Perspectives on Culture, Health, and Illness

I definitely feel like I have learned a lot over this semester. I have learned how a persons genes and ethnicity impacts their health as well as their personal views on health and illness. One thing i learned about that i didn’t know prior to this class was the idea of explanatory models. Explanatory models are the different ways that a person views, interprets, and goes about handling a disease or illness (Gabriel 2016). This idea is very important because its important that a person fully understand their illness or disease to be able to cope, fully explain it to their doctor as well as being able to have a say in what types of treatment would work best for them. This idea of explanatory models also goes along with doctor patient communication. Its very important for doctors to be active listeners when speaking with their patient about the symptoms they are having because it is critical for the doctor to not miss these important things their patient is trying to tell them. It is also important to listen to and take into consideration a persons cultural or religious beliefs when it comes to their illness as well. For example a doctor may try and only get the patient to talk about their physical symptoms but a persons emotional or mental symptoms may play a large role in that persons sickness as well as their religious or spiritual view about their sickness. Demonstrating awareness of a patient’s culture can promote trust, better health care, lead to higher rates of acceptance of diagnoses and improve treatment adherence (How Culture Influences Health).

Dr Arthur Kleinman pioneered the idea that physicians could do a better job treating their patients if they listened more fully which he called illness narratives (Gabriel 2016). This idea is similar to that of explanatory models because different illness can have different meanings for different people. It is very important to understand how the person with the illness views their own illness because that will help you to find the best form of treatment for that specific person.  I also learned from this class about different birthing practices such as that of the Hmong and the Inuit and how America has tried to basically force there western views of medicine on other cultures and societies. I don’t think it is right for America to try and tell someone of a different culture or religion that they have to handle health, illness or birth how we do here especially if it interferes with a persons spiritual or religious beliefs. I think an interesting movie that could be added to this course is a film called Shutter Island ( ) which is about a mental hospital for the criminally insane that is located on an island far away from American civilization. I think it would go along well with the week where mental illness is discussed because it is in America and they use western forms of medicine to treat and control some of these illnesses.

“How Culture Influences Health.” |Culture & Health |Caring for Kids New to Canada. Accessed August 17, 2016.



One thought on “Perspectives on Culture, Health, and Illness

  1. Hi Kendra, I enjoyed reading your post because it reminded me of week one when we did activity one which discussed how human genes have changed in small ways as people expanded out of Africa, and each change marks the ancestors of that person who lived where the changes occurred. The example of this which struck me the most was sickle cell disease which many Africans developed to protect their bodies from mosquitoes carrying malaria. I am glad you brought this up.

    I, like you, was also affected by the piece by Kleinman. I think he did a very good job of getting his point across that a patient’s explanatory model is very important when it comes to treatment. It is sad Dr. Richards did not listen well to Mrs. Flowers because when she tried to explain why she was drinking pickle juice, the doctor could have taken that time to explain the consequences these actions were having on her health, but he instead decided to keep cutting her off and only wanted to know her symptoms (Kleinman, 1988). I am a strong proponent of the holistic approach to treatment.

    I have seen the movie, Shutter Island, and I agree it would be a great addition to the week which discusses mental illness. I have not seen the movie in a while, but I am sure if I watched it now, I would definitely see it in a different light. This class has opened my eyes in many ways.

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