My father is African and while he grew up very differently than most of his culture, he still portrays some of the traits of the African culture, especially when it comes to health care.
Language: It is important with the African culture to assess and be sure of the language they speak. There are many different languages spoken within the African population including many different dialects. If unsure always use a translator as this will make the difference in patient education.
Family: Family is the center of importance in the African culture. The family model is an extended one including immediate family and relatives, and loyalty to the family is expected. It is also expected that children abide by their parent’s rules and live up to their expectations. In healthcare settings, Africans may be unwilling to acknowledge strong emotion, grief, or pain due to their family and cultural values. Western medical professionals often find the stoic demeanors of African people difficult to interpret. In my practice as a nurse I have been a part of many situations where the family did not want the patient to know about the diagnosis until they have had time to talk it over with the family. This obviously brings up ethical issues within the patient care and it is important to know whether the patient wants the family involved in the care.
Cultural Differences: Within this culture it is particularly important to ask whether the patient takes any herbal medication and traditional treatments as this is an important practice in their culture. Most people of the African culture still only report to western medicine only if their traditional methods are failing. In turn, this means most patients will not seek out preventative measures, diagnostic testing, and treatment.
Methods of communication: Within this culture, communication can be very misinterpreted. The African culture believes in harmony and avoids conflict, therefore they may agree with a healthcare provider but have no intentions on following through with the teaching. Also, they do not ask for help because they do not want to be bothersome and will often dismiss their needs and pain. It is important to anticipate their needs and ask several times. There are also several nonverbal things Africans find unacceptable such as pointing, and eye contact.
Falvo, D. R. (2011). Effective Patient Education, A guide to Increased Inherence. Fourth Edition
Schyve PM. Language differences as a barrier to quality and safety in health care: the Joint Commission perspective. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22(Suppl 2):360–361.

Recently, I had to care for a patient of Hispanic culture from Mexico who immigrated few years ago into the country. The patient was obese with diabetes and hypertension that was becoming difficult to manage. Upon investigation, it was clear that the patient did not have enough knowledge of how to control and manage his condition. During the interaction, language was a barrier because he has only learnt it recently when he got into the country. The previous doctors he saw had given him information in pamphlets written in English. The patient was finding a difficult time understanding the information. When presenting the education, a nurse could use videos instead of pamphlets and have someone to translate the difficult words that the patient does not understand. Also, with advanced technology, a health professional can use videos with Hispanic subtitles or language. This can help the patient understand the information.
Family is a very important aspect of the Hispanic culture and plays a vital role when it comes to health (Falvo, 2011). Family is very important, and each member has a role to play with gender having different roles. Hispanic families are organized into large groups that include extended family members such as cousins and aunts. Within health care, members may tend to avoid undertaking expensive treatment when it can take a toll on the family and prefer to visit a hospital only when it is necessary (Juckett, 2013). This affects preventive care especially if the family is not well-off enough to afford insurance.
One of the biggest cultural differences of Hispanic culture comes from organized parties where large proportions of food are served. One of the biggest health issues in this culture is obesity, with a prevalence of 43% compared to 33% in Caucasian people (Juckett, 2013). These organized mealtimes bring the family together, which makes it difficult for a member to miss because he or she can be seen as not wanting to be part of the family. There is a need to involve the family in patient education so that they can understand why the patient cannot eat the same meals or normal proportions as before.
The best method of communication would be verbal communication. Because the patient has been in the country for a few years, there is a need to involve family members who have lived longer in the country to help with acculturation as well as understanding the information provided. The best approach should involve an interpersonal communication that goeas both ways. While many professionals only inform, there is a need to listen to the patient as well, get to understand his issues, perception, and level of understanding of the content. This can only be achieved through a two-dimensional communication (Falvo, 2011).
Falvo, D. R. (2011). Effective patient education: A guide to increased adherence (4thed.). Sudbury Massachusetts, M.A. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Juckett, G. (2013). Caring for Latino patients. American Family Physician, 87(1), 48-54.
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