Week 2: The Culture of Understanding the Illness

Treatment options and health outcomes vary around our world based on the person’s demographics and understanding of the disease or illness. This is so because as understood from lecture 2.2 all cultures distinguish between healthy and unhealthy. We can recognize that these understandings of what is an illness are socially and culturally created and can change over time. Some cultures believe that wellness is based on reaction to something they have encountered. Understanding mental illness has a huge impact on the treatments that may or may not be used. When a person is fully aware of the explanatory model of an illness they consider all options to cure the disease. Culture has a huge impact on this influence as well because although a person may fully understand the extent of the disease their culture may require different treatment than what is recommended by a doctor or other health professional. This can alter what is needed for treatment and even have both negative and positive outcomes on health and social outcomes. As we read from the “Madness in Zanzibar” some cultures such as those in the Islamic culture believe that “Allah” is the healer of all illness and that sickness is the result of sin. Families of Zanzibar use both traditional and hospital forms of treatment, including but not limited to botanical remedies, therapeutic uses of the Qur’an, and spirit rituals. From researching I have discovered that medicine may forms of healing from illness to wellness can come from physical (drinking, inhalation, injection, etc.) to mental (spiritual healing, musical therapy, ritual ceremonies, etc.). In understanding these healing forums we can now recognize that there are different forums of healing can alter the social and health outcomes. In turn we can also take a look at how thoughts influence health and its outcomes. For example chronic stress over an illness can affect a person’s ability to think positively and can lead to not choosing proper decisions about treatments. In addition, this can lead to other health issues causing more complications. In summarizing, I think that the awareness to mental issues can help to positively influence social and health outcomes. In knowing the epidemiology of the disease this changes the perspective of how to handle the illness. Comprehending and understanding that mental illness can be genetically inherited and even the result of traumatic situations aids in the process of knowing the proper steps for wellness with each culture aspect in mind.


“British Medical Bulletin.” The Cultural Diversity of Healing: Meaning, Metaphor and Mechanism. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/1/33.full.


“How Do Thoughts & Emotions Impact Health? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Accessed July 14, 2016. http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/health/thoughts-emotions/how-do-thoughts-emotions-impact-health.


One thought on “Week 2: The Culture of Understanding the Illness

  1. Hi Robyn,
    I liked the extra information you included about the different types of treatment people seek based on how they view illness. It would be interesting to see how effective these treatments are for different people in different cultures. I would expect to see different success rates because we learned that treatments vary based on perceptions of illness in different cultures. I think if we look deeper at the explanatory model behind stress in our culture (like you mentioned in your post) we could see that most people view stress as a part of normal, every day life and something that cannot truly affect health in a serious way. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Stress affects several aspects of health and can have serious consequences if a person is chronically stressed. I have spent time in Spain and I found that my host family was rarely stressed about the things that I, myself, and my family stress about. Many times they will say, “No pasa nada” which is like “Don’t worry about it”. Their explanatory model for stress and health is completely different than that in America. It would be interesting to compare the different health outcomes due to stress between these two countries and see if there are large differences.

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