How Culture Shapes Healthcare

Authored By:

Lauren B.

When studying health, one must consider culture as a formative method that creates the variations in the ways citizens view health and treatments worldwide.  Before I even came to Berlin, I knew their healthcare system varied from the US due to culture. Some obvious differences included the universal healthcare, government insurance, cheaper costs, and more relative ease of access for citizens. This form of health varies from the United States because there is an institutional difference. In Berlin, the people believe everyone has a right to healthcare and so the barriers to being healthy should be removed. In my culture, the government and many Americans think that healthcare should be viewed in the capitalist sense. In other words, the goal of health is to make monetary gain for the businesses (hospitals, pharmacies, drug companies) and to privatize insurance to ensure the faults of government do not influence the way that people remain healthy. This viewpoint is created through culture, as young American children are taught to relate to a capitalist system and to suspect anything that destroys or changes this opinion through the influence of socialization to create a cohesive American culture. The big aha moment for me when comparing German health was how Germans are such rule followers and how this influences their health system. For example, I learned that here at pharmacies, you may not just buy over-the-counter medication. Instead, you must consult a pharmacist who is well learned and will suggest a drug for you to use for your problem. This varies from the US in which you can buy many things over-the-counter and considering many of the workers at a pharmacy may be a pharmacy assistant or another variation who did not go though all the training a pharmacist did. As a surprising factor, it seems to be an intelligent way to prevent large-scale drug use and make it more difficult for drug abusers to obtain drugs. Another surprising factor in German health, is the amount of choice people have. A lack of choice is one of the reasons Americans resist changing their healthcare system to be government run because they believe it will prevent citizens from having the choice to participate or find their own doctors. Germany is a model against that fear as patients can choose between privatized or public insurance, then may choose whichever doctor in their area that is covered by insurance. This offers a full range of coverage and many options. I believe this system is better than the confusing and expensive American healthcare, but either way people will always be concerned with health as it is a vital part of living and ensuring less pain for patients. Overall, I have learned about another option to healthcare and hope to share this with others in the US to inspire change or to least push people to consider another form of care.