Heritage in Healthcare

Heritage in Healthcare


Grand Canyon University

Heritage in Healthcare

Our heritage has a lot to do with our traditions and how we go about our daily life, but it can also affect how you perceive your health and your health maintenance. “Cultural heritage is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values.” (What is cultural heritage, n.d.) The heritage assessment tool helps nurses gather more information about the patient’s culture, values and their beliefs about health. When we assess our patients culture and know how they adhere to their cultural practices and beliefs, we can provide more thorough and culturally competent care. Understanding a person’s cultural heritage, their behaviors, expectations and communication style can have a positive effect on patient outcomes. I have performed a heritage assessment tool on three individuals and will be discussing how the results and how they can be used to identify their needs.

The first person I screened identifies as Filipino American. Her parents brought her over to the United States when she was nine years old. They moved here with no other family leaving their extended family behind in the Philippines. They remained in constant contact but was only able to visit every few years. Even with the distance she is very involved in her culture and practices at home by cooking native dishes, celebrating native holidays and teaching her son to speak Tagalog. While she has not lived in the Philippines since she was a young child, it is still a very important part of who she identifies with today.

The health of the Filipino people are based on three different beliefs, mystical, personalistic, and naturalistic. Mystical causes can be attributed to “retribution from ancestors for unfulfilled obligations.” (McBride, n.d.) Personalistic can be attributed to “social punishment or retribution by supernatural beings such as an evil spirit.” (McBride, n.d.) Naturalistic causes can be found in nature such as drafts or incompatible food or familial susceptibility. (McBride, n.d.) Balance is the key, and when it is disrupted a person can become ill. (Ordonez, Gandeza, 2004) To regain health, they must get their body back in balance. They also believe and utilize western medicine in complement to their cultural remedies. Home remedies and medicinal plants play a big part in Filipino culture especially for those from a more rural area. Most Filipinos will try these home remedies before seeking professional medical help.

My second family was of German-American decent. She was born in Germany and came to the United States when she was six years old with her parents. Her mom was German and dad was an American GI stationed in Germany during and after world war two. Her mom made traditional German food at home and celebrated all the German holidays. Unfortunately, they never returned to Germany for a visit after moving to the United States. They did maintain contact via the mail with aunts and uncles while her mom was living, but once they all passed the cousins lost touch. Also, once the mother passed the child no longer used her German language.

Germans are very health conscious and are interested in prevention of diseases. They have an extensive and high-quality health care system available to them. They tend to be stoic, and try to use home remedies or seek the advice of an apothecary before seeking out the help of a health care professional. When they do go to the doctor they are very involved and will ask several questions of their medical provider, not because of a lack of trust, but because of their active participation in their health care needs. They have a strong belief in diet, exercise, rehabilitation and use complementary medicine such as an herbalist, acupuncturist, or water such as spas as an integral part of their health care plan. (Germany, n.d.)

My third patient was an American, non-Hispanic. She as well as her parents and grandparents were all born here in the United States. They have a very close nit extended family. They served American food and celebrate all the holidays. Food plays an integral role in their celebrations. They are religious and attend church regularly and believe in the power of prayer.

American health beliefs tend to be more individually focused, that their illness is caused by themselves and not by outside sources. Unlike the Filipino beliefs of mystical causes of an illness, Americans tend to believe the illness started from within the body to due an identifiable medical cause or pathogen. (Vaughn, Jacquez, Baker, 2009) Americans will seek out medical help and rely on medications to treat illness. Some will practice alternative therapies but most will use traditional medicine.

Culture plays an important role in our health beliefs. The Filipino American can believe that their illness was caused by various mystical behaviors. The German American can expect to play in integral role in their health and wellbeing. The American tends to believe in the treatment of the illness or pathogen with medication. All these cultural beliefs are important to know and understand to care for and obtain favorable outcomes for our patients. When we understand the beliefs, we can better treat the person both medically and holistically. When we determine what their beliefs are we can develop a plan that incorporates both the similarities and differences of all people.


What is Cultural Heritage. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2017 from http://www.heritageforpeace.org/heritage-for-peace/what-is-culture-heritage/

Ordonez, Rosalia V., Gandeza, Noemi. (December 1, 2004). Integrating traditional beliefs and Modern Medicine: Filipino Nurses Health Beliefs, Behaviors and Practices. Home Healthcare Management and Practice. Volume 17, Issue 1, pages 22-27. Retrieved September 17, 2017 from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1084822304268152#articleCitationDownloadContainerhttp://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1084822304268152#articleCitationDownloadContainer (

McBride, Meren. (n.d.). Health and Healthcare of Filipino American Elders. Retrieved September 17, 2017 from http://web.stanford.edu/group/ethnogen/filipino.html

Vaughn, Lisa M., Jacquez, Farrah, Baker, Raymond C. (2009). Cultural Health Attributions, Beliefs, and Practices: Effects on Healthcare and Medical Education. The Open Medical Education Journal, 2009, 2, 64-74. Retrieved September 17, 2017 from http://www.benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOMEDEDUJ/TOMEDEDUJ-2-64.pdf