Cultural diversity refers to the process through which different cultures respect other people’s differences and the variety of human cultures or societies. In general, cultural diversity therefore refers to the existence of different value systems and multiplicity of subcultures in a multicultural or plural society or any other setting. Illness, on the other hand, refers to poor health that results from the disease of the mind or body. Illness can also imply a state of impairment in the normal physiological functioning that affects all or part of an organism. According to the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary, death refers to a “Permanent cessation of all the vital functions” or an end or loss of life. Due to cultural diversity, various societies all over the world have different cultures regarding illness, Death and Grief. Cultural diversity therefore calls for people to appreciate other people’s culture by respecting their way of life and the way they perform their different rituals, taboos and other cultural practices (Lee, et al, 2011).
The Asian Americans form a large and rapidly expanding or growing segment of the United States of America’s population and according to the recently released census released results, this group stands at over 11 million people and it is predicted that this number is bound to triple by the year 2050. by 2008, the Asian Americans formed 5% of the United States’ population According to the Asian-Americans, there exists various cultural practices regarding illness, death and grieving in their society which should followed by the members of this community.
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The Asian Americans are exceedingly diverse because they come from approximately fifty ethnic groups and counties each having distinct traditions, histories, cultures and speaking over 100 dialects and languages. According to the United States Census Bureau Facts for Features, the Asian American diversity indicators in which the members of this community are found in various spectra of wealth to poverty and having illiterate members to individuals with advanced education.
Asian-Americans’ cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices regarding illness
Cultural competence has been known to embrace the notion that every individual belongs to a “culture’ which she or he brings towards the medical encounter. While some particular religious, ethnic and other sociological groupings may have practices and beliefs in common, it is also genuine that any person within a particular group may deviate from the common norms or traditions. For any physician to understand the Asian-American patient, then non-judgmental and open dialogue is the best tool to be used because apart form helping the social workers and other individuals to understand the Asian-American frame of reference, it also helps the health professionals to have an acceptable treatment plan for Asian Americans (Yarbro, et al, 2011).
In the Asian-American culture, they have their own traditional definitions regarding the causes of illnesses. Health, according to the Asian-Americans, is considered to be closely related to harmony between and in the mind, body, soul and the universe in general. The idea of harmony is thus expressed to be a balance of “cold” and “hot” states or elements so that the states of health or illnesses are seen to be either hot or cold. These hot and cold states are not necessarily temperatures but rather, they are the states of the body which leads to or causes illnesses or any other changes like for instance childbirth. This is according to the Asian-American beliefs on illness. According to the Asian-Americans, their bodies are viewed as gifts which were bestowed upon them by their fore fathers and as a result, they are not personal properties but vital assets which should be well cared for and maintained. They further as earlier on mentioned belief that the balance is normally between the yin and yang and that all the items in the world are either primarily yin or yang. Diseases are therefore viewed as being the result of too much yin or yang or lack of yin and yang whereby “yin” implies cold and “yang” refers to hot. Asian-American patients will rarely complain about their health problems but rather their ill physical health will be portrayed through the silent withdrawal or the untouched food trays by the patient.
In some Asian-American beliefs, the diagnosis of illnesses or ailments is considered spiritual or supernatural whereby such illnesses occur as a result of sorcery, curses or through other unnatural means. It should however be noted that different ethnic and racial groupings have their own diverse beliefs and attitudes regarding health, illness, death and grieving (Corr, et al, 2008).
Asian-Americans’ cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices regarding death
Asian-Americans’ practices regarding death may follow Confucian, Buddhist or Taoist Practices though some elements also have Christian traditions. Some of the common practices include the bereaved family gathering at the home of the funeral in order to make arrangements with the people who are responsible for the ceremony, in most cases the elders. Then there is great respect of the deceased body which is normally buried in warm clothes and in water tight caskets in order to keep pout the evil elements. The internalization of grief may result in depression and stoic attitudes among the close family members, friends and other relatives of the deceased family. In order to allow for respect for the elders, an open casket is normally used and the deceased person is normally left with poems in Calligraphy. As a last meal for the deceased person and the spirits, a cooked chicken may be put by the casket and it will eventually be buried alongside the body of the deceased person.
The use of music is a common phenomenon in the Asian-American funerals and practices. A band, which normally waits outside of the bereaved family’s home normally, accompanies the funeral procession to the cemetery. A lot of consideration and importance is normally focused on the location of the burial, the funeral route to be used and the choice of the monument.
In most Asian-American funeral practices, incense is usually burnt at the grave whereby offering of some sacrifices at the funeral in some of the Asian populations may also be conducted. The spirit of the deceased person is accorded the relevant respect after the funeral shows by sharing of meals by a gathering of friends and relatives where all people who came to pay the final respects for the deceased person are normally appreciated or given thanks. Finally, a picture of the deceased person or even a plague is normally kept in the home of the deceased individual and displayed alongside other items to create a traditional shrine (Bateman, et al, 2009).
Social work values and Ethics
As a social worker, one has to commit herself or himself towards a particular set of values which also calls for respect for the dignity and worth of every individual. When dealing with the Asian-American population, it is therefore vital that social workers promote justice through respecting the rights of individuals to their advocacy, confidentiality and social action. Social workers can therefore take into account the cultural practices, believes and attitudes concerning specific communities or populations
Discussion of the Research Findings with a member of the Asian-American
According to the two verbal interviews I held with one of a mature and learned friend of mine from the Asian-American community, it was ascertained that most of the information I obtained from the research study were genuine other than some few parts which the interviewee said were uncommon. The interviewee concurred with almost all the information I had gathered regarding cultural diversity, illness, death and grieving among the Asian-American Populations but only differed with me on the aspect of cooking a chicken which was placed near the deceased person’s casket. The interview assured me that since he was born, that was a practice he had never witnessed in his life and that if it existed, then it was a tradition which was done some centuries back without his knowledge. It was however through interviewing the interviewee that it was realized that spirituality, religion and kinship ties played a significant part in the lives of the Asian-American population.
Cultural diversity is an essential component of the day today lives of human beings and thus it is important that the world’s inhabitants recognizes the other persons, beliefs, practices and attitudes in order to appreciate their way of life and culture. It is through such differences in beliefs, attitudes and practices that social work interaction with various cultural groups can have a greater influence on the social workers especially when interacting with the Asian American members. It only through appreciating other people’s culture that one can be able understands other people’s perceptions, beliefs and practices. A peaceful and considerate society is one in which equality is an essential component can be achieved. People across the different ethnic tribes should be taught. Any society that appreciates its people’s cultural diversity is known to rapidly grow, expand or develop as opposed to other society which racism racism, inequality and other bad social vices on specific individuals based on their color, race of gender (Gadsden, et al, 2009).
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