There has been growing awareness among many healthcare providers on the issue of culture and the need for health providers to develop appropriate skills necessary to respond to the diverse health needs of the society. Cultural backgrounds of clients and demographic changes have become some of the areas of concern in healthcare provision today since practitioners interact with clients with whom they do not share the same cultural perspectives and assumptions on matters related to diseases and health (Betancourt, 2005). In most cases, health care providers have very limited knowledge of a client’s beliefs on health experience and how to manage illnesses. This paper examines Alejandro Flores’s case and the implication of culture on health.
The main challenge which healthcare providers face in providing intercultural care springs from the perspectives and beliefs which patients and their families have on the nature of illness and the best alternatives for treatment (Vanderlinden, 2011). In the case of Alejandro who suffers from asthma, his parents are faced with the difficulty of finding the best cure as they regard conventional medicine as less effective in treating their child’s persistent asthma.
In the Flores family, serious issues related to asthma runs in the family and as such, have been taught from their culture to adopt certain action plans that may yield positive health results. Being in a different environment from their Spanish home, Alejandro’s father feels that changing his behavioral patterns like smoking would depress the development of asthma in the young child (Cross-Cultural Health Care, 2009).
On the other hand, Senora Flores is overwhelmed by the condition of his son (persistent illness) despite many hospital visitations and the level of poverty that bars them from seeking better and quality healthcare for their child. Traditionally, she believes that there are alternative treatment methods that are different from modern medications and which can provide much-needed health care.
Normative cultural values
It is imperative to note that different societies have diverse beliefs related to finding a cure and well being especially when in doubt or skeptical of conventional medicine (Betancourt, 2005). Alejandro’s continuous asthma problems drive Senora to seek help from traditional folk healers who heal diseases by using herbal remedies and other means such as prayers and massage. As it always is with spirits, senora Flores is advised against following doctor’s prescription and is provided with alternatives which worsen the conditions of Alejandro (Cross-Cultural Health Care, 2009). It is imperative to note that Alejandro’s parents are unaware of the current complementary medicine which combines conventional medicine with alternative medicine.
The normative cultural value most common among the Latino population and in the Flores family is the fatalism concept which keeps Alejandro’s parents from engaging seriously in disease prevention through conventional means and health promotion behaviors (Cross-Cultural Health Care, 2009).
After failing to see changes in both conventional and alternative medicine, they do not inform the doctors of the worsened situation of Alejandro, an indication that fatalism has taken over and their motivation for treatment has been replaced by resignation to destiny or fate. In such a case, there is a need for practitioners to apply cultural sensitivity and clinical skills in providing guidance on the best steps to adopt to bring Alejandro to a full recovery process.
To sum up, it is vital to reiterate that understanding the cultural values of different clients is an important aspect necessary for ensuring their health and well being. Additionally, cultural backgrounds influence individuals’ perceptions and perspectives in matters related to health problems especially when seeking alternative medicine which may be ineffective and also interfere with their normal process of continuing with conventional medicine. However, healthcare givers ought to create awareness to patients and families on the availability of complementary medicine which combines both alternative and conventional medicine in a safe way.
Betancourt J. R., Green A. R., Carrillo J. E. & Park E. R. (2005). Cultural competence and health care disparities: key perspectives and trends. Health Affairs (Millwood), 24(2):499-505.
Cross Cultural Health Care (2009). The case of Alejandro Flores. Web.
Vanderlinden, L. (2011). Treating ethnic others: cultural sensitivity and minority stereotypes at a German fertility clinic. Human Organization 70(3), 253-264.