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Culturally Competent Health Care

Title:  Guide to Culturally Competent Health Care

Author: LarryD. Purnell

Quoting the author: Culture is defined as the totality of socially transmitted behavioral patterns, beliefs, values, customs, lifeways, arts, and all other products of human work and through characteristics of a population of people that guide their worldview and decision-making.

I bought this book because I am taking a culturally competent care class this semester.  It was not required for the class, but was on the list of useful resources.  I’m actually torn on the book.

The author breaks down populations by heritage, (so you will have a chapter on Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, Cubn, etc) and then lists generally held beliefs for each population group. Included in these lists are some suggestions for how to work with a patient from that culture.  For example, under the Hindi group for health-care practices it lists beliefs about causes of infectious diseases such as excessive consumption of sweets or too much sexual activity; and then offers the suggestion to “Explain factual information about parasitic and infectious diseases.” Hmm, this sits funny with me.

First, the book is definitely written for Western health care practitioners rather than for the clients they serve. This is why it is key to explain the readers perspective on the disease but not key to find out what the actual client believes about the disease.

Secondly, reducing a population group to a list of “generally held beliefs” is not cultural competence by any sense of the word. It is how you use the information to treat the patient that makes you culturally competent.

That being said, this can be a good tool if you find yourself working with someone whose culture is new to you.  After reading the list, be sure to take the time to listen to your client to find out which of the beliefs are important to her.

And yes, there is a section for each of the culture groups for birth and pregnancy beliefs.

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