BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The influence of culture on youth health



Culture is broadly defined as people’s way of living. It reflects the method of thinking, customs and attitudes of a group of people, community or country. Culture is not constant- overtime, it evolves and changes in different ways. The speed at which culture evolves differs in different places with the odds of change increasing significantly as a result of migration.

The impact of culture on health is broad, especially for youth who may struggle with change in cultures when they migrate from one environment or location to another. Culture affects how health, illness, death, disease and approaches to health promotion, are perceived, experienced and expressed as well as where patients go to find help or the types of treatment they prefer. Everyone, including health professionals and patients, is influenced by their respective cultures while health systems in general are shaped by the mainstream beliefs of historically dominant cultures. In health systems, cultural bias may result due to differences in the perception and preferences in health-related services.

Cultural competence is a skill that creates and increases the awareness, existence and reality of the cultural differences in a group. It is practised when health professionals acknowledge and ask about various beliefs and to incorporate this awareness into patient diagnosis and treatment planning. The importance of cultural competence lies in the fact that demonstrating awareness of patients’ culture promotes trust, efficient health care, improves treatment adherence and leads to higher rates of acceptance of diagnoses.

Health is perceived through culture and all cultures have health belief systems that explain the cause and cure of illnesses. Youth health is particularly influenced, to a great extent, by how much they believe health education and promotion is relevant to their culture. This then translates to how they receive the information provided as well as how willing they are to adopt the available information. In industrialized countries such as the United States and Canada, disease is viewed as a result of natural scientific phenomena, consequently, they advocate medical treatments that combat microorganisms and use advanced and innovative technology to diagnose and treat diseases. On the other hand, some non-industrialized countries and societies such as Nigeria believe that some illnesses are a consequence of supernatural phenomena and as a result promote prayer and other spiritual interventions to combat the forces that are responsible for the diseases.

This basic difference and understanding on how culture differs between and within countries reflects culture influences youth health.

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