An Analysis of African American Culture in the Health and Human Services Setting
Communication has often been defined by scholar as the process by which people send messages and generate meanings across various contexts, cultures, and media. The process of communicating does not stop; it occurs cycle after cycle. Whether through verbal or non-verbal messages, the transaction takes place and is inevitable, named by scholars as The Principle of Communication Inevitability. Recognizing that communication will exist, whether intentional or not, it is important to understand the various areas of our life where communication may be vital to the success of the structure. ...view middle of the document...
This communication affects one’s growth and development and the ability to understand health issues. Recognizing the history of African- Americans in the United States, health care professionals, must take some level of responsibility in communicating with these individuals. Acknowledging levels of patient responsibility, it is conducive that health care professionals display a sense of cultural awareness when communicating with African-American patients because there are limited educational opportunities, access to healthcare, affordability, and a history of negative perceptions of health providers. The importance of understanding culture’s effect on health and human services worker can be identifying that various cultures do exist, understanding the development of cultural competence, and recognition that groups like African-Americans have health disparities because of low health literacy.
Studying the effect of culture on health communication is not a new research area. It is has been researched by medical professionals and communication scholars alike. However, there is a need for continued research because, history never stops. The African- American experience continues to move forward each day. Access to health care is changing. Technology development affects the educational opportunities. There have been communities who have placed focus on health education and advocacy. Professionals are starting to address the perceptions of doctors. The positive communication patterns are being implemented at earlier ages.
Culture and Communication
Van Servellen (2009) defines culture as referring to “values, beliefs, knowledge, art, morals, laws, and customs acquired by individuals and groups”. It is the way in which humans are programmed to think and in a particular way. Our experiences shape our expectations from the doctor-patient role. Those experiences define how we are able to relate. A patient and doctor who share a common experience like immigration or in a similar socioeconomic group will communicate differently from those who are unable to define the common link. In order to understand how one cultural group in particular may be affected, it is important to identify the terms minority and majority. Majority groups are those that have emerged as mainstream, while minorities are identified as the subgroup. Recognition of inequities in health outcomes between different racial and ethnic groups is one step to the battle. Kreps (2006) writes that “minority groups, especial African Americans, experience significantly more serious health problems, such as higher rates of morbidity and mortality, than member of the racial majority, White (non-Hispanic) American health care consumers”.
In order to understand that dyadic relationship of health and human service professionals and their patients, imagine the following scenario:
James is a 66 year old African-American male. He works a blue collar job. He has a wife of 42 years, 4 children, 8...