Cultural Traditions, Beliefs and Values

The importance for health and human service providers to work toward cultural competence and cultural proficiency with the population they are caring for cannot be overemphasized.

Definition: Culture can be identified as one’s world view which includes “experiences, expressions, symbols, materials, customs, behaviors, morals, values, attitudes, and beliefs created and communicated among individuals,” and past down from generation as cultural traditions (Villa, et al., 1993).

Within these groups there are characteristics which define the use of language, the role of family, religion/spirituality, the definitions of illness, and the use of healing/treatment practices in health provision and seeking behaviors. Although there are unifying cultural themes among the ethnic groups characterized as Hispanic or Latino that are foundations for the patterns of behavior, beliefs, and values related to health seeking, the heterogeneity of the various Hispanic/Latino groups cannot be overemphasized. It would be of value for providers to illicit the elder’s world view and use the explanatory models of illness as outlined in Module Four of the Core Curriculum in Ethnogeriatrics.

Beliefs and values unique to Mexican American and other Hispanic/Latino elderly can be described as cultural themes, which shape their worldview. Table 8 below provides an overview of these cultural themes.

Table 8