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Cuban and African-American Health Culture


Cultural background and heritage are essential aspects when discussing familial health traditions. Every culture has an array of beliefs and values that influence healthcare perception and behavior. To understand the view of health in a particular culture, it is necessary to examine several aspects that constitute a particular cultural tradition.

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Cuban Culture and Heritage

The interview with an elderly family member revealed rather interesting issues of familial and social change, as well as certain aspects of ethnocultural heritage. Since Cuban culture belongs to a group of so-called collectivist cultures (Carteret, n.d., para. 4), a Cuban family provides its members with protection, support, and a sense of identity. The extended family is the most common family model among Latino families. It is closely intertwined with the notion of familismo (Carteret, n.d., para. 4), i.e. the idea of complete loyalty to all members of extended family. Familismo is a crucial tradition for a Cuban family, which is to be honored at all times, including healthcare. All decisions regarding the chosen treatment, medications, and other health-related issues cannot be made without consulting the family, especially the elders. A common example is a situation when a clinician is not aware of this cultural tradition of Latino families and attempts to decide quickly on treatment. Eventually, this could result in a serious conflict and many complications, such as the refusal of treatment, an overall refusal to cooperate and follow the physician’s advice, and, subsequently, to an insufficient continuity of care. Nowadays, we can certainly see the social changes that take place due to globalization and westernization processes that lead to a higher degree of flexibility in the younger generation. Nonetheless, Latino cultural traditions should be acknowledged by health practitioners to ensure the best possible quality of care and patient cooperation.

African-American Cultural Heritage

In the case of an African-American family, it is necessary to remember that a family may be of matriarchal structure and may include non-related people into their hierarchy, the so-called “fictive kin” (Carteret, n.d., para. 3). Elder family members are to be respected at all times, which is traditional in this culture. Religious aspect might be more pronounced in certain families, as African-American people often are very devoted to their faith. The Christian religion, especially Baptist Christian, or Islam are often among the most frequently followed religions in African-American families. In many cases, healthcare is closely intertwined with religious practices.

It is important to understand that the older generation will often be rather suspicious of health care providers, given their previous experiences with medical practitioners. Such reservations should be taken into account and addressed as respectfully as possible. Establishing a good clinician-patient relationship is crucial, as any personal issues are unlikely to be shared if the patient suspects an unfair, impolite, or a negligent treatment.

Dealing with death and the process of dying is always a delicate issue. In the case of African-American families, it is necessary to understand the cultural perception of death. However, the perception may vary. Some African-Americans subscribe to a holistic approach, treating the process of death as a part of a certain life cycle. At the same time, many elderly African-Americans may stand in favor of extended life support and consider organ donations as unacceptable. It is always necessary to gain some insights into the patient’s cultural background, as it can help determine the needed course of treatment.


Familial health traditions are often closely tied to the family’s cultural background. Certain customs and traditions can have a substantial influence on the family’s perception of health and proper healthcare. While the differences in cultural background between a clinician and a patient may vary significantly, it is always recommended to have a good rapport with a patient and acknowledge their cultural traditions.


Carteret, M. (n.d.). Cultural values of Latino patients and families. Web.

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Carteret, M. (n.d.). Healthcare for African American patients/families. Web.

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