Introducingcommunity health in medical schools and health institutions is tohelp one learn and appreciate the different cultures and traditionsof the people they will be dealing with. Medical practitioners do notchoose the people they are dealing with, just like any other civilservants. Therefore, it is upon them to learn and appreciate theexistence of different cultures to avoid bias in carrying outtreatments. Upholding heritage and heritage assessment contribute alot to the outcome of healthcare. Heritage assessment is an importanttool and step towards trying to learn and appreciate the patients’culture and beliefs by asking questions pertaining to that. Whileasking these questions, the caregivers should try as a much aspossible to adhere to these practices without necessarily consideringtheir cultural bias in order to show respect for the patient’sbeliefs and values. While doing so, the caregivers should also becareful not to interfere with the effectiveness of the caregivingpractices they are providing. Therefore, it is important to respectthese beliefs and values as it is the only way to show that we haveappreciated their values, and as said earlier, it is an importantdeterminant of the outcome of the medical care given. Thispaper will discuss the usefulness of applying a heritage assessmentin the evaluation of the needs of a patient by interviewing thosefrom different cultures, identifying common health traditions of thethree cultures and evaluate how families adhere to these culturalvalues and practices (Champion & Skinner, 2008, p.45-65).
Culturalcompetency not only focuses on asking the patient questions abouttheir practice but also considering and incorporating the practicesin caregiving. Caregivers should understand that as human beings,they also have their cultural bias. However, they should put theirbiases aside and put emphasis on the patient’s cultural practicesand values from the heritage assessment because they are the mostimportant party when delivering medical care.
Whendealing with heritage assessment, perhaps it is important to borrowsome advice from the corporate business practices that lure clientsby insisting that the customer is always right. Emphasis is put oncultural competency because it is the answer to providing andimproving caregiving practices by giving high-quality services aswell as reducing disparities by being respectful and responsive tothe needs of the diverse patients.
Gooddevelopment and implementation of this as a framework enables groups,agencies and even systems of professionals to function effectively,which facilitates the understanding of the needs of the groupsaccessing health information and health care. Additionally, it helpsto understand the needs of a group while participating in research inan inclusive partnership where the provider and the user of theinformation meet on a common ground. There are a number of aspectsthat can influence health communication, including language, customs,perspectives, behavior and beliefs.
Inregard to this, cultural competence is helpful in achieving accuracyin medical research. Medical planning that does not take into accountpeople’s beliefs, cultural practices and values may lead to poorand inaccurate information, leading to poor policy making based onthe inaccurate research findings.
HeritageAssessment of Three Couples
Inmy heritage assessment, I met three couples, an African Americancouple with roots in Kenya, East Africa. This couple was veryadherent to the traditional practices back in East Africa. Anothercouple was a Moroccan-American with deep Muslim roots. The lastcouple was a Japanese-American.
Talkingto the African American couple, I learnt that they moved to the U.S.in 1996 after winning a Green Card lottery back in their home countryin Kenya. The coupe maintains close ties with other African Americansof Kenyan decent around the country. The largest gathering of Kenyansin the U.S. is in Atlanta Georgia because of the countries embassysituated there, and Dallas Texas.
Intheir culture, it is important for the husband’s mother to takecare of the wife during her prenatal and even postnatal period.According to their culture, care given by the husband’s motherallows the child to be incorporated into the paternal family. Intheir culture, custody of the children is mainly bestowed to thehusband. Therefore, the naming of the children is greatly determinedby the paternal side of the family. When the wife was pregnant withtheir third child who is now nine months old, they had to fly back toKenya when the lady was two months pregnant. This was so that themother-in-law would take care of the pregnant wife. The otheralternative was to fly the mother-in-law in so that she could bethere and facilitate caregiving during the prenatal and postnatalperiod here in the country. Luckily, they managed to book her aticket to fly in the country to oversee caregiving of herdaughter-in-law.
Thesemother in laws are very vigilant when it comes to taking care of apregnant woman. According to their culture, the child does not belongto the couple alone, but to the extended family as well. Therefore,they take it as a collective responsibility. During the prenatalperiod, there are some medicinal herbs that the pregnantdaughter-in-law is supposed to take. They are meant for protectionfrom ‘evil will.’ As much as it is strange to predict any evilwill from the couple’s surrounding because of being far away fromhome, it was still necessary to allow her to give the daughter-in-lawthe herbs because failure to do so might amount to bad luck incongenital diseases. Research has shown that some of these herbs havemineral elements such as folate that protect against teratogens.
TheMoroccan-American couple is deeply rooted in their religion.According to the religion, females who have attained a specific agehave to cover themselves up well because of their conservative laws.This ensures that there is less promiscuity in the culture as thewomen do not evoke temptations to their male counterparts (Webner,2007, p161-186).
Thecouple lives in an apartment block in a tall building that is blockedfrom the sun. Therefore, there is less sun exposure. In suchcircumstances, coupled with the cultural requirement of conservativeclothing among the women and the fact that the females are notallowed to breastfeed in public, there are high chances ofelectrolyte derangements, especially calcium. Due to the limitedexposure to the sun, they have less vitamin D, which means lesscalcium is absorbed from the small intestines, leading to a transientstate of hypocalcemia. Since we cannot change their culture onclothing and lactating behavior, emphasis should be put onadministering calcium and vitamin D supplements to avoid cases ofrickets in the offspring and medical conditions related tohypocalcemia in the mother.
Thisthird Japanese-American couple has lived in the U.S. for a long time.TraditionalJapanese customary practices related to health and health caregivingare very different from the medical norms of the western world. Theconcept of shame or “hazukashii” as referred in Japanese isrelated to almost all elements of Japanese life including health,business and even family. A lot of emphasis should be placed onachieving success and maintaining health. Close family ties are alsohighly regarded by the Japanese as evident in their communities herein the U.S. Poor health is usually linked to shame among themtherefore, a lot of care should be taken when approaching thesepatients and their families regarding any illness in a blameless andindirect way. For instance, the culture uses the idea of “shikataga nai,” which basically means “it cannot be helped” todescribe cases of terminal illness. Therefore, when dealing with sucha couple, emphasis should be put on educating them and making themaware that illnesses are part of the physiological adaptation of thebody to external conditions therefore, they should welcome medicaltreatment and shun ideological thinking.
Inconclusion, heritage assessment is important in caregiving because itnot only determines the outcome of caregiving, but it also helps thecaregivers to understand and appreciate the diversity of the patientsthey deal with. There is a great temptation to put our culturalbiases first when treating patients, but it should be noted thatduring caregiving, the most important person is the patient.Everything necessary should be done to ensure that the outcome ispositive because the outcome does not only depend on the medicationbut also the attitude of the patient towards caregiving.
Blanch,L. (2015). Healthcare Beliefs of the Japanese. Demand Media.
Champion,V. L., & Skinner, C. S. (2008). The health belief model. Healthbehavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice,4,45-65.
Werbner,P. (2007). Veiled interventions in pure space honour, shame andembodied struggles among Muslims in Britain and France. Theory,Culture & Society,24(2),161-186.