Culture in epidemiology


“… Culture frequently is used to explain population differences in health. This glossary defines key concepts and terms relevant to the concept of culture and describes three challenges – definitional, theoretical, and methodological – in identifying specific pathways by which culture affects health.”

“Culture is frequently invoked to account for population differences in health and to explaian the diverse ways that people interpret and treat similar medical conditions. Underlying many uses of the term is the view of culture as a shared system of learned norms, beliefs, values and behaviours that differ across populations defined by region, nationality, ethnicity or religion.” 1.>. 3>

“Culture has been proposed to affect health in three key ways.
• First, people use culturally specific explanatory models to think about, talk about, and direct care for health problems. This can lead to different patterns of health-seeking and prevention, as well as mismatched provision of care. 4.>. 6.>

• Second, cultural habits and practices can protect against, modify or create novel vectors for transmissible disease through, for example, eating culturally preferred raw or undercooked food, 7.>. 8>, hygienic practices such as hand-washing, 9>, modes of sexual activity, 10> and patterns of social interactioin such as mass pilgrimages. 11>.

• Third, culture indirectly influences health when learned beliefs, values, and norms affect such daily activities as food consumption, 12.>, physical activity, and drug use. 13> in a way that increases (or decreases) the risk of non-communicable diseases ….”