Chapter 15: Culture as a determinant of Aboriginal health

Chapter 15: Culture as a determinant of Aboriginal health Book Section

Beyond Bandaids: exploring the underlying social determinants of Aboriginal health. Papers from the Social Determinants of Aboriginal Health Workshop, Adelaide, July 2004.

  • Author(s): Morrisey, M, Pe-Pua, R, Brown, A, Latif, A
  • Secondary Author(s): Anderson, I, Baum, F, Bentley, M
  • Published: 2007
  • Publisher: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health

Abstract: In this scoping chapter, we do not attempt to present a comprehensive literature review on culture and health, since to do so would take much more than could be contained in this chapter (if it could be done at all). Nor do we delve into the intricacies of cultural theory any further than is needed to provide a sufficiently robust conceptual basis for the purposes of this chapter. We also make no attempt to describe in any detail the cognitive and social structures and processes comprising the different cultures that might impact upon Aboriginal health, partly because, as we shall demonstrate later, the current literature provides no basis for such a task; but, also, mainly because of our argument that the static description, categorisation and comparison of cultures, which was the central concern of classical anthropology, should not be our main approach in any case. This chapter begins by addressing, in an extremely minimal frame, some of the more prominent social science approaches to the concept of culture and also to the question of the link between health and illness, canvassing the sociology of culture, varieties of medical anthropology, cultural explanatory models and culture care theory. This is followed by an exploration of the Australian literature on culture and Aboriginal health, where we will show that there is a virtual absence of systematic theoretical and empirical work in this area. We will also demonstrate that in the rare instances where culture is examined as a health determinant there is a generalised indifference to the theoretical approaches discussed. The second half of the chapter attempts to suggest how the ‘absences’ we expose might be remedied. First, we argue that appropriate methodology must be developed and deployed, and in this context we give some examples from the development of Indigenous psychological research in the Philippines and decolonising methodology in New Zealand. Then we suggest a (non-exhaustive) list of areas in which such a methodology might be deployed.

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Morrisey, M, Pe-Pua, R, Brown, A, Latif, A, 2007, Chapter 15: Culture as a determinant of Aboriginal health, Book Section, viewed 13 August 2022,

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