It is important for health care providers to be sensitive to these transcultural differences among our patient population as they affect how willing the patient is to comply with our regimes or even whether the patient is willing to risk entry into our strange system.
Example of this is in United States which is in a period of dynamic social change in which hundreds of thousands immigrants from China, India, Cambodia, Mexico, Haiti, South America, the Middle East, Philippines, and Eastern Europe are flocking on it. Along with their hopes, aspirations, personal problems, talents and dreams, these new immigrants bring with them their views of health, illness, and appropriate practices. Although a review of traditional practices within the diverse homelands of these immigrants reveals the existence of meaningful health care traditions different from those practice in the west, their is a reluctance of many health care providers to see the benefits or to be willing to accept these differences.
Health care practice in the West is based on scientific reasoning and high technology. Western health care is a system of marvels: organs can be replaced, the blind can be made to see, and the dead can be revived. On the surface it would seem that modern medicine as taught and practice in the West should be embraced by all. What can one truly take from a health care traditions that is not built upon an understanding of germ theory.
Some patients do not seem able to follow prescriptions given, will not show up for appointments, do not comply with treatment regimes, and are not even willing to access the system until they are in severe distress and leave quickly as possible. Under current practice, something is being missed in regard to these patients and the system is failing them. Is it because the patients and practitioners have different views regarding health , illness, and appropriate practice? Can it be that the patients often believe that the care offered would make them sicker or is incompatible with their illness? In some sense what the patient believes is not as important as whether the provider is sensitive to the facts surrounding the belief system of the patient and is willing to respect the differences. It is important to come to understand how patients understand illness and their relationship to it and also what motivates them to seek medical assistance and then to follow the advice given. There is an ethical and professional imperative to build the bridges of understanding that allows for successful practice among those with different view of health, illness, and appropriate practice.