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How to understand the importance of health beliefs

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It is important for public health officials to understand the importance of health beliefs, culture, and cultural values as it relates to the decision the individual make regarding their health. This is because the understanding creates an open and safe space for patient and physician to communicate and practice cultural competency without any cultural bias or discriminations, which will create trust and give the physician the ability to address the patient’ health issues to the best of their ability (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020; Schiavo, 2014).

For example, in some African cultures like Ghana, they do not believe in seeking medical help from physicians, instead, they seek help in the form of witch doctors, herbs, and supernatural or spiritual powers (voodoo). Therefore, because of this strong belief in spiritual influence, they do not believe the diagnosis of medical physicians, instead, they think they have invoked the wrath of their ancestors, became possessed, or other forms of spiritual causes. Therefore, this creates issues with health communication messages, because of the conflicts between scientific medical information and cultural, spiritual values, and health belief (Asare & Danquah, 2017).

Therefore, to solve this issue in Africa, public health officials created a system where they incorporated spiritual beliefs with medical scientific causes for illness. This system is called the western biopsychosocial model. Therefore, in Africa, through the utilization of cultural competency, they created a healthcare consultation model, where the patients get to select what type of consultation they want. For example, there are spiritual centers where the services provided are by priest and spiritual healers with understanding of medical knowledge. There is a herbal clinic where they utilize local herbs used by the witch doctors and incorporate them into herbal medicines (Asare & Danquah, 2017).

A health communication message that illustrates culturally competent communication can be seen by the public health officials in Africa creating a treatment system with three churches. Therefore, depending on the belief of the patients, they can seek medical help from these locations. For example, the three treatment centers are orthodox churches, which is geared towards mental health disorders based on sin against God, then there is the charismatic church, which is geared towards illnesses caused by demonic influences. Lastly, there are shrines with a spiritual herbalist, which is geared towards curses from witches or voodoo/juju. With these communication health options, the officials have addressed the cultural values and health beliefs for the intended audiences (Asare & Danquah, 2017).

 

 

Reference

Asare, M., & Danquah S. A. (2017). The African Belief System and the Patient’s Choice of Treatment from Existing Health Models: The Case of Ghana. Acta Psychopathological, 3(4:49), 1-4. Doi: 10.4172/2469-6676.100121

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Tools for Cross-Cultural Communication and Language Access Can Help Organizations Address Health Literacy and Improve Communication Effectiveness. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/culture.html

Schiavo, R. (2014). Health communication: From theory to practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

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