Explain the relationship between culture and health

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Explain the relationship between culture and health.

Culture can be defined as an integrated pattern of knowledge, behavior and beliefs that depend on an individual’s capacity for symbolic thought and social thinking which is passed from generation to generation in the form of attitudes, activities, purposes, goals and values so as to meet the basic goals or survival, happiness, well-being and to derive a meaning for living.

Health on the other hand has two definitions. According to the westerners, health is the absence of disease or infirmities while to most other cultures health is not just the absence of negative substances but the presence of positive ones as well. In this sense the west, especially the developed countries has been known to follow a purely biomedical model of health where a pathogen is treated with the respective medicine and cured. Lately, however, the field of Complementary and Alternative medicine which includes things like Homeopathy and herbal medication has started to grow as have concepts such as hardiness which is mainly the result of the development of psychology and sociology. Other cultures such as the Chinese follow Buddhism, Confucianism or Taoism which holds the values of Yin and Yang, perceived by westerners to be good and bad but in actuality standing for a deeper difference as the Taoists thought bad and good to be too superficial. Yin which could be for cold, feminine, moon, water, dark, passive etc., is in contrast with yang which stands for warmth, male, sun, active, strength etc. According to the Taoists Yin and yang are like a lit candle. Yin is the wax and yang in the light. One without the other is useless, which is the basis of their belief. As is obvious most cultures use metaphors to describe health and how it should be treated. For example, in one study conducted on Vietnamese immigrants in Australia it was found that they have a number of metaphors they use for health. For example

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1. Life is a journey

2. Metaphorical leper

3. Doctor as a life creator

4. Sickness is a rough sea

5. Poor health is a metaphor of God’s punishment

In a lot of these cases metaphors tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies (Quynh Le, 2004). Metaphors have been used in the health field for a very long time, starting at the time of Hippocrates who propounded that there were 4 types of fluids in our bodies and that if there was excess of any one it would lead to ill health, for example,

1. Yellow bile- Jaundice

2. Black bile- Hepatitis


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