Health is not solely medical but essentially a social and cultural construct. Health-seeking behaviors of different individuals are influenced by their cultural and social notions of what wellness is and what illness is. Culture is a social determinant of health, and it can “influence access and delivery of safe and appropriate health services” (Üzar-Özçetin et al., 2020, p. 1). This tendency is characteristic not only for seeking medical help for physical ailments but also when facing mental health issues. Thus, culture can be instrumental in one’s health-seeking behavioral patterns and lifestyle habits but can also hinder access to much-needed medical help.
Personal beliefs significantly affect one’s health and well-being and their perception of illness and approach to wellness. For example, religious beliefs can grant a person strength and motivation to address medical health issues and promote healing.
Specifically, positive ideas can support one’s mental health and promote wellness, particularly its emotional and spiritual aspects. Overall, an individual’s personal beliefs can impact their attitude towards health, wellness, and illness and translate into specific patterns of health-seeking behavior.
Unlike personal beliefs, cultural beliefs concern ideas and knowledge shared by a group of people and acquired within a specific community setting. The information aggregated within any culture is too large for any individual to master fully, and different people may be aware of varying aspects of their own cultures. However, these beliefs can substantially affect how people view health, wellness, illness, and their health-seeking behavior.
In communities with strong cultural and patriarchal norms, for example, Nigeria, health-seeking behavior among men is particularly poor, resulting in higher mortality and morbidity outcomes in the male population (Olanrewaju et al., 2019). In addition, in some countries, the effectiveness of modern medicine is denied, and community members avoid using it, preferring to use traditional medicines and treatments. The view on mental health is also contingent on cultural beliefs.
It is imperative for medical professionals to b aware of how culture impacts their patients’ health-seeking behaviors to deliver high-quality care. Thus, it is essential for medical professionals, including physicians and nursing practitioners, to develop cultural competence or the ability to participate ethically and effectively in communication with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Thus, culturally sensitive care is the practice of establishing respectful, responsive, and therapeutic relationships between medical professionals and their patients (Üzar-Özçetin et al., 2020). This practice is patient-centered, as physicians and nurses should adapt to the individual needs of their clients and account for their personal and cultural beliefs.
It is also vital to understand one’s own cultural background in order to engage in culturally sensitive care and develop cultural competence effectively. By recognizing their own culture, nursing practitioners can become more open and sensitive to cultural differences and recognize the impact one’s beliefs can have on their life, health, and well-being.