Learning about Culture, Health & Illness

I thoroughly enjoyed this class and found it very interesting. It taught me a lot about the issues we are currently facing in this world and opened up my eyes to many different ideas and viewpoints. It reminded me of the communication 300 course I took here at MSU in regard to different communication styles among cultures. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down was a great novel for this course. I found out a lot about the Hmong that I didn’t know beforehand. For instance, how they treat diseases in their own culture and believe something happens to the soul when someone gets sick which requires spiritual healing. The disapproval of medication with illnesses surprised me as well.

I have also learned a lot about race and ethnicity and how it plays into the topic of health and culture. Someone’s race, ethnicity and cultural upbringing play a role into mental, physical and spiritual health. The role of socioeconomic status and belonging to a group can alter health outcomes. Just like how western medicine plays a part into the healing process of the mind and body, health affects all of these as well. Mentioned in lecture, “how we see others and how we are seen influence distinct aspects of our lives and the lives of others.” (Gabriel 2016)

Learning about the similarities between science, religion and healing was very significant. Taking into consideration the vast beliefs in this world and respecting people in the process is important. The prominence of healing in China and the laws of nature show how these topics intertwine. The emergence of kingdoms brought authority during social changes, which brought stability and order. This was the lead in the right direction of medicine, ideas, & laws, which paved the influential road for China.

I also realized that we put the hospitals and medical care staff at too high of standards sometimes. Realizing that the patients are the number one priority regardless of language disparity is very important. I find it important to respect every cultures traditions and taking into consideration the difference between the two is essential. “It is important to “coach the coach” in the instance where the father of the baby chooses to be the support person. Nurses should provide support within the family context and according to women’s cultural values and belief system.” (Clark 2003) Women being in a comfortable and safe environment makes coping through an emotional period a lot easier. Making the appropriate adjustments needs to be done. I will take the information I learned from this course with me the rest of my life.

If I could add to this course it would be an article about the cultural beliefs of individualistic and collectivist societies. It implies that those who are exposed to more than one culture from birth are willing to switch from one set of cultural norms to another without complication. How strongly they operate may be altered by circumstances such as how well they are acknowledged by the culture they exist in, communal standing, and correlation between the two cultures. This can be used to show the similarities and differences between the Hmong culture and how personal background of their culture leads to altered communication styles.


Understanding Race and Ethnicity in Medicine. Cynthia Gabriel. Lecture 1.2. 2016. Accessed August 15, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/understanding-race-and-ethnicity-in-medicine/

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997

Callister, Lynn Clark, Inaam Khalaf, Sonia Semenic, Robin Kartchner, and Katri Vehvilainen-Julkunen. “The Pain of Childbirth: Perceptions of Culturally Diverse Women.” Pain Management Nursing 4.4 (2003): 145-54. Web. 29 July 2016.

2 thoughts on “Learning about Culture, Health & Illness

  1. Hi, Micheal!
    I agree with you on what you said about The Spirit Cates You and You Fall Down being a great book. It taught us a lot about what immigrants go through while coming to the United States and how they are basically forced to fit into our culture. How the Hmong acted towards American medication really surprised me as well. I feel that if something is scientifically proven that should be enough evidence for someone to give into it and believe it. The Hmong were raised to believe in what they believe and when someone said other wise not to fall into their trap.

    I also learned a lot about race! I wrote about this in my own post. One of the biggest things I learned is that race is non-existent. This was very surprising to me and to many others because race is so real in today’s world, but does not make sense scientifically.

    Hospitals and medical care staff do have a lot of pressure on them at times. I do believe that our medical care staff needs to put the patient first. I do think that doctors need to have a great grasp on culture before practicing medicine because everyone has different ways of doing the same thing and that needs to be respected.

  2. Your reflection of the course was very similar to my own and you bring up some additional points that I hadn’t considered. It is very important to consider the wide range of beliefs around the world in the process of healing. Healing can include many things in different cultures and you mention being respectful towards those differences. The idea of respect doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them, but instead considering those values although they may seem odd. You brought up an interesting point when you said that we hold medical staff at too high of standards sometimes. I hadn’t really considered all of the pressure that society puts on professionals, and that we expect them to have all of the answers. Even though physicians are fluent in medical practices they might not be familiar with the cultural implications. This is an area where I believe that medical practitioners can continue to grow with the help of anthropologists. The article that you suggested sounds like it would be a great fit for this course. It would fit perfectly with the section on immigrant health. Children of immigrants are exposed to multiple cultures throughout their life and this knowledge can be used to better understand medical anthropology.

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