Sunday, January 25, 2009


Throughout Chapter 1, the text addresses why cultural differences are important in the context of health. The definition of what is healthy varies from person to person and is strongly influenced by his or her way of thinking and his or her upbringing. A person’s cultural background makes a big difference in how they define “healthy” because many different things that we do influence our health – things that often vary by culture as well. According to the Chapter 1, aspects of the specific culture we belong to correspondingly influence each of our health behaviors.

            To further enhance my understanding of the impact that one’s culture has on home people defined what is healthy, I asked two people from different cultures to define what it means to be healthy. First, I interviewed my father who grew up in Sardinia; a beautiful, small island off of the coast of Italy. Sardinia is a very family oriented area with little emphasis on physical beauty. When I asked my dad how he defined “healthy,” he explained that his perception of health has changed drastically since he moved to the United States twenty-three years ago. He explained that growing up in Italy, to be healthy simply meant to not be physically sick. There was little emphasis on exercise, physical attractiveness, mental health, or preventative healthcare in Sardinia while he was growing up. He continued by explaining that since moving to the United States, he has begun to feel as though his entire well being must be in near perfect condition to be able to call himself truly healthy.

            Next, I interviewed my good friend, Patrick, who grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. Patrick made several interesting points about how South Africans define what it means to be healthy. He explained that since there is such a massive split of wealth in South Africa, there are two major definitions of health. South Africans of low SES define “healthy,” similar to the way my father grew up thinking; to be healthy, one must simply not be sick. Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country, many poor South Africans have low standards for what it means to be healthy because so many people are sick and dying in their country. However, Patrick explained that for the wealthier South Africans, to be healthy meant to be in peak physical condition.

            It was incredibly interesting to hear how people from different cultures define what it means to be healthy in such different ways. Growing up in the United States, in a middle class family, I define “healthy” similar to the way Patrick described. I believe that in order to be healthy; one must be mentally healthy, physically fit, with no illness. After reading the chapter and interviewing my father and Patrick, I believe that it is safe to say that every single person, from every single culture has their own unique definition of what it means to be healthy