Health, illness, and disease mean different things to members of different cultural groups.

Health, illness, and disease mean different things to members of different cultural groups. When viewed in a cultural context, these experiences can have significant ramifications for individual patients and, at times, communities as a whole. It can be helpful for medical social workers to examine the cultural factors that influence a patient’s perception of disease, illness, treatment, caregiving, and death. Doing so can provide insight into a patient’s behavior or thinking during the course of his or her illness.

When viewing a patient’s situation in a cultural context, medical social workers must consider the patient’s level of assimilation. For example, a recent Latino immigrant may be skeptical of Western medicine and want to rely on a more culturally sanctioned folk or holistic model of treatment. On the other hand, a second generation Latino-American may wholeheartedly endorse Western treatments and know less about his or her culture’s traditional point of view. In addition, medical social workers may encounter ethical dilemmas resulting from culture-based misunderstandings. Given the profession’s values and ethical standards, medical social workers must analyze and evaluate these dilemmas with careful consideration to cultural context in addition to other relevant information.

To prepare for this Discussion, review this week’s resources including the assigned case study. Then, consider the NASW Code of Ethics and Diversity & Cultural Competence statements. Think about your personal multicultural awareness, cultural tolerance, and cultural competence.

By Day 4

Post a description of the cultural factors that you might consider in providing service to the individual and family described in the case. Explain the course of action a medical social worker should take to address the cultural issues illustrated in the case. Be sure to support your statement by referring to the National Association of Social Workers standards or recommendations. Explain two cultural factors that might challenge you when working with a patient and his or her family who belong to a different culture than yours. Explain measures you might consider to enhance your cultural competence.

By Day 6

Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.

Respond to at least two different colleagues’ postings in one or more of the following ways:

  • Comment or elaborate on the cultural factors and diversity your colleague selected.
  • Offer strategies to improve the cultural competence your colleague chose.

Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of your colleagues’ comments.