How do Patterns of Thought and Access to Equitable Health Intersect?

Authored by:
Sapphire B.

As a prior resident of a small town in North Carolina, I was fortunate to be greeted and treated with “Southern hospitality” in sectors of public and health services for the majority of my childhood. However, my family members who lived in surrounding areas were often met with critical stares, blatant disrespect, and overt rudeness as a likely result of their Jamaican accents in medical settings, discriminating against their race and cultural linguistics. So then the questions we must ask ourselves when confronted with this scenario are as follows:

1. How does culture and Global Public Health intersect?

2. How does cultures who are not apart of the accepted cultural norm respond to infringements of proper healthcare?

3. And what underlying factors must be addressed in order to attain equity of health for all?

Through skits portraying issues at “the front desk,” group discussions brainstorming various lenses of noncommunicable diseases, and dissecting graphs charting the ten leading causes of death by country income group, the Bison STEM Scholars began to unravel these very real and pressuring questions regarding intercultural communication and Global Public Health in Berlin.

I would first like to say that I do not rave in excitement over discussions involving the illusive term “culture.” The word is so general and often misleading, where I often feel that it is used as a cop out label instead of specifying the actual feelings, ideas, linguistics, etc. of a particular group or individual if used incorrectly. But during our discussions, we came to connect integral parts of one’s culture to the realm of Global Public Health, which became relevant and useful. The more obvious connections between culture and Global Health are how racial, ethnic, economic, and lingual differences against Western modernity impacts those who are not included into the normative sphere. During class, we reacted possible scenarios of patients who were blind, did not speak English, or were people of color and faced discriminatory challenges posed by staff at the front desk of medical institutions. The behavior of staff at the front desk widely influences how that patient interacts with healthcare professionals in regards to their treatment and compliance in receiving care.

I have yet to truly look at how the implications of culture related to health is amplified on an global scale. In the case of increased presence of polio in Pakistan, vaccination of Polio can often be met with resistance as social media plays up anti-vaccination campaigns in combination with a lingering skepticism of the CIA using fake vaccination campaign to locate terrorists. So how does culture have any impact on this global health threat? The ideologies that contribute to resistance against polio vaccination are created out of globalized patterns of resistance (which should not be replicated in high risk areas of disease), environmental factors of improper sanitation systems, and lack of accessible clinics that could provide the vaccination in general. Patterns of thought, which helps define culture, influences how someone sees their own health.

The most surprising element to me between the intersections of these disciplines is their unexpected relation to human geography. I never thought of how first order behaviors or beliefs in regards to geographic placements influences how health is projected to that area. These continued conversations in how cultures function with or against one another are pivotal in understanding why proper healthcare is not provided to an area or group of people.

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