Beliefs and Practices in Women’s Health

Brisas Health


Ramaiah Bheenaveni

November 20, 2009

Placebo - Healing the Body with the Mind (2 of 5)

Rural women’s health is an infinitely broad topic. Many Indian women have come from circumstances in which women have limited access to healthcare. Traditionally, there has been discrimination towards women in decision-making; access to resources such as food, education and health care; job opportunities; and in child-rearing and parenting. However, women’s health in rural areas affects everything in their environment from their families to their economies and vice versa. A woman’s health, especially among the poor and illiterate, is often neglected not just by her family but by the woman herself. She is taught not to complain and if she does then she is directed either to use condiments in the kitchen or try faith healing.

Man is unique in that he has a distinct cultural environment of his own. This includes all the conditions in which men are born, brought up, live, work, procreate and perish. Culture as an environment is deeply related to the health of humans. It includes patterns of social organizations designed to regulate a particular society; one can understand the behaviour of people belonging to various sections and predict how an individual of a particular section will react in a given situation. With our knowledge of health, the treatment of diseases among ignorant peoples appears to be strange since they frequently follow practices of praying, wearing of amulets or consulting an exorcist who recites certain verbal formula. Hence, we can say that beliefs and cultural practices are predominately playing significant roles in the human health more peculiarly in the health of women.

Many rural people did not know about the services set up for them at sub-centres and PHC by the government because they did not see any evidence of these services being provided for them. As a part of the awareness programmes, the health workers (ANM) have been organizing to several exposure trips at the villages. It was there that the women were informed about the specifics of various services supposed to be made available to them. This encouraged some of them to ask questions and report on the situation in their PHC. They explained that though a nurse did visit their village it was not a daily visit, nor did she go beyond a certain point in the village, and certainly did not take a round of the village. They made a show of doing their duty by providing nominal services.

A variety of factors, including an older population, a limited supply of health care providers, and further distances from health care resources may contribute to special health concerns for people in non-metropolitan areas. Access to health care and social services are critical issues for rural women.

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual is convinced of the truth of a proposition. Like the related concepts truth, knowledge, and wisdom, there is no precise definition of belief on which scholars agree, but rather numerous theories and continued debate about the nature of belief 1.

The cultural phenomenon of social organization, according to Giger and Davidhizar (2004), includes groups in the social environment that influence cultural development and identification. The family, an important aspect of the social organization phenomenon, strongly influences cultural behavior through a process of socialization or enculturation of children and group members (Giger & Davidhizar; Niska, 1999). These learned cultural behaviors guide individuals through life situations, events and health practices. Understanding family from a cultural perspective is a significant element in providing nursing care to Mexican-Americans since Giger and Davidhizar identify the family as being most values in this culture.

Environmental control is defined by Giger and Davidhizar (2004) as the ability of persons within a particular cultural heritage to plan activities that control their environment as well as their perception of one’s ability to direct factors in the environment. Kuipers’ (1999) discussion of this model, in relation to Mexican-American culture, emphasized the construct of environmental control with a focus on locus-of-control, health beliefs, and folk medicine. Locus-of-control explains the way in which individuals, within their cultural environment, perceive their ability to control what happens to them and to their health. Health may be viewed as being dependent on outside forces or their own actions (Bundek et al., 1993). Beliefs about health and illness, which are components of environmental control, affect health practices, use of health resources, and a person’s response to experiences of both health and illness (Giger & Davidhizer, 2004; Northam, 1996). A third component of environmental control, folk medicine, includes alternative therapies such as using herbs and teas or visiting a cultural folk healer.


Comment from Leslie

Actually at first read the social/political feminist came out in me and I was angered…but then again I though about the faith healing aspect and thought that with the barbaric medical practices against women – that they are probably luckier than most – except for the kitchen knife abortions that is.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.