The Spirit Catches and Kleinmans Eight Questions for Cross Cultural Healthcare

While researching for this series, I have been on the lookout for materials that talk about healthcare particularly in Africa, about traditional practices and healthcare techniques and about traditional African doctors and cross-cultural medicine in general. Then, more specifically, I’m looking for anything touching on these elements about the Yawo tribe itself. Needles in haystacks? Perhaps. But I found some gems that got the ideas for my project flowing.

A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
by Anne Fadiman

This book was one my wife Naomi read a few years back and absolutely loved. It is the kind of book where you want to read the stories contained within aloud to a loved one nearby.

As you can see from the title, it deals with an Asian people group transplanted in America and the kinds of conflict that came about through the completely different ways of doing healthcare. While not African in focus, any group from a more spiritist background will share commonalities of belief.

Of particular note comes the discovery of psychiatrist and medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman’s “Eight Questions” as published in “Culture, Illness, and Care: Clinical Lessons from Anthropologic and Cross-Cultural Research“.

  1. What do you call the problem?
  2. What do you think has caused the problem?
  3. Why do you think it started when it did?
  4. What do you think the sickness does? How does it work?
  5. How severe is the sickness? Will it have a short or long course?
  6. What kind of treatment do you think the patient should receive? What are the most important results you hope she receives from this treatment?
  7. What are the chief problems the sickness has caused?
  8. What do you fear most about the sickness?

“If you can’t see that your own culture has its own set of interests, emotions, and biases, how can you expect to deal successfully with someone else’s culture?” -Kleinman (p261)

I have highlighted generously throughout Fadiman’s work. I applaud her for a well researched and fascinating study. These eight questions certainly help shape my interviewing focus as I journey into understanding the Yawo worldview.

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