Health Care for Patients & Families from African CulturesPosted by Marcia Carteret, M. Ed. in African Cultures, Culture-Specific Topics
There is a growing community of immigrants and refugees in Colorado from countries in Africa, and thus a growing need for basic awareness among health care professionals about the backgrounds of these patients and families. Healthcare for Immigrants and Refugees, another newsletter available on this website, may also prove helpful. Due to the large number of countries, cultures, and sub-cultures in Africa, the practical approach of this newsletter is to provide a very general overview of African cultures. We begin by orienting the reader with basics about the geography, languages, and religions of the African people, and then we provide links to more health care-specific information. This is only a starting place for health care professionals interested in learning a little more about the cultures of their patients and families from Africa, but it will prove useful as a quick reference guide compiling the information found on multiple wikipedia URLs with some additional useful links.
(Note: Any suggestions of links to add to this article will be very much appreciated.)
A Quick Look at Cultures of Africa
Africa is home to innumerable tribes, ethnic and social groups. Some represent very large populations consisting of millions of people while others are smaller groups of a few thousand. Some countries have over 20 different ethnic groups with varied culturally-based values and belief systems. Generally speaking, of the many cultures present in Africa, there is a split recognized between North Africa (plus the Horn of Africa), which is part of the Islamic world, and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is in turn divided into a great number of ethnic and tribal cultures.
is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Northern Africa includes the following seven countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts for hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea. The Horn of Africa denotes the region containing the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Besides sharing similar geographic characteristics, the countries of the Horn of Africa are linguistically and ethnically linked together. Most residents in the Horn of Africa practice one of the three major Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). The Horn of Africa and large parts of Sudan are geographically part of Sub-Saharan Africa, but nevertheless show strong Middle Eastern influence and are also part of the Arab world.
Sub-Saharan Africa is made up of regions that lie south of the Sahara desert and, in contrast with North Africa, is not considered part of the Arab World. The region is made up of East, West, Central, and South Africa and these are divided into 47 countries. The average American probably associates Tanzania and Kenya with safari travel and TV nature shows. Countries such as Uganda, Angola, and South Africa are better known due to international news coverage of social and political unrest, despots, wars, etc. Countries such as Malawi, Comoros, and Burundi are much less known to the average American, but worth becoming familiar with as there continues to be steady immigration to the US from all areas of the African continent.
African Languages: The continent of Africa speaks hundreds of languages and if dialects spoken by various ethnic groups are also included, the number is much higher. Not all of these languages and dialects have the same importance: some are spoken by only a few hundred persons while others are spoken by millions.
Religion in Africa: There are numerous religious practices across Africa, but most Africans practice either Christianity or Islam. Many African people will practice a traditional African belief system or faith in conjunction with one of these two primary religions.
Helping Your Patient/Family from an African Culture
Click here to learn more