Summarizing the vast literature on culture and caring in a jargon-free fashion, sociologist Martha O. Loustaunau and anthropologist Elisa J. Sobo introduce readers to the practice of culturally-sensitive health care. With various examples, they describe the special approaches that sociologists and anthropologists take to health, and demonstrate the ways in which cultural and social factors shape medicine and health care. After a discussion of culture, the social structure and the impact of poverty, class, gender and family patterns on health, illness and care-seeking, they explain the similarities and differences of medical systems cross-culturally. The authors call for a more flexible and culturally sensitive system of health care that expresses caring in more holistic ways, and offer examples of how this might be accomplished in an increasingly multicultural USA. Clinicians are cautioned against making ethnocentric value judgements and encouraged to recognize patient behaviours that are culturally patterned.
Current issues discussed include HIV/AIDS, ethics, alternative medicine, political and economic forces, and the high cost of health care today, all with regard to cultural context.