Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Practices and Their Implications on Health
Culture can significantly shape people’s attitudes and beliefs toward their health, both outside and within the healthcare system. From a face-to-face interview with a Muslim colleague, individuals are responsible for their health. For instance, pork, alcohol or their by-products, and smoking tobacco have adverse effects on health and should be avoided. In most cases, Muslims prefer to self-medicate using traditional treatments. They use honey (for wound dressing), olive oil (to reduce inflammation), and Al Kowi (to treat various illnesses, such as jaundice, eye problems, and mental issues). Although they rely on traditional herbs and roots to address certain psychological and physical issues, they still use modern medicine.
The family dynamics of Islam substantially influence how a patient receives treatment during hospitalization. The Islamic culture demands that the family be consulted in all decisions and for particular guidelines to be followed when attending to patients. For example, when male doctors want to communicate with female patients, they must relay the information to their spouses or senior family members (Gustafson & Lazenby, 2018). Physicians and nurses must also minimize eye and physical contact with patients of the opposite sex during medical encounters to provide culturally sensitive care unless it is impossible. Nonetheless, the interviewee reiterated that this should not be misconstrued as discrimination against women and children, but rather as a harmonious social order established to regulate behavior and actions. This cultural practice brings the rights of children, spouses, and extended family members into a right equilibrium.
The final decision-making in the Islamic culture is family-oriented and may result in communication barriers, delayed diagnosis, and prevention early intervention, especially during medical emergencies. The senior family members may sometimes fail to disclose the full extent of a patient’s condition, prognosis, or treatment, leading to severe health complications or even death (Gustafson & Lazenby, 2018). In addition, the preference for health professionals of the same gender may prevent healthcare-seeking habits if this requirement is not accommodated. Diet restrictions may negatively affect the quality of care because it can be challenging to convince a Muslim patient to take certain medications whose active ingredients include alcohol and animal sources. However, from the interview, it is also clear that the Islamic cultural values that prohibit addictive habits, such as consumption of alcohol, or smoking tobacco, may promote general well-being (Padela & Zaidi, 2018). Therefore, while some Islamic cultural practices may hinder competent healthcare service delivery, others significantly encourage positive health outcomes.
I believe that family dynamics significantly influence the unconscious and conscious choices a person makes as an adolescent or an adult. Many people from my cultural background have autonomy as long as they are competent enough to make informed decisions. Thus, from a clinical perspective, patients are actively engaged during decision-making. Healthcare professionals may protect patients’ privacy if they do not wish to disclose their health status to their family members (Grootens-Wiegers et al., 2017). Thus, in most cases, the family’s interests are not crucial as those of the patients. People in my culture also have a lot of trust in contemporary medicine and are more likely to take their prescriptions as dictated.
Although there are no specific guidelines regarding medication use, dietary restrictions, or other particular hospitalization needs, I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable. Sometimes it may be easy for the healthcare providers to judge, especially if you share the same values and beliefs. Therefore, I believe it is vital for health professionals to know that every individual is unique and may or may not adhere to certain traditional practices. Healthcare teams need to inquire about patients’ preferences and views about the treatment process to understand how their values influence how they want to receive care.
Grootens-Wiegers, P., Hein, I. M., van den Broek, J. M., & de Vries, M. C. (2017). Medical decision-making in children and adolescents: Developmental and neuroscientific aspects. BMC Pediatrics, 17(1), 120.
Gustafson, C., & Lazenby, M. (2018). Assessing the unique experiences and needs of Muslim oncology patients receiving palliative and end-of-life care: An integrative review. Journal of Palliative Care, 34(1), 52-61.
Padela, A. I., & Zaidi, D. (2018). The Islamic tradition and health inequities: A preliminary conceptual model based on a systematic literature review of Muslim healthcare disparities. Avicenna Journal of Medicine, 8(1), 1–13.