Familial HEALTH Traditions

Familial HEALTH Traditions

As modern medicine becomes more impersonal, people are recalling with some wistfulness old country cures administered by parents and grandparents over the generations.

—F. Kennet (1976)

■ Objectives

1. Trace your family’s heritage. 2. Describe your and your family’s beliefs and practices in

a. Health/HEALTH maintenance, b. Health/HEALTH protection, c. Health/HEALTH restoration, and d. Curing/HEALING.

3. Compare and contrast the difference and similarities between you and your peers in respect to beliefs and practices in a. Health/HEALTH maintenance, b. Health/HEALTH protection, c. Health/HEALTH restoration, and d. Curing/HEALING.

The opening images for this chapter depict a place and objects symbolic of items used to maintain, protect, and restore HEALTH in a family setting. A baby is born—a new life begins. The child may go home with birth par- ents, foster parents, or adoptive parents and to a nuclear, an extended, same

Figure 7–1 Figure 7–2 Figure 7–3 Figure 7–4

Familial HEALTH Traditions ■ 159

gender, or a single-parent family with parents who have lived in this country for many generations or are immigrants, who are heritage consistent or heri- tage inconsistent. The family may use objects and remedies that were used in earlier generations or elect to use today’s remedies for the maintenance, pro- tection, and restoration of the family’s health/HEALTH. Figure 7–1 is of the Birthing Stones in Kukaniloko, central Oahu, Hawaii. The stones are on sa- cred grounds where the chief of Oahu was to be born. Today, the traditional Native Hawaiian woman may go there to recite prayers for a healthy baby and leave a floral lei on the stones. Figure 7–2 is that of a phylacto—a small beaded cushion-like object that may be pinned on a baby’s shirt for protection. It is the Greek custom for the godparent to buy this item and pin it on a newborn baby before he or she is baptized. Figure 7–3 is a beaded bracelet with a small black hand made of jet, worn to protect the Hispanic child from the evil eye. Figure 7–4 is Father John’s Medicine—a remedy that has been used to treat coughs and colds since 1855. It contains neither alcohol nor drugs and con- tinues to be available.

What are your traditional HEALTH beliefs and practices? What are your family’s traditional HEALTH beliefs and practices? What family stories have been passed to you from your parents and grandparents? If you could choose 4 ways to present the HEALTH traditions from your or your family’s heritage, what would they be?

Given the now apparent difficulty of defining health/HEALTH and illness/ILLNESS, it can be assumed that you may have little or no working knowl- edge of personally practiced “folk medicine,” or traditional medicine, within your own family, or you may come from a family where traditional HEALTH and ILLNESS beliefs and practices constitute a significant part of your daily life.

In addition to exploring the already described questions regarding the definitions of health and illness, it is beneficial to your understanding to de- scribe how you maintain, protect, and/or restore your health/HEALTH. Com- mon forms of self-medication and treatment are the use of aspirin for headaches and colds and occasional vitamin supplements. Initially, one may admit to using tea, honey, and lemon and hot or cold compresses for headaches and minor aches and pains. For the most part, however, we tend to look to the health care system for the prevention and treatment of illness.

There is an extremely rich tradition in the United States related to self- care. This includes the early use of patent medicines. Throughout most of their history, patent medicines enjoyed a free existence and were very popular with the people of the times. Some of the most popular medicines of the early 20th century contained alcohol; others contained opium and cocaine. This increased their popularity, and the practice continued until passage of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Today, as our lives become more complex and the health care system becomes more complicated, costly, and difficult to access, we see a return to self-care and an increasing use of traditional and homeo- pathic health care systems (see Chapters 5 and 6).

160 ■ Chapter 7

■ Familial Health/HEALTH Traditions We are now ready for a transition, and it is time to resume climbing the steps to CULTURALCOMPETENCY. The foundation—a discussion of heritage, an overview of demographic issues, an exploration of terms such as health and illness, and a discussion of HEALTH and ILLNESS as they relate to religion and spirituality—has been presented and what remains is the ascent! Before you read on, ask yourself the following questions regarding your health/HEALTH beliefs and practices:

■ Again, what remedies and/or methods do you use to maintain, protect, and restore your health/HEALTH?

■ Do you know the health/HEALTH and illness/ILLNESS beliefs and prac- tices that were or are a part of your heritage?

■ Were you ever thought to be seriously ill/ILL? ■ What did your familial caregiver do to take care of you? ■ Did he or she consult someone in your own ethnic or religious com-

munity to find out what was wrong?

It has been mentioned earlier in this text that the first step for developing CULTURALCOMPETENCY is to know yourself, your heritage, and the health/HEALTH and illness/ILLNESS beliefs and practices derived from your heritage—ethnic, religious, or both. It was pointed out in Chapters 5 and 6 that many daily HEALTH practices have their origins in one’s heritage, yet may not be thought of in this context.

The following interview procedure is useful for making you aware of the overall history and health/HEALTH belief and practice-related folklore and eth- nocultural knowledge of your family. Because the ethnocultural history of each family is unique, you may want to discover more than health/HEALTH beliefs and practices with this interview. Ask your parents or grandparents questions about your family surname, traditional first names, family stories, the history of family “characters” or notorious family members, how historical events affected your family in past generations, and so forth. Next, ask the person you are inter- viewing the questions in the Heritage Assessment, found in Appendix E. Then, in interviewing your grandmothers, great-aunts, and mother, obtain answers to the following questions

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