This afternoon, there was a conference on ethnicity from PAHO which is the Pan American division of the World Health Organization. It was really interesting to see that there are many things that are similar between north America and South America. A lot of the problems we have facing health in indigenous populations and other cultural populations are the same as what we have in Quebec. They showed data to demonstrate that people in those cultural populations have a lot more difficulty with having access to health services and therefore the death rate is higher in these populations compared to others. That was what hit me the most! To see that there was concrete data supporting the fact that some populations have higher health problems and even death rates simply because they are of other ethnicities.
During this session, we also saw how we need to respect cultures and their own medicine. All culture and beliefs are equal, simply different! We often need to gain a higher understanding of patients’ beliefs and culture in order to better treat them and care for them. One example given was in Inuit populations where even though diabetes is a very prevalent problem, patients often refuse treatment because of their own beliefs. By understanding their culture and how their medicine works it is possible to find a middle ground.