Sunday, February 15, 2009

Advocating Culture Centered Approach as Key to Health Intervention

Once again we see and read about the necessity of putting the participant voice in decision making, especially on issues related to health outcomes. The narratives of the Santali lives and views on health was immensely powerful in describing the above need.

Academicians and policy makers tend to make marginalized populations as the subjects of health interventions designed by them, primarily from Eurocentric and post-positivist ways which do not seem to answer the question of essence properly. And yet, most research found on health issues and policy developments are designed by people who do not participate in the living experiences of the group being worked on.

Here lies the key - policy makers are working on the people and not with the people whose voices are absent from the main stream. It is foreseeable that an all White group of policy developers may not be able to realize how the tribal population of Nepal (for example) negotiate their beliefs of healthy living. Many studies have found that culture is a key variable in understanding people's lived experiences, for example, their notion of pain. Cultural understandings affect how someone understand pain, responds to it, or how they adapt to it. A culture-centered approach aids in understanding such phenomenon.

We see an application of this in the narratives of the Santalis and the Korean women in how they negotiate with their health outcomes. Even with in depth interviews, observations, and journal notes, I believe it is not sufficient to understand the essence as the participants feel in any of these cases. We know that every member of any given culture will not adhere to all the practices of that culture. But given all of that, I firmly believe that there is not close alternative to a sincere culture centered approach to health communication and developing health interventions.

As the next generation of health communication scholars I feel it is our duty to promote such methods more.

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