Culture vs Medicine

These Ethiopian immigrant patients value their communities' traditional and herbal medicine practices over Westernized medical attention in hospitals. (Photo by ethnoMED)
These Ethiopian immigrant patients value their communities’ traditional and herbal medicine practices over Westernized medical attention in hospitals. (Photo by ethnoMED)

All cultures respond to illnesses and accept treatments differently. Cultural values are now involved in a battle between Western societies’ advancing technological innovations and different medical treatments and actions.

According to Dr. Gregory Juckett’s Cross-Culture Medicine, “Cultural competency is an essential skill for family physicians because of increasing ethnic diversity among patient populations. Culture, the shared beliefs and attitudes of a group, shapes ideas of what constitutes illness and acceptable treatment.”

Many ethnic and cultural groups have a different perspective of the health care system than most Americans. Health care professionals believe their patients will easily adapt to their mainstream values of addressing illness and diseases.

“Life is not a controlled experiment,” said Larry Shapiro, dean at the Washington University School of Medicine. “It’s hard to come up with data about the results….Each step is a small one, but that is how you change culture.”

This belief system has created barriers between patients and doctors from different backgrounds and values. In Asia there are many ideals surrounding supernatural phenomena as the cause of diseases and illness.

In Chinese culture, mental illness reflects on the family name. They prefer to ignore medical attention to avoid providing shame upon the family. In Vietnamese culture, medical counseling is rarely accepted among the people unless they gained trust in one another.

According to EuroMed, “Health [in Vietnam] is viewed as the result of a harmonious balance between the poles of hot and cold that govern bodily functions.”

As there is a divide among st cultural values and modern well being, some locations are making the effort in uniting both sides for the sake of their people. In Central America, many regions are poor with few access and transportation to local hospitals. Traditional midwives are respected among the women as they provide comfort and wisdom.

With a dislike and fear of hospitals, midwives are the ones providing women in need the medical attention they require. Through lack of training and equipment, the women are at a higher risk of infections and diseases are they refuse to face medical personnel that may not speak their language.

To bring aid to the people and respect their culture and traditions, new programs are being created to offer midwives medical training they need. In doing so, governments are setting up a new experience that would be comforting for the women and attract them towards the hospitals.

These forces are limited, yet show the results of respecting each others beliefs and uniting the people. By locating the balance between the two worlds, people can express their beliefs freely while obtaining the support they need.


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