The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine

The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine

The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine

The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine


Notable anthropologist George Foster defined the first edition as "a very readable introductory text dealing with the sociocultural aspects of health," adding: "[T]he authors do a commendable job… . I have profited from reading The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine". With engaging examples, minimal jargon, and updated scholarship, the second edition of The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine offers a comprehensive guide to the practice of culturally sensitive health care. Readers will see America's biomedically dominated health care system in a new light as the book reveals the changes wrought by increasing cultural diversity, technological innovation, and developments in care delivery.

Written by a sociologist and an anthropologist with direct, hands-on experience in the health services, the volume tracks culture's influence on and relationship to health, illness, and health-care delivery via an examination of social structure, medical systems, and the need for—and challenges to—culturally sensitive care. Cultural differences are situated against social-class differences and related health inequities, as well as different needs and challenges throughout the life course. In prescribing caring that is more holistic, culturally sensitive, and cost-effective, the work promotes awareness of pressing issues for health care professionals—and the people they serve.


People of all cultures confront illness, disability, and death: everyone gets sick, many become disabled, and ultimately everyone dies. Systems of health care thus exist within every culture, as a cultural universal. the ways in which we perceive and interpret health and illness, and seek and deliver care, however, are inextricably bound up with cultural norms, beliefs, and values, as well as by social structure and environmental conditions. This book focuses on the various dimensions of this relationship, as did its first edition.

However, times have changed. When the first edition was written, the cultural competence movement had not yet emerged. Today, it is well-established. Yet the need for change persists. the new edition continues to press for positive modifications, but it also now urges a more sophisticated approach: Culture is a far more multifaceted human process than “recipe” or checklist models allow.

Moreover, political, economic, and sociocultural contexts have shifted, as have the ways that we handle health, illness, medicine, and health care delivery. For example, cultural ideas regarding complementary and alternative medicine, genetic testing, use of technology for medical communication, and even the value of being a multicultural society have evolved. Health challenges themselves have evolved, both for better (for instance with new drug discoveries, such as for treatment of HIV/AIDS) and for worse (with emerging infectious diseases, increasing health disparities, etc.). the second edition of this . . .

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