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The Cultural Heritage Assessment of Three Families


The cultural heritage of three families has been assessed in the context of health care traditions and practices. The goal of the assessment was to evaluate the impact of the families’ cultural background on their approaches to health care, including the way they prevent health problems, receive treatment, and commit to their perceived culture-specific health traditions.

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First of all, it was necessary to explore whether those families are influenced by their cultural backgrounds in their everyday lives today; for this, a questionnaire was used that allowed identifying the extent of one’s being affected by his or her cultural heritage (“Heritage assessment tool,” 2000). The application of a tool produced a certain score; the higher the score was for a particular respondent, the more the respondent identified with his or her traditional heritage.

The highest score was received by a Hispanic family. Three family members were interviewed: a young woman, her older brother, and their mother. The heritage assessment tool showed that the family was highly affected by its cultural heritage (language, religion, family bonds). They were willing to answer all the questions and elaborated on most questions without choosing one of the multiple-choice questions; however, they turned out skeptical about the effectiveness of such assessment.

When the assessment was over, the mother said, “How knowing where my aunt lived will help you with my health care?” She further explained that cultural heritage was something patients should explain to health care providers and something nurses and physicians should recognize without making patients fill in any formal assessment tools. A major health tradition the family referred to as part of their cultural heritage was widespread unwillingness to demonstrate signs of being ill.

The mother said that, in her country, being ill was almost shameful because it showed weakness, which is why she thought that health care practitioners should provide care to Hispanic patients, especially older ones, in a somewhat delicate way and with respect for the patients’ desire not to display their health problems.

The second-highest score was received by a Russian family. A young married couple and the mother of the husband participated in the interview; they were identified as active users of their native language, but the religion- or family-related aspects of heritage were lower for them since moving to the United States than those of the Hispanic family. Concerning major health traditions, the family members agreed that a specific feature of their culture was distrust of health care facilities.

The young man said, “A Russian person should be very sick to go to a hospital,” and his wife added, “In most cases, Russians stay at home and use traditional remedies; like when you have a cold, you drink a lot of hot tea and eat raspberry jam.”

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The family that showed the lowest identification with its traditional heritage was a Chinese family that has lived in the United States for several generations. Three young women and their father were interviewed; they demonstrated high appreciation of family values, but lack of language- or religion-related aspects of cultural heritage. The family itself does not experience distrust of the US health care system, but all four respondents agreed that many Asian Americans are unwilling to receive conventional care, and this is not only due to language barriers.

When reflecting on the reasons, the family members said that many Asian Americans preferred traditional medicine because it is older than western medicine; also, those people think that, in their native countries, people are generally healthier than in the United States, which is why they are reluctant to acknowledge conventional medicine.

Health Maintenance, Protection, and Restoration

Upon being assessed as per their cultural heritage, all three families were asked a series of questions on health maintenance, protection, and restoration in the context of their traditions. Concerning maintenance, the mother in the Hispanic family said, “You should always do something—this is how you don’t get sick.” From this perspective, an active lifestyle, including physical activities, is a perceived way to keep good health.

Concerning health protection, the family interestingly referred to food first of all. They claimed that, in their culture, maintaining a certain balance in what one eats was important for protecting his or her health; however, the family members could not explain the balance fully. Further research showed that the balance they referred to might be associated with the hot-cold food classification (Fieldhouse, 2013); unfortunately, the classification is not sufficiently studied. Concerning health restoration, the family members emphasized two things: physical activity (similar to health maintenance) and the crucial role of family engagement; in their culture, close ones should be there for someone who is ill and support him or her extensively.

The Russian family was very amused when answering questions about their health traditions. The young man said, “Russians actually have a panacea;” then he looked up a word in a dictionary on his phone, and said, “It’s called plantain.” Further research showed that plantain (not a type of banana but a wild herb) is used in the Russian traditional medicine as an expectorant (Domarew, Holt, & Goodman-Snitkoff, 2002), but the respondents also claimed that it was a widespread tradition in Russia to apply plantain leaves to wounds; the plant is believed to have healing characteristics.

Concerning health maintenance, the Russian family (like the Hispanic family in the case of health protection) referred to certain foods. The young woman said, “Russians think that the more disgusting something is, the better it is for your health.” According to the family, it used to be a Russian tradition to eat uncooked onion and garlic in large amounts and to drink “fish fat” (cod liver oil); nowadays, the family does not do any of these things “due to esthetic reasons.” Concerning health protection, two major things to which the interviewees referred were avoiding drafts (as in currents of air) and not sitting on cold surfaces.

The young man said, “No-one here believes it, but all Russians think that slightest streams of air from an open window can give you cold if you’re sitting right by the window.” Possibly due to the cold climate, a tradition has developed to prefer non-aerated, heated rooms to those with drafts. The family members still avoid drafts and do not sit on cold surfaces because they believe that the latter can cause kidney problems and even infertility. In terms of restoration, the respondents stated that the best way to regain health was to rest in bed, and this is what most Russians, according to the respondents, believe and practice.

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In the context of health maintenance, the Chinese family discussed “good life habits,” including dietary habits, and the major consideration in this regard was diversifying what one eats. Further research showed that, according to the traditional medicine, the diversification should be based on “individual needs, seasonal changes, and the balance of energies and flavors” (“Good life habits,” n.d., para. 4).

Concerning health protection, one of the sisters referred to wellness and happiness; she said, “Traditionally, many Asians see diseases as manifestations of inner problems, spiritual problems.” From this perspective, staying content is a way to stay healthy. Finally, regarding health restoration, the interviewees referred to specific traditional procedures practiced by Chinese Americans; these procedures included acupuncture and moxibustion.


Domarew, C. A., Holt, R. R., & Goodman-Snitkoff, G. (2002). A study of Russian phytomedicine and commonly used herbal remedies. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 2(4), 31-48.

Fieldhouse, P. (2013). Food and nutrition: Customs and culture (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Good life habits according to Chinese medicine. (n.d.) Web.

Heritage assessment tool. (2000). Web.

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"The Cultural Heritage Assessment of Three Families." StudyCorgi, 21 Dec. 2020,

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StudyCorgi. "The Cultural Heritage Assessment of Three Families." December 21, 2020.


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