This week's feature on multicultural health was written by Sandra Kendal, the OHPE Bulletin's summer student (whom we miss!). She writes "All health systems are cultural systems. Diet, hygienic practices and an understanding of the interaction between the person and the universe are shaped by culture. Beliefs about the cause or origin of a disorder are also culturally determined. For example, one culture may believe that an illness is caused by an immune dysfunction. Another may believe that the same illness is caused by a vengeful spirit. Thus, practitioners must be conscious of the cultural base that shapes both their own thoughts and actions and their clients'."
One of our OHPE team members shared a personal experience with this issue: she tutors a woman from Guatemala who has some serious health problems -- for example high blood pressure and a growth of some sort in her throat. The woman is convinced that her problems are caused by a curse from her ex husband. When she shared this with an Ontario doctor, he said that they might put her in Homewood if she didn't stop talking about crazy stuff. So she refused to work with our doctors again. When her problems got worse, she took what little money she had for food and rent and flew back to Guatemala (losing her job in the process) to see a voodoo doctor, who had some short-term affect. But her problems are starting to return and while she can't afford to back to Guatemala, she is scared to talk to a doctor here. It is possible that she will die of some chronic but treatable disease because a doctor was willing to treat her if she believed she was affected by a curse and evil spirits.
If you have a resource or point of view to add to this article, let us know by writing to [email protected]. More information on our Letters to the Editor column can be found in the OHPE News section of OHPE 268.0 (http://www.ohpe.ca/ebulletin/ ViewAnnouncements.cfm?ISSUE_ID=268&startrow=1).