African American Health Beliefs – Health System Example

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"African American Health Beliefs" is an impressive example of a paper on the health system. The African American people are Americans with roots from Africa. Their ancestors once lived in Africa and were taken up as slaves in America by their colonial masters in the olden colonial days. Later, after independence, these people gained American nationality and became part of the US. However, they did not abandon their cultural beliefs and practices to date. Instead, they preserved and believed in the culture handed over to them by their forefathers as was obtained from their land of origin.

Though these groups have been affected by civilization, their attitude towards life is still affected by their traditional beliefs. In specific, their health practices and beliefs have been affected by their cultural beliefs. Examples are the Southern African Americans and the Afro-Caribbean people, both residing in the US.                       There is an increasing number of African Americans seeking medical help compared to the past. This is occasioned by the rise of a civilized generation adopting the American way of life. However, most of the older generation is still uncomfortable with seeking medical help for various illnesses.

The attitude of these people towards caregivers is also different from that of other Americans. The elderly are uncomfortable giving personal information to caregivers. Their religious practice is also affecting their perception of diseases. The southern African Americans believe in natural illness and unnatural illness. As such, natural illness, according to them is sent by God to the affected person or can be caused by coming into contact with infected objects. The natural illnesses were cured by taking an antidote and taking protective measures such as cover during the cold season.

On the other hand, unnatural illness is caused by an evil spirit which requires the intervention of a spiritual leader to remove. The Voodoo healers were the religious leaders tasked with dealing with unnatural illnesses. Voodoo priest used religious herbs and chants to invoke the spirits for the healing of unnatural illnesses. The Voodoo religious practice has its origin in Africa and is believed to have been carried over by the slaves to America. Recently, with the adoption of modern medicine, the Voodoo priest has admitted not having the power to heal all diseases and recommend their believers to seek medical help from professional health givers.                       Traditional medicines are also being used in these communities to treat various diseases affecting the people.

An example of a common infection that was treated traditionally is the worst cold. The treatments that were administered are onion with honey/sugar and alcohol, chicken broth, pineapple juice, skunk oil in a bag worn around the neck. Traditional medicine is the first priority for African Americans before seeking health care services from trained caregivers.

This is due to the mistrust of the caregivers, especially by the elderly generation. The case of the Tuskegee experiments on African Americans instilled fear among the African Americans making them scared of seeking medical help. Thus, developing a relationship of trust with the patient is the first step to effectively treat an African American patient. It is only when they are sure of the good intention of the health care provider that these people are able to confide in them.                         The Afro – Caribbean has a strong belief in the connection between the physical and mental being.

According to their cultural beliefs, physical illness is a manifestation of mental unwellness that is stress and other supernatural forces. Thus, for one to be healthy, all matters physical, mental, and spiritual have to be addressed. This is where the Voodoo comes in to ensure the total well being of the people. The spirits are believed to be annoyed by the actions of the living thus they have to be invoked to forgive the patient and heal the disease.

Further, life in this community is very precious and is preserved by all means. Their belief in eternity gives them hope and everything possible is usually done to preserve the life of patients. As a result, at times they conflict with modern medicine as DNR is not acceptable. Caregivers thus are forced to respect and to some extent appreciate the traditional beliefs of the African Americans to be able to serve them effectively. Disregard of the belief of the patient will see the patients shy away from seeking medical help when needed.             African Americans are more susceptible to non-communicable diseases as compared to their white counterparts (Quaye 28).

Among the major diseases affecting African Americans are diabetes and heart diseases. Diabetes is two to four times as prevalent among African Americans than the whites. Coronary artery disease, hypertension, and stroke are the major heart diseases affecting the elderly African Americans. The saddening part is that a good portion of the patients is not aware of their condition for lack of regular medical checkups.

The most affected are middle age, old age, and women. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in this group. Obesity is a major contributing factor to the prevalence of diabetes among African Americans. The belief in a healthy body has influenced most of them to appreciate having huge bodies. Most Africans believe in a huge body as a sign of health and wealth thus do not pay much attention to the health risk of too much weight. As such, obesity is common in African Americans in the US and over the world.

Education of the black Americans on the prevention and control of diabetes is necessary, but not with much ease. The selection of a venue that will be widely accepted by the target group is crucial. In such cases, religious centers are the best destinations to get most of the target group and appeal to them as appreciating their religious beliefs thus increasing their chances of accepting the teachings. Programs such as healthy eating and living initiative (HEAL) is targeting churches and other religious institutions, training church leaders to intervene and educate their followers on healthy living.                           Further, African Americans believe in the sanctity of life and the need for communal and family togetherness is common at times of death.

The whole extended family is informed of any death in the family and burial arrangements involve the whole family. Cremation is not a common practice among African Americans. In times of impending death, family members are informed, but all possible means are done to keep the patient alive. They believe in God's will in death.

Organ donation is neither common in African Americans as a person is viewed as not being whole by traditional beliefs. Thus, spiritual treatment for patients is common by giving spiritual care to the sick eve in hospitals. This is evident in the presence of chaplains in hospitals for those patients desiring spiritual nourishment as they receive physical treatment. Death and birth are viewed as a cycle of life among African Americans.


Quaye, Randolph. African Americans' Health Care Practices, Perspectives, and Needs. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2005. Print.
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