Health Beliefs of the American Indians – Social&Family Issues Example

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"Health Beliefs of the American Indians" is a delightful example of a paper on social and family issues. Health is defined as a state of physical, psychological and social well-being. For a person to achieve the standard measures of health social aspect is a crucial ingredient that the health care providers must integrate into the care provision. Culture is a social aspect of life, thus understanding of cultural practices, dynamics, and cultural values is important for the nurse as a way of ensuring the provision of quality health (Dixon, Banwell, & Ulijaszek, 2013). Cultural beliefs and practices have a significant influence on the health status of a community and individuals either positively or negatively.

There are cultural practices that encourage health-seeking and healthy behaviour while there are others that encourage unhealthy behaviour. In this regard, a nurse must keep abreast of the cultural beliefs and practices as a way of ensuring adequate knowledge to address the health concerns of the community. In an attempt to understand cultural beliefs and practices and their impact on health, this paper will focus on the culture of the American Indians as the benchmark for the study. American Indian Culture American Indians are among the indigenous people of the United States.

This tribe lived in isolation from other tribes in the earlier history of America until the coming of the Europeans. However, the American Indians never abandoned their cultural way of life in favour of the European culture but put up resilient wars in opposition to the European subjugation and land alienation. It is from this historical aspect that the cultural practice of the American Indians is of great importance to the health care practitioners since this is a tribe that maintained the better part of its culture that can directly influence health outcome (Goodkind et al. , 2010). Key belief systems of the American Indians The American Indians practised the Mayan religion that is believed to have involved both animal sacrifice and human sacrifice.

Religion was a key factor that helped to unite the community. Nevertheless, from a health perspective, some aspect of religious practices have negative health implications that a nurse should focus attention. Religious practices such as bloodletting the American Indians practised that in cooperated cutting some parts of the body like the tongue, chin or the year for blood sacrifices.

Often, the cutting was performed using a single blade that served several people thus contained a risk for transmission of infections. The American Indian culture encourages kinship relationship; thus community members come to the aid of each other in times of need. This helps in the promotion of social and psychological health and well-being. Knowledge of kinship values among the American Indians is important for a nurse to in cooperate this in his/her care for the patient to allow for the role of the family and relatives in the care process.

Nevertheless, in the cultural practice of the American Indians, taboos prohibit dying in homes thus it would be impossible to release a patient who requires terminal care. A nurse should thus discuss the options with the family and determine their attitude towards care for the terminally ill patient at home before releasing the patient (Cajete, 2005). Health beliefs of the American Indians The American Indian tribes believe both in modern and conventional medicine.

Most Indians who live in rural areas and reserves believe more in traditional medicine as opposed to those residing in the urban setup. One of the cultural beliefs of the American Indians is that ill health could be as a result of witchcraft. In these circumstances, belief in non-mainstream medicine could affect the health-seeking behaviour thus causing mortality from preventable causes of death. Presenting in a hospital set up, an American Indian patient may wish to perform certain tribal healing ceremonies, thus a nurse should be able to accommodate tribal healings as a means of promoting the confidence of the patient and the kin for the hospital care (Sequist, Cullen, & Acton, 2011). American Indians’ health belief of combining traditional and modern medicine is detrimental to the mode of action of the medicines.

Combination of these kinds of medicine could result in an adverse effect since; the chemical composition of traditional medicine is not clearly understood. Assessment of the health belief of the community is important to help in the identification of beliefs that are hazardous to the community's health.

These beliefs like in witchcraft can be changed through the involvement of community health workers in partnership with opinion leaders of the community to help in sensitizing people of the need to change the negative health belief in favour of the positive health belief. The tribe has a special respect to the elderly; thus, a nurse can approach the community through the elders as the best avenue to change unhealthy beliefs. Health practices of the American Indians Poverty and substandard way of life are the major influencers of the health practice of the American Indians.

Living as pastoralists and farmers, the American Indians have one of the higher child motility rate as well as high incidences and prevalence of diabetes type two as a result of their health practices. Influenced by their health beliefs, most of the community members do not take their children for immunization or have incomplete immunization records, this health practice increases the chances of the child being attacked by infections due to immune incompetence (Stumblingbear-Riddle & Romans, 2012). Health practice of the community including the activity and rest, as well as nutrition and elimination pattern of the community, are responsible factors for the high cases of diabetes among the community.

The community has a genetic predisposal to diabetes, thus coupled with the unhealthy lifestyle of eating junk food among the town dwellers increases the chances of developing the disease. In the discussion with the need of an American Indian to change his or her lifestyle, a nurse must understand and respect the culture of silence for the community. In an educative forum, the tradition of American Indians encourages silence between talking episodes that encourages their understanding ability thus promotes their adoption of the intended practice. Nutritional practices of American Indians The American Indians' economic situation is not sufficient to sustain the health needs of the tribe, being farmers; the community is unable to produce a sufficient amount of all food types to feed its population.

Working with this community, a nurse must assess the diversity in the economic supply of food to the community. This is to ensure that the community benefits from a balanced diet and appropriate nutrition for the avoidance of nutrition-related infections (Goodkind et al. , 2010).

Despite the poor economic and nutritional status of the community, a health care provider should give and expect generosity from the tribe. The culture of the Indians discourages competition but encourages sharing and cooperation. Generosity and helping others is highly regarded, and one from a nurse would increase an Indian’ s confidence in health care delivery. Lifestyle and social patterns of the American Indians The indigenous Indians lived as farmers and pastoralists. The community had the majority of its members enlisted to fight in both the first and the Second World War that has significantly led to a change in their lifestyle.

Wealth acquired as a result of compensation following the war saw most American Indians reside in urban centres. However, the lifestyle of the community is still affected by its traditions with the members upholding the values of the community at a higher esteem than those that result as a result of integration with other cultures. Understanding that American Indians have high esteem for their traditional lifestyle should necessitate a health care provider take time while providing service to the client.

The Indians have little sense of time in their tradition thus, they believe, spending more time doing one-thing compounds to quality. A nurse must thus talk slowly and not appear to be in a hurry while caring for an American Indian patient (Powers, 2006).


Cajete, G. a. (2005). American Indian epistemologies. New Directions for Student Services, 2005, 69–78.

Dixon, J., Banwell, C., & Ulijaszek, S. (2013). When Culture Impacts Health. In When Culture Impacts Health: Global Lessons for Effective Health Research (pp. 1–11).

Goodkind, J. R., Ross-Toledo, K., John, S., Hall, J. L., Ross, L., Freeland, L., Lee, C. (2010). Promoting Healing and Restoring Trust: Policy Recommendations for Improving Behavioral Health Care for American Indian/Alaska Native Adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 386–394.

Powers, K. M. (2006). An Exploratory Study of Cultural Identity and Culture-Based Educational Programs for Urban American Indian Students. Urban Education.

Sequist, T. D., Cullen, T., & Acton, K. J. (2011). Indian health service innovations have helped reduce health disparities affecting American Indian and Alaska Native people. Health Affairs, 30, 1965–1973.

Stumblingbear-Riddle, G., & Romans, J. S. C. (2012). Resilience among urban american indian adolescents: Exploration into the role of culture, self-esteem, subjective well-being, and social support. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, 19, 1–19.

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