Cultural framework

Cultural aspects strongly influence a group's subjective interpretation of health concepts and attitudes to disease and illness, sport, drugs, sexuality, food, etc. Particularly determining are the following criteria:

  • age
  • sex
  • social class
  • region
  • sexual orientation
  • ethnicity
  • political affiliation
  • religious belief

Every project has to take into account cultural specificities, life styles and behaviour. Sufficient attention must be paid to less obvious characteristics (e.g. region) and it is helpful to look beyond political and cultural borders in order to raise awareness of different social norms and values.

Why you would disregard these aspects

  • You assume that your values are the generally accepted ones.
  • It is time consuming, difficult and not always easy to get acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of certain social groups or sub-groups and it is only possible through direct personal contact.

What you have to gain

Paying attention to different cultural codes means:

  • the target group feels involved
  • the messages will reach the target group more easily
  • 'hard to reach' people will be reached

What you can actually do

  • Learn as much as you can about the life styles of your target group, their needs, beliefs, norms and values.
  • Get to know people from your target group as soon as possible so you get acquainted with their health beliefs and culture.
  • If migrants are in your target group, you may want to involve mediators from their own culture.

Questions for critical reflection

  • Are you clear about the cultural and social framework of your project?
  • Are you aware of the obstacles you might encounter in reaching your target group?
  • Are you aware of the relative importance a particular health issue is given by the target group?
  • Have you thought about the target group's understanding of health?