Impact of Acculturation on Health
Acculturation defines a particular process of cultural and psychological transformation that results following integration between cultures. The impact of acculturation can be exhibited in varying levels of the integrating cultures. According to Finch (2005), the impact of acculturation can be exhibited at group level, which results from significant changes in culture, customs, and organization in social institutions. Acculturation can as well exhibit significant impact at individual level where individuals can exhibit significant transformations not only in daily behaviors but also on various aspects of physical and psychological statuses. The concept of acculturation has been studied since the dawn of 1918, and it has always been exhibited as a process of second-culture learning. As explained by Kang (2006), the concept of acculturation has been studies from different perspectives in different fields as different categories of scholars seek to understand how varying aspects of acculturation impact the way individuals adjust to their society. This paper intends to establish the impact of acculturation on health in the United States. The paper will mainly concentrate on immigrant populations where it will determine the positive and negative impacts that this concept has on health, while trying to understand the best way through which acculturation can be measured.
The Impact of Acculturation on Health
The concept of acculturation has increasingly become popular in health-related inquiries as issues of health disparity continue to gain significance among various ethnic minorities. A growing awareness has indicated that significant health disparities are rampant among the minority populations in the United States. This has seen a broad category of healthcare providers perceiving culture as a key precursor to disparity in health status. This explains that the concept of acculturation can have both positive and negative impacts on health among individuals in the United States (Lara, 2005).
Among the negative impacts that the concept of acculturation perpetuates among individuals in the United States is health inequality. As explained by Kang (2006), the concept of acculturation indicates that disparity in health among populations is founded on culturally nurtured behaviors and lifestyles. Kang found out that individuals can make varying behavioral choices depending on cultural knowledge and beliefs. This means that individuals can choose to accept or reject certain behavioral patterns depending on their cultural beliefs, which can in return perpetuate varied health patterns. The concept of acculturation has also proven to affect birth-related outcomes among individuals depending on whether they embrace the mainstream or ethnic American culture. A study conducted by Hunt (2004), showed that as women became more acculturated, which was measured by their tendency to embrace the mainstream rather than the Latino or Hispanic culture, they made varied choices that significantly proved to adversely affect their birth outcomes. Hunt found out that women that became more acculturated proved to be at a relatively younger age when they engaged in their first sexual intercourse, used their first birth control materials, engaged in partner violence, got involved in multiple partner sexual relationships or even used illicit drug substances. Individuals that were less acculturated, however, exhibited fewer health issues, risks, and challenges. Hunt related these outcomes with significant transformation in cultural beliefs and attitudes, as populations that were more would easily adopt non-healthy behaviors that were rampant in the mainstream culture.
The concept of acculturation has also been associated with various positive impacts, particularly because it has proven to contribute to significant improvement in health among the immigrant American populations. A study conducted by Cabassa (2003) showed that although most Hispanic women are usually less likely to engage in physical activities, the concept of acculturation has significantly changed their perceptions as well as attitudes towards physical activities. This is especially because women that were highly acculturated exhibited a greater degree of physical participation compared to those that were least acculturated. This also proved to influence the overall health status as highly acculturated women reported fewer cases of diabetes, obesity, and chronic illnesses. Acculturation has proven to significantly influence the likelihood of minority populations to seek to healthcare services. A study by Lanza (2005) showed that highly acculturated Hispanic men and women were likely to seek medical healthcare compared to those that were less acculturated. This is mainly because individuals that were highly acculturated could easily change their beliefs and perception relating to healthcare services, which made it easy for them to seek medical attention when needed.
When defining the process of acculturation, the most important concepts that can be evaluated include the extent to which immigrant populations adopt the norms, values, and lifestyles of the American mainstream culture. The best way through which the concept of acculturation can be measured includes analyzing the physical and psychological transformation that can occur when individuals from varying cultures come into a lasting contact with one another (Cabassa, 2003). The unidimensional theoretical model presents the best approach through which the process of acculturation can be measured. The unidimensional model presents acculturation process as involving a significant shift from one cultural identity to another over a given duration of time. This means that acculturation can be measured in terms of the extent at which individuals exhibiting a certain cultural identity get assimilated in another cultural identity over a given duration of time (Alegria, 2009).
Acculturation, which defines the process through which immigrants populations adopt to the lifestyles, beliefs, and attitudes of the mainstream culture, has proven to be an important concept that can pose positive and negative impacts on health. Research has shown that acculturation can render individuals to make varied choices that can ultimately influence their health-related conduct, thereby influencing their overall health status. Acculturation can as well influence people’s decision’s to engage in varied birth-related behaviors, thereby influencing their overall birth outcomes. Acculturation can however influence people’s decisions to engage in physical activities as well as seek medical care, thereby improving their overall health status. ‘
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Hunt, L. et al. (2004). Should Acculturation be a Variable in Health Research? A Critical Review of Research on US Hispanics, Journal of Medical Science & Medicine, 59:973-986.
Kang, S. (2006). Measurement of Acculturation, Scale Formats and Language Competence: Their Implications for Adjustment, Retrieved on 3rd June, 2014 from http://www.csun.edu/~skang/publication/Kang%20JCCP%202006.pdf
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