Different cultures vary in their systems of health beliefs and values concerning illness and methods of treatment. The Chinese community relies on distinct health beliefs and practices that have a profound implication on clinical care. Health beliefs continue to influence clinical care of Chinese patients, and health care professionals have a challenge of grasping the basics of the Chinese treatment methods that are influenced by their ancient beliefs and practices in the United States. Chinese believe that illness is a result of supernatural phenomena that can be treated through spiritual intervention or using cultural herbs. They believe that each part of the body are interconnected and are critical during medical care and consultation. For most Chinese, going for health counseling involves self-disclosure, and this goes against their values. Moreover, their cultural values influence their beliefs and attitudes in managing their health issues, particularly, the decision-making process concerning treatment as some are even reluctant to accept a diagnosis of various diseases in hospitals and prefer using their traditional methods of treatment.
The major cultural influence that guides the Chinese health behaviors beliefs and attitudes are constructed in an environment of regular social interactions and negotiations where allegiance to social identity, norms, and cultural traditions play a significant role. Cultural beliefs regarding health express psychological factors that shape the choices made about health-related behavior and practices of the Chinese. Chinese beliefs on illness and health are based on a theory of balance and energy flow. Diet, for example, plays a crucial role in treating illnesses and, sometimes, various dietary prescriptions are used as self-medication. Pregnant women, for instance, should not eat cold fruits such as bananas, to avoid miscarriage. Some take herbal drinks to remove toxins from the body and ensure a healthy life.
The doctors use various traditional Chinese medicines such as herbs, acupuncture, meditation, Tui Na massage, and food to recover and sustain health. Herbs are used in regulating natural body balance and health restoration. The herbs come in the form of powders, pills, or balms for external use. Acupuncture, on the other hand, involves inserting needles into the skin, subcutaneous tissue, and muscles at particular acupuncture points and manipulating them. Tui Na is used for treating chronic pain musculoskeletal conditions. Also, the Chinese nutrition is considered the first line of defense in health matters. A balanced diet includes the five tastes - sour, spicy, sweet, bitter, and salty. The tastes are necessary for providing strength, cooling and warming the body.
Most health care professionals expect patients to conform to mainstream values and this has created barriers for cultural groups such as Chinese to receive healthcare. The various barriers include; "face-saving," use of cultural herbs and lack of trust for healthcare providers. Face-Saving is a strong concept in the Chinese culture. Patients avoid looking weak or foolish and they, therefore, avoid being vocal with healthcare providers concerning their health issues. Also, Most of them prefer using alternative and complementary medicine such as herbs, acupuncture, and massage. Moreover, some patients do not fully trust nurses and they withhold relevant information concerning their health. Chinese also believe in karma, and according to them, it is bad luck to talk about death or illness.
Healthcare providers should be aware of the important Chinese cultural beliefs. A poor understanding of cultural differences may lead to adverse clinical outcomes such as the use of harmful remedies, delayed immunization, non-compliance and reduced participation. Due to this, health disparities among members of this group are evident. The firm belief in traditional healing practices prevents the Chinese from seeking further medication. Some of the curing approaches used by this community, such as massage, may be too expensive. Patients, especially those not covered by insurance, suffer from an easily curable disease due to inadequate knowledge on alternative and affordable medical care. The lack of understanding has led to high mortality and morbidity rate. Nurses should combine cultural information with clinical assessment of the patient to provide culturally sensitive care
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