|Type of paper:||Essay|
Kenya is a culturally, geographically, and linguistically diverse country. It is the land of wild animals, safaris, and Maasai warriors. The nation is a collage of racial and ethnic diversity. Over time, health disparities have existed among the cultural population. In this regard, this paper seeks to examine the health disparities of Kenyans and the cultural barriers to healthcare that the group faces. This topic is significant as it educates healthcare providers about the notable health disparities that exist among minority groups, particularly Kenyans and further shows how cultural practices influence the way Kenyans perceive health care and its providers. In essence, understanding the health disparities within Kenyans can be helpful in developing culturally appropriate medical programs.
Cultural Population of Kenyans
Presently, Kenya is considered to be the most culturally diverse country in Africa. The cultural population has a unique communication style; direct communication is not the norm in this population. Usually, Kenyans try to deliver messages sensitively. However, if the relationship is intimate, the communication style is often more direct. On the other hand, if the relations are formal and newly established, diplomacy will be of absolute importance. Notably, Kenyans regularly use analogies, metaphors, and stories to pass messages in their effort not to cause problems (Chege, Kimiywe, & Ndungu, 2015). To put it more simple, they are not comfortable with blunt statements. Further, Kenyans use gestures when communicating to show emphasis. For the most part, loud voices are only utilized during conflicts in business situations, even though in rural areas, speaking loudly is the norm. Additionally, displaying anger is seen as a symptom of mental instability. The cultural population pride themselves on their ability to control their emotions and expect the same behavior from others.
Chiefly, the family is the core social structure of the society. Herein, individuals live in extended families and kinship societies. The extended family comprises relatives on both family sides and close friends. Thus, children are regularly close to siblings and cousins, and uncles as well as aunts are viewed as parents. In addition, extended families live close together in small settlements. For instance, among the Maasai, ten to thirteen huts are constructed in a circle enclosed by a thornbush fence (Chege, Kimiywe, & Ndungu, 2015). When the parents of the husband grow old and can no longer care for themselves, they usually live with the nuclear family. On the other hand, when individuals marry, families become connected, hence ensuring that, eternally, there will be a group to turn to in times of need.
Markedly, child rearing is considered a community affair; the responsibility is shared among uncles, aunts, grandparents, and other society members. However, girls and boys have separate upbringings. Each is taught their obligations and duties specific to their sex; girls learn how to cook, carry water, and look after children, whereas boys are taught how to herd animals or work in the fields. Also, children are typically grouped into "age-sets" with peers born in the same year. As a result, members of the same age-set form a special bond and go through initiation rituals together.
Typically, children attend primary school when they reach the age of seven to fourteen years. Primary education is usually free for Kenyans (Wanjohi, 2016). Further, children between the ages of fourteen and eighteen attend secondary school which is remarkably expensive for most of the population. For this reason, only half of all children finish the first seven years of education, and only 14% of these continue with their secondary school education. Surprisingly, some rural communities disregard the education of the girl child. The assumption is that girls will be married off; hence, there is no need to waste resources on them. In other Kenyan communities, particularly the pastoralist ones, only boys who cannot herd cattle are sent to school (Wanjohi, 2016).
Kenyans' concept of personal space is quite different. Not only do Kenyans stand much closer together during conversations, but also lean on others while waiting in a queue. Moreover, they are uncomfortable with maintaining eye contact. When it comes to the concept of time, Kenyans tend to get late for social invitations and official meeting. They have poor time management.
Ordinarily, many Kenyans incorporate traditional beliefs into their practice of Christianity, leading to tension between Christian churches and Kenyans. Also, the population believes in a spirit world occupied by their ancestors' souls. The common belief is that diviners possess the power to communicate with the spirit world; they utilize their abilities to cure evil spirits and diseases. Correspondingly, diviners are believed to bring rain during drought times, while witches and sorcerers are said to possess supernatural powers, although, they utilize these powers to harm others. Therefore, diviners have to counter the evil workings of witchcraft. Markedly, Kenyans believe that when one dies, they enter the spirit world which has ample influence in the living world. Many believe in reincarnation, and children are considered to be the embodiment of the souls belonging to family ancestors.
Health Disparities of Cultural Population
Kenyans experience an excessive burden from many infections and diseases that may be connected to risk behaviors such as the use of tobacco, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, unprotected sexual relations, and poor diet. The population experiences high mortality from tuberculosis, alcoholism, malaria, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, injuries, malnutrition, and waterborne diseases (Juma, Askew, Alaii, Bartholomew, & Borne, 2014). In fact, even the tribal leaders affirm that unintentional injuries, alcoholism, diabetes, and drug abuse are rapidly increasing in the community.
Alcoholism and tobacco use are prevalent in the Kenyan society. Traditionally, drinking was inherently an indulgence for the men. Nowadays, individuals drink alcohol and use tobacco during various traditional ceremonies, for instance, weddings and initiation ceremonies. More so, communities make their traditional alcohol for regular consumption. In addition, the prevalent use of tobacco has resulted in respiratory problems and heart attack to its heavy and persistent users.
According to reports, risky sexual behaviors such as having unprotected sexual intercourse have led to the sharp increase of HIV and STD infections in this population. At the same time, traditional practices such as wife inheritance highly contribute to the spread of the pandemic (Juma, Askew, Alaii, Bartholomew, & Borne, 2014). Kenyans are also likely to be obese or overweight due to the lack of physical activity during their leisure time; the primary risk factor for obesity is a sedentary lifestyle. It should be noted that obesity in Kenya is associated with being wealthy. Overweight people are usually perceived as affluent in the society.
Additionally, Kenyans consume fewer fruits and vegetables than the recommended intake by health nutritionists. This dietary pattern highly contributes to the onset of obesity and malnutrition. Malnutrition is a significant health risk among pastoralist communities. An example of this is the Maasai community who majorly consume animal blood, milk, and raw meat. These might lead to various infections such as worm infestation and brucellosis. In general, most Kenyans consume a lot of meat and disregard vegetables and fruits. As a result, diseases such as cancer are widespread.
In most cases, Kenyans favor traditional medicine such as the use of herbs as well as rites and rituals to alternative medicine. Nevertheless, at times, they use both traditional and western medicine. The diseases are usually categorized into two: conditions that are taken to healthcare facilities and those that are handled by traditional doctors (Abubakar, Baar, Fischer, Bomu, & Newton, 2013). Often, diseases that are taken to traditional healers are those that come as a result of supernatural causes such as witchcraft, spirit possession, and breaching of taboos. Additionally, psychiatric and psychological problems are handled by traditional healers.
For quite some time, Kenyans have continued to experience high mortality rates and health disparities. According to Mohajan (2014), Kenya's burden of infections has mostly been related to diseases such HIV/AIDS, malaria, respiratory infections, and Tuberculosis (TB). Nonetheless, research indicates an increase in non-communicable diseases, for example, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. In 2013, the life expectancy of the population was approximately 63.29 years compared to a universal average of 68 years. Moreover, the people continue to lose their lives due to the prevalence of infectious diseases; the loss of healthy life years is roughly 0.82% because of infectious diseases (Mohajan, 2014).
Kenya has a high mortality rate that affects the entire population, particularly children under the age of 5 - they are vulnerable to pneumonia and diarrhea. Malnutrition and inadequate healthcare have contributed to the huge number of deaths. In addition, approximately 15 women die on a daily basis as a result of pregnancy-related complications, and 0.2% of all deaths among women are AIDS-related (Mohajan, 2014). Typhoid cases are also continuously rising because of difficulties experienced in accessing clean water, overcrowded housing, and poor sanitation.
Cultural Barriers to Healthcare
Many Kenyans, especially those who live in rural areas do not believe in Western medicine for treating all kinds of diseases. Healing is identified as sacred work; it cannot be considered successful without taking into account the spiritual aspect of the person. While those who live in urban areas use Western medicine in the treatment of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, they still rely on traditional drugs to treat psychological problems. This indicates that Kenyans do not fully trust contemporary medicine because of their traditional beliefs. As a result, many sick people in the cultural population avoid going to health facilities as they believe in traditional medicine, thereby making this the most significant cultural barrier to healthcare.
Overall, health disparities continue to exist among the Kenyan cultural population. The population practices many traditions that influence how they perceive healthcare and modern medicine. The society has high mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and cancer. More specifically, high-risk health behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco use, poor nutrition, and lack of physical exercise have contributed to many health problems among this cultural population. Therefore, understanding the health disparities and cultural practices of this population is essential in establishing appropriate medical programs.
Abubakar, A., Baar, A. V., Fischer, R., Bomu, G., Gona, J. K., & Newton, C. R. (2013). Socio-cultural determinants of health-seeking behaviour on the Kenyan Coast: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE, 8(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071998
Chege, P. M., Kimiywe, J. O., & Ndungu, Z. W. (2015). Influence of culture on dietary practices of children under five years among Maasai pastoralists in Kajiado, Kenya. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1). doi:10.1186/s12966-015-0284-3
Juma, M., Askew, I., Alaii, J., Bartholomew, L. K., & Borne, B. V. (2014). Cultural practices and sexual risk behaviour among adolescent orphans and non-orphans: A qualitative study on perceptions from a community in western...
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