Culture and Health Access in Australia


Health is a state of wellness experienced by an individual. It is a subjective experience that is largely dependent on an individual’s age and cultural upbringing.World Health organization has given its own definition of health, which has been contested as it may differ depending on the context. Nevertheless, several factors determine the state of an individual’s health including social and cultural background, lifestyle, as well as economic and spiritual aspects. Despite the fact that the culture of Australia is westernized, it has been undoubtedly influenced by the Aboriginal as well as  the Torres Strait Islander peoples and Oceanians, who are the ancient natives of the country. Australia has rich cultural diversity, and this has to be respected and maintained. As a result of westernization, Australia has embraced the biomedical perspective when viewing health.  Provision of healthcare services must consider these cultures so that balance is achieved. Equitable treatment and distribution of healthcare commodities to all the inhabitants is paramount.  The health workforce, most of which are nurses, need to be culturally sensitive and uphold medical and nursing ethics for effective services. This paper describes how culture and healthcare access interrelate. The determinants of health and the provision of primary health care are factors considered in this document.


Health and Culture

The Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander people of Australia are considered the most indigenous and remote groups disadvantaged due to poor access to health facilities and cultural setbacks.  These indigenous groups constitute 3% of the total population in Australia, and their culture and social environment have placed them in a potential compromise in individual health status. This poor condition of health is seen in the social context of the health determinants. It cannot be separated since these factors are complicated and interrelated. They include income status, the level of education, support and social networks, living and working conditions as well as gender and different aspects of behavior. These factors influence the autonomy and the ability to participate to the full extent in social life.  The determinants of health therefore are diverse and intertwined, which results in a complex relationship of cause and effect.  Of greater significance to this paper is the cultural impact.  Traditional beliefs, attitudes and customs have contributed to the ambivalent health seeking behavior. Cultural and social factors combined make a significant contribution to an individual’s behavior culminating in an outcome that defines his or her health status. The Aboriginal and the Torres Strait people face both health risk factors and those that offer protection, which determines the adverse health outcome for these people at most times.  These groups of indigenous Australians engage in social behaviors that predispose them to diseases such as lung cancer as a result of excessive smoking.

On the other hand, 97% of those living in Australia settled there or are descendants of the settlers. These groups of people are more affluent and reside in cities and places that have proper social amenities in place. They have access to highly innovative and sophisticated care encompassing improved early detection, diagnosis and appropriate intervention, which were rarely found in the past generation. The result is improved life expectancy.  However, most of the deaths in Australia are caused by chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases rather than acute illnesses as well as infectious diseases. These chronic diseases produce a profound effect on individual’s health and place a heavy burden on the Australian healthcare system. Despite this positive stride, inequalities in the delivery of health care still exist, particularly to the indigenous Australians, who are living in lower socioeconomic status areas, and therefore face higher risk factors compared to the other Australians. The risk behaviors like smoking, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and increased alcohol consumption are the contributors to ill health. This inequality, however, is narrowing as a result of deliberate efforts to achieve universal access to health care.

The government of Australia has injected spirited efforts to help their people remain healthy.  Investing in primary health care is a part of the effort. This care aims at improving and promoting the health status of communities by providing equitable, quality services that are financially sustainable. Besides, these services are universally accessible and delivered by the appropriately skilled workforce. These efforts by the government can have greater and tangible impact if the culture of the people is health seeking. It is evidently challenging to reach the indigenous groups, but efforts have been made to address their specific healthcare needs. The non-indigenous people of Australia have a positive culture towards health. For instance, expectant mothers routinely attend antenatal clinics for assessment without fail. They also prefer childbirth in hospital, which makes deliveries safer and results in improved neonatal and infant survival rates.

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Similarly, mothers ensure that they have their children immunized with government approved vaccines. Adults also seek routine check-ups and examinations to exclude diseases that may start without symptoms.  However, when diseases are diagnosed, they also seek advice from healthcare providers so that these conditions are managed appropriately.The indigenous groups, however, show different behavior. They live in remote areas that have poor access due to inadequate infrastructural facilities. This has created a deviation in their health seeking behavior. Some of them cannot physically reach sanitary facilities and hence their health seeking behavior lacks motivation. Therefore, the government has designed specific strategies aimed at helping these groups have access to healthcare. Delivery of health care has been made possible by the Aboriginal Healthcare workers as well as general practitioners.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare depicts the principle behind the introduction of a multicultural health practice: the initiation of integrating health delivery services with the culture of people. The practice is construed to train healthcare practitioners on the best approaches of dealing with various cultures whenever delivering health services. The concept of multiculturalism in Australia is based on the concept of pluralism; this is meant to recognize and accept the different rights of all the people in the society and to enable the expression and sharing of their indigenous cultures and values. Inclusivity, as opposed to division, is upheld immensely, and this is particularly significant owing to the fact that the Australian multicultural composition is at the heart of the national identity and an essential factor cementing the history and character of the nation. It is also crucial to note that illustration of illness in patients is immensely impacted by the culture. Healthcare experts ought to understand how culture affects the people, and more specifically, how it correlates to healthcare delivery. 


The people of Australia are considered to be westernized, and therefore, there is a high expectation from the government to have in place policies that take care of them. Informed individuals seek health care services such as routine check-ups, and treatments when symptoms have developed. Consequently, this approach helps them prevent diseases and minimize the damage to their health as they seek attention before the condition become severe and complicated. Despite the Westernization, the indigenous groups still have difficulties and need a more active mobilization and channeling of resources so that the whole country has adequate access to health care. Understanding the significance of seeking health services instills a culture in individuals that results in wellness. The positive culture of healthy behavior has a great impact on the motivation to access health care.

Oct 7, 2020 in Research
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