Health beliefs and perceptions are present in every culture. They shape the attitudes toward health and views of illness, as well as the causes that lead to the decrease of health and the occurrence of disease. Such beliefs tend to differ from one culture to another. The purpose of this paper is to review the results of a heritage assessment that included three families with different cultural backgrounds. The paper will contain information about the most common health practices in the families, as well as their similarities and differences. Additionally, the information concerning the cultural ideas of health protection, maintenance, and restoration will be presented.
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The first family that went through heritage assessment was of Cuban origin. For a deeper and more thorough analysis, I made sure that each of the three families included representatives of different age groups. This was done because people’s perceptions’ regarding health and illness may differ by their age. The Cuban family included six members – three younger persons aged 18 to 23, two parents in their 40s, and one grandparent in her 70s. The second family was of Russian origin and included five members – one younger person in his 20s, two parents in their 50s, and two grandparents in their 80s. Finally, the third family was of Japanese origin. It had four members – one younger person in her 20s, two parents in their 40s, and one grandparent in his 70s.
Common Health Traditions of the Families
During heritage assessment, it was possible to notice that the families shared several common beliefs and perspectives regardless of their different cultural backgrounds. For example, the Cuban and Russian families believed that stress could become one of the causes of illness. At the same time, the Japanese views on the cause of illness did not mention stress as a harmful influence at all. Moreover, regarding the Japanese family, it can be noted that the discussion of illness perceptions was rather challenging, with older family members in particular. This could be the case because in the Japanese culture, illness, as a conversation topic, is often treated as a taboo (HealthCare Chaplaincy, 2013). Also, regarding the causes of illness, the Cuban and Japanese families shared an idea that it could be caused by an outside force. In the Cuban culture, such force may be interpreted as a form of sorcery, also known as Brujeria, inflicted by a witch (Brice, 2002). In Japanese culture, an external force is represented by the action of a neighbor or a family member driven by evil intentions (“Perception of health and illness,” n.d.).
Moreover, all the three cultures shared an idea that pain needs to be tolerated stoically as being a difficult patient is something the representatives of all the three cultures considered as an embarrassing behavior. Also, when it comes to the relationship between the patients and their doctors, all of the assessed families pointed out that the authority of a medical professional should not be questioned. Family ties were recognized as an important part of staying at a hospital and receiving prolonged treatment. Specifically, all three families stated that a family discussion had to be involved in the decision-making process regarding the course of treatment.
Another common element shared by all the three cultures was the patriarchal structure of the internal family dynamics. However, this element manifested itself differently in the three families. For example, in the Japanese family, the dominant position of a man as the head of the family provided him with the right to be informed first about any serious health problems of his family members. At the same time, in the Cuban and Russian families, the clear division into male and female gender expectations revolved around women’s roles as nurturers and care providers. The two families noted that in their cultures, female family members are usually more active care providers than their male counterparts. This is why Russian and Cuban women are more likely to stay with their sick relatives at hospitals, take instructions regarding medication administration from doctors and nurses, and be willing to learn about the management of illnesses.
As for health maintenance and protection, Russians had a particularly prominent belief about always staying warm and avoiding undercooling at all times. During the assessment, this topic was mentioned repeatedly by the members of this family. It turned out that even the slightest drafts were perceived as causes of serious and chronic illness. Russians insisted that specific body parts were particularly vulnerable and had to be kept warm; they included shoulders, neck, lower back, feet, and chest. Moreover, all families saw a strong connection between spirit, mind, and body- the three essential elements that have to stay in balance for one’s health to stay strong or restore after an illness. Also, all three families mentioned religious and spiritual components of health. For example, Cubans and Russians specified that sometimes illness was a punishment sent by God. A similar component existed in the beliefs of the Japanese family whose members are convinced that disease can result from one’s wrongdoings from the past, as a karmic consequence.
Health Maintenance, Restoration, and Protection
All in all, heritage assessment carried out for this assignment was focused on the acquisition of information related to the perceptions of health and illness practiced in three families coming from different cultures. Many of their beliefs related to the maintenance, restoration, and protection of health were common regardless of the differing backgrounds. Moreover, it was also possible to notice that older members of the three families were more inclined to make connections between health and spirituality thus linking illness to supernatural causes such as witchcraft, karma, and the will of God. The younger family members saw health and illness in a manner close to the perspectives of modern western medicine.
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Consequently, as practices helping to restore and protect the health, older people were more likely to embrace non-traditional approaches such as homeopathy, herbal remedies, and folk medicine. Younger generations of all the three families admitted the effectiveness of traditional medicines. At the same time, all the members of the assessed families regardless of their age perceived healthcare practitioners as authorities when it comes to diagnosing and treatment administration. Overall, the ideas about health maintenance, restoration, and protection were tightly connected to the vision of illness and health by the members of the three families. Some of the beliefs aligned with non-traditional approaches to healthcare but none of them clashed directly with the strategies of modern medicine. All three families admitted their readiness and willingness to rely on the professionalism and knowledge of professional healthcare providers when it came to health restoration and maintenance.
Brice, A. (2002). An introduction to Cuban culture for rehabilitation service providers. Web.
HealthCare Chaplaincy. (2013). Handbook of patients’ spiritual and cultural values for health care professionals. Web.
Perception of health and illness. (n.d.). Web.