Health and Illness Among Hindu Americans

Indians came to America in three major waves of immigrations and brought their authentic culture and traditions. Despite the assimilative processes which had a significant impact on the Hindu Americans, Indian culture still has a substantial impact on different spheres of their life. For example, Hindu Americans demonstrate some peculiarities of concepts related to health and illness which influence their health-seeking behavior.

Perception of health and illness by Hindu population follows classical East Indian theory (Giger, 2013). According to it, the body is made up of five natural elements, such as earth, water, fire, wind, and space. It is considered that wellness depends on harmonious interaction of the three elements – water, fire, and wind. According to Hindu tradition, illnesses develop in case there is a lack or excess of one or some of these components (Giger, 2013). Another important aspect about Hindu perception of illness is that attention is given not only to diagnosing and treatment but also to revealing the causes of this or that condition.

Speaking about Hindu culture, it is necessary to mention the concept of ‘karma’ which is constantly theorized through asking questions about “the nature of the first actions, ethical questions about right and wrong actions, and metaphysical questions about the causal implications of action” (Frazier, 2012). Also, Hindu tradition is rich in rituals and practices. For example, Hinduism includes structuring, self-controlling, interpersonal, and transforming practices which are aimed at restoration of harmony.

Hindu tradition results in a specific relation to health and treatment. Thus, many Hindu people still accept the existence of healing miracles, which happen if a person really asks for it (Vidya-mitra, 2017). On the whole, folk beliefs are quite strong in the Hindu culture. While physical or natural causes of diseases are widely accepted, supernatural is also frequently involved. For example, the case of diarrhea in a child can be explained both by wrong diet reasons and someone’s “evil eye” (Giger, 2013).

One of the traditions, which are widely accepted not only among Hindu population, is Ayurveda. It is a system of knowledge about favorable and unfavorable conditions, which have impact on the development of useful or dangerous germs (Giger, 2013). It considers three major elements in the human body, such as dosha, dhātu, and mála. They have to be in balance for the health of an individual. Dosha (“disease”) is responsible for the physiochemical and physiological processes; dhātu (“layer”) builds the main structure of the body cell; and mála (“dirt”) comprises substances circulating in a body. Nevertheless, Ayurveda accepts some traditional medication.

Spiritual concerns prove to have a significant influence on the process of care. Thus, the research by Simha, Noble, and Chaturvedi (2013) reveal the fact that spiritual concerns are crucial for cancer patients receiving palliative care. Thus, apart from the necessary care related to the disease, there is a need to consider spiritual aspects typical of Hindu population.

On the whole, Hindu culture has a significant impact on the health perceptions of the population. Cultural bonds stay strong even in immigrants. Certainly, contemporary practices differ from the original ones. Still, Hindu Americans can follow ayurvedic principles or visit folk practitioners instead of traditional healthcare professionals. Consequently, it is important to consider cultural peculiarities in the process of care thus contributing to treatment compliance and, consequently, better patient outcomes.

References

Giger, J. (2013). Transcultural nursing: Assessment and intervention (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Simha, S., Noble, S., & Chaturvedi, S. K. (2013). Spiritual concerns in Hindu cancer patients undergoing palliative care: A qualitative study. Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 19, 99-105.

Frazier, J. (2012). Ritual and practice in Hindu studies. The Journal of Hindu Studies, 5(1), 1-9.

Vidya-mitra. (2017). Overview of Hindu healing traditions (CMSR). [Video file]. Web.