several attempts to close on such beliefs are underway in many parts of the globe. Healthcare providers have instead chosen to go down to such beliefs and are giving patients opportunities to practice what they believe. However, close medical attention is brought alongside, thus; win the hearts of such patients who eventually agree to receive conventional medical attention.
Apart from spiritual beliefs, culture introduces a number of barriers to health consciousness. One of such barriers is language. People who speak languages different from those of healthcare providers are less conscious of their health status and vice versa. For instance, nearly 14% of American citizens speak other language other than English (Bussey-Jones and Inginia 733). Physicians have reported difficulties in attending to people from these groups because they seem less informed about various health issues. Language barrier is the most probable cause of this since it isolates such people from others courtesy of avoiding miscomprehension. The use of translators is the only method that is being used in mitigating the effects from this barrier. This process is expensive and time wasting, but is has to be applied if people from the diverse cultural backgrounds are to be served (Perez-Stable and Napoles, 2004, p. 509).
Culture influence affects health care seeking behaviors of people (Hollins, 2009, p. 111). In places where health is defined in terms that are contrary to the correct medical definition, people may delay in seeking medical attention when they are sick. Some cultures will define disease and pain and will only see a doctor when they feel some pain. This is contrary to what illness is because it can be manifested in painless forms. Individuals may opt to consult their family members, friend, or even herbalist whenever they think their health is not satisfactory. In this regard, healthcare providers are cooperating with patients who hold strong cultural beliefs. These measures involve acknowledging their culture, recognizing the beliefs and incorporating them in treating them using conventional medicine. This has been found to boost patients trust and satisfaction with contemporary medicine (Jada and Inginia, 2003, p. 235).
In a healthcare professional's typical day, the cultural demands from a patient override those of the professional. This means that healthcare providers have to adapt the strongest acculturation strategies (Orr, 1996, p. 25). Failure to this, certain cultural beliefs, will resist any adjustment on their side even if it is intended for the good of the patient. People holding such beliefs will remain health unconsciousness as long as they live. Therefore, medical practitioners are being compelled by the circumstance to augment their abilities to attend to such people. This is being done by integrating cultural training programs in medical schools and continuing medical education for hose already in practice. This gives room for hybridizing biomedicine with cultural diversities thus leveraging on the hindrances to health consciousness. According to Tim et al., (2003, p. 116), modernizing the organizational culture within the healthcare system is among the most effective and essential steps towards health care reforms. Embracing multi-level strategies that are uncertain and interlocking with other applications will serve better.
Eisenberg (1993, p. 247) asserts that the use of alternative medicine among different culture is prevalent in many countries. This medicine is believed to treat illnesses that cannot be treated well in the hospitals using conventional medicine. These medical applications are also believed to be absent in medical schools and can only be available from certain unprofessional practitioners. The culture of using alternative medicine has put many people in the dark about their health because some of the beliefs held about them are false. Many people all over the world have used this medical option. For instance, it was estimated that 60 million Americans were using alternative medicine to treat various diseases (Hunt and Akana, 2000, p. 219). This has resulted into a huge obstruction of status information to the affected people.
Although the efficacy of these therapies is not clearly known, studies have shown that users depend on marketing information to learn about how they work. Intervention on this culture born medical problem involve choosing to respect some assumptions but with caution. This is because the stuff used as medicine could be intoxicating and pose an imminent danger. For instance, a synthetic version of an amino acid called L-Tryptophan was found in some drugs in a certain incident. This protein caused a syndrome called eosinophilia-myalgia in 1000 people and eventually killed 38 of them (Belongia, Carr and Gleich, 1990, p. 361). This shows how dangerous some cultural practices can be detrimental to the health consciousness of people. Therefore, accepting this treatment, but with caution will ensure that cultural beliefs are respected and in the same time life is safeguarded.
Culture has significant impacts on the levels of health consciousness in many societies. However, most of these effects are negative. This implies that as much as people may feel hard to let their cultural practices go, many adjustments are necessary. It is evident that conventional medicine is effective compared to traditional medicine. Consequently, people will be forced to adapt fully to modern medicine since some of it has cultural essence. Healthcare workers should also learn to work alongside many cultural beliefs because the insisted changes of culture towards health are not imminent (Tim et al., 2003, p. 118). This guarantees that people receive quality healthcare as they try to adapt. Otherwise, cultural beliefs will keep on jeopardizing efforts to make people health conscious.