Introduction to Health and Culture

            The concept of health and illness are among the first things that are given due attention in the introduction to areas of study like health and cure. In relation to this, there has been a continuous debate whether the health and illness should be considered as cross-cultural universal or relativist. Cross-cultural universal claims that health and illness are the same with all countries. On the other hand, relativism argues that it tends to vary from one culture to another. Being the case, there are studies that show that health and illness are not cross-cultural universal because there are many factors that must be taken into consideration in order to see that there are indeed differences in them.

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            Health social scientists like medical anthropologists, medical sociologists as well as health psychologists believe that health state is shaped by individual values and attitudes. Many scholars have investigated that there is much cross-cultural diversity in human values such as: work related values, values of human life, good health, peace of mind and the importance of knowledge. Nations and cultures have substantial variation in value patterns, not to mention that social values are also not stable. In relation to this, health in general also depends upon an individual’s perception about his or her own idea of well-being. Health and illness make reference to evaluative beliefs, which is why value may either symbolize exclusively individual preferences or culture specific notions of what good or ideal health is Murray, 2002).

            As a result, the concept of health and illness are highly culture-bound. The establishment of domains that are related to health and illness should require cultural consideration. Those who are responsible in establishing health care systems in various countries like their respective governments should give due attention and importance to the culture that the people have. They should not simply dismiss that their definition of health state is applicable to everyone because doing so, would make the health care system that they will establish as incompetent.


Murray, C. (2002). Summary Measures of Population Health: Concepts, Ethics, Measurement

            And Applications. New York: World Health Organization.