Cultural issues in the treatment of hospitalised, malnourished children : an exploratory-descriptive study of the attitudes of health professionals and mothers in a rural hospital setting

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Culture plays a significant role in the treatment of certain illnesses and in the maintenance of good health in communities. In hospitals, professionals are constantly faced with medication non-compliance and other defaulting behaviour by health consumers or patients due to lack of their sensitivity towards cultural issues. It is true that most Africans are faced with a dilemma of choosing between Western treatment approaches and their own traditional healing. Therefore some may need still to adopt both Western and African approaches. The study examines the attitudes of both the professionals and mothers with malnourished children towards the cultural values linked to the treatment modalities. An exploratory- descriptive method is used as a focus for the study. Because of the illiteracy of the mothers, an interview schedule was used to collect data and get impressions about certain issues. A questionnaire was used to collect data from the professionals; which included nurses, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, and people working for the Kwashiorkor Centre. Both the literature review and other studies showed that there is a difference in attitudes regarding cultural issues in the treatment of malnourished children between the health consumers and the health professionals. Findings of this study revealed negative attitude towards mothers who used traditional medicine before coming to hospital. Mothers felt that they were reprimanded regarding their cultural value systems. This study includes recommendations that health professionals need to be sensitive to the cultural belief system of the health consumers for better compliance and service delivery. It is recommended that health care providers be aware of their value systems and above all respect those of the consumers. To facilitate better participation in health education programmes it is important that these programmes are culturally sensitive.

Bibliography: p. 100-105.