Intercultural Health Communication

Rethinking Culture in Health Communication

Authored by: Elaine Hsieh

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367488956
eBook ISBN: 9781003043379
Adobe ISBN:


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Culture is essential in shaping individuals’ understanding of the world, orienting their health beliefs, and guiding their health behaviors. Culture also exerts significant influences not only on providers’ provision of healthcare services but also on the health infrastructures and policies in the larger society. Rather than treating culture as a caveat for the cultural Other, this chapter will situate culture front and center, examining how culture may create challenges and dilemmas in cross-cultural healthcare, shaping individuals’ access to care, the process of provider-patient interactions, and outcomes of healthcare services. I will examine four primary ways culture has been conceptualized in health communication: (a) culture as group, (b) culture as speech community, (c) culture as worldview, and (d) culture as a living process. Culture is not something that is limited to ethnic minorities or marginalized populations. Rather, all people are cultural beings: We embody our cultures. Culture is enacted, performed, and negotiated in our everyday social interactions.

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