Overcoming Barriers to Healthcare Access

Overcoming Barriers to Healthcare Access: Addressing Cultural Beliefs and Innovative Solutions

Access to healthcare is influenced not only by financial considerations but also by prevailing cultural beliefs and attitudes. In this article, we delve into the impact of cultural factors of seeking behavior toward healthcare access and explore innovative solutions for overcoming and breaking negative cycles. By understanding and addressing these barriers, we can enhance healthcare access and improve overall well-being for all individuals.

Cultural Beliefs and Healthcare-seeking Behavior

Cultural beliefs and illiteracy often contribute to a lack of interest in seeking medical attention when individuals fall sick. Dr. Nayak, who has worked with rural patients at GFA World medical camps, highlights that due to illiteracy, people tend to prefer seeking help from witch doctors or resorting to black magic instead of trusting in medical treatment. To overcome this barrier, it is crucial to focus on increasing awareness and education within communities, dispelling misconceptions, and building trust in modern medical practices.

Cultural practices and unfamiliarity with hospital settings can create reluctance among women to seek hospital births. An example of this can be seen in parts of Ghana, where women prefer giving birth in shielded rooms in their villages.[1] The foreignness of hospital gowns and open wards to their home experience deters them from accessing healthcare facilities. To address this, it is essential to provide culturally sensitive care that respects and integrates cultural practices while ensuring the safety and well-being of mothers and infants.

Tradition plays a significant role in healthcare decision-making, particularly within certain communities like the Latino population in the United States. Traditional remedies and alternative treatments, passed down through generations, heavily influence healthcare choices.[2] It is important to acknowledge and respect these traditions while promoting awareness about the benefits of integrating traditional and modern medical practices. Encouraging dialogue between healthcare providers and community members can help bridge the gap and foster a holistic approach to healthcare.

Overcoming Ineffectiveness and Improving Healthcare Solutions

In some cases, the preference for traditional treatments can unintentionally be reinforced by their ineffectiveness. Philanthropy advisor Doug Balfour’s book, “Doing Good Great,” highlights the detrimental impact of ineffective treatments in Zambia’s Luapala Province.[3] Due to limited public health services, many individuals sought help from local faith healers whose treatments, such as grinding stones into eye paste, caused further damage. To address this issue, innovative approaches that combine traditional knowledge with evidence-based medicine can break negative cycles and provide effective healthcare solutions.

Luapala Province serves as an example of successfully co-opting traditional healers and birth assistants to improve healthcare access. Health leaders recognized the significance of involving traditional healers in the community. They provided training to diagnose basic eye problems, offer simple medicines, and refer patients for treatment. By leveraging the knowledge and influence of traditional healers and aligning their practices with modern healthcare, thousands of people received earlier preventive care, resulting in increased access to treatment and improved outcomes.

Overcoming barriers to healthcare access requires understanding and addressing the influence of cultural beliefs and attitudes. By integrating culturally sensitive care, increasing awareness, and building trust, we can bridge the gap and ensure equitable access to healthcare for all. It is important to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health while respecting their cultural practices and beliefs.

Let us continue to advocate for inclusive and equitable healthcare systems that prioritize the diverse needs of communities worldwide. Together, we can ensure that cultural beliefs and attitudes do not hinder access to quality healthcare, ultimately improving overall well-being for individuals and communities alike. To be a part of this transformative journey towards accessible healthcare, join us in supporting GFA World’s Medical Ministry and sponsor medical camps. Your contribution will directly impact the lives of individuals and families, providing comprehensive checkups, treatments, medications, and health education.

Learn more about healthcare access barriers

[1] Ganle, John K. Addressing Socio-cultural Barriers to Maternal Healthcare in Ghana: Perspectives of Women and Healthcare Providers. Journal of Women’s Health, Issues & Care. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Ganle/publication/272677695_Addressing_Socio-cultural_Barriers_to_Maternal_Healthcare_in_Ghana_Perspectives_of_Women_and_Healthcare_Providers/links/54eb351a0cf27a6de1175e67/Addressing-Socio-cultural-Barriers-to-Maternal-Healthcare-in-Ghana-Perspectives-of-Women-and-Healthcare-Providers.pdf. October 2014.
[2] Machado, Amanda. Why Many Latinos Dread Going to the Doctor. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/05/why-many-latinos-dread-going-to-the-doctor/361547/. May 7, 2014.
[3] Balfour, Doug. Doing Good Great. https://www.genevaglobal.com/insights-ideas/doing-good-great. Accessed November 21, 2019.