Healthcare Practices And Beliefs Of Cambodia

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To begin to understand the many cultures in today’s world can become overwhelming. We are a nation of many and in healthcare, as medical professions, we need to make sure to try and educate ourselves on the many cultures customs and beliefs. If you don’t understand your patient’s cultural beliefs, you could accidentally offend them and their family. In some cultures, simple things like eye-contact, smiling, touch, although seemingly harmless could be detrimental to your client. Not knowing what is acceptable in your client’s culture could start your rapport off on a bad start.

Cambodia is a country in South East Asia. Cambodians are known as Khmer, account for most of the population. Other ethnic groups that contribute to the population of Cambodia include, Chinese, Vietnamese, Muslim Cham-Malayans, Loations, and includes some indigenous people of the country’s rural highlands. The Khmer language is the country’s main language. A small number of the country speaks Vietnamese and Chinese. To greet someone in the Khmer language is ជំរាបសួរ, meaning “hello.” Cambodian’s place both hands in a prayer position to greet each other. The higher the hands are placed means a greater sense of respect, but the hands should never be held above the nose. To show respect for one’s age or status the greeting is accompanied by a slight bow of head. To say pain in Khmer is ការឈឺចាប.

The main religion in Cambodia is Buddhism. There are different kinds of Buddhist. Theravada is the religion followed by most of the older more traditional people. Another group of Buddhists is the Mahayana. Other religions practiced in Cambodia include Daoism, Cao Dai, and some Vietnamese follow the Roman Catholic Church. More recently, many have converted to Evangelical Protestantism.

Healthcare practices and beliefs of Cambodia vary. The older generations of Cambodians believe in self-healing. They traditionally dealt with their illness by self-medicating and through self-care. Trying home remedies was mainly due to the high cost of and limited resources to medical care. Elders still believe that sickness and illness are caused by evil spells or possessions. Spiritual healers known as “Kru” are sought after for help by the elder who still believe in this custom. Temple worship is also popular. Led by one or more monks, the worship is led through chanting and meditation. They use breathing techniques to calm their mind.

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Lack of safe drinking water is the key reason for Cambodia’s hygiene and sanitation issues. Poor drinking water leads to major health risks. An organization called RACHA (Reproductive and Child Health Alliance) has come to the aid of Cambodia with a filtration system that takes the water from lakes and ponds and makes the water safe to drink. Still, more advances in developing a better system is in the works. The practices that some families in Cambodia practice including open defecation, makes it hard to get a handle on the spread of disease and illness.

Cambodian food consists primarily of rice, vegetables, fish, and noodles. Prahok, a fermented fish paste, is used in a variety of traditional Cambodian dishes and is an important dietary protein supplement. Beef and pork are added to meals only on special occasions or if the family has the means to pay to get it. Families will eat their meals on a mat on the floor. Meals will also be eaten in shifts in order of status.

Although the Cambodian culture consists of various rituals, the ones I found most interesting are the rituals around birth and death. Cambodians believe that childbirth can make the mother and child vulnerable to be harmed by evil from the spirit world. If a woman dies during childbirth the belief if that her spirit crosses the river and becomes evil. The culture also makes sure that the pregnant woman knows to avoid certain foods during her pregnancy for fear of bringing harm to her and her unborn child. Death is viewed as the beginning of another life and as hopes for a better life than the one they just lived. White flags are flown at the home of the deceased to show that they have had a death in the family. The family will also shave their heads as a show mourning. White is the color associated with death as they dress the deceased in white and the family members also adorn white during the funeral.

In the world of medicine, with so many diverse cultures, you must make yourself aware that cultural differences do exist. Not only become aware of others cultural beliefs but also become aware of your own beliefs. As future medical professions we need to become aware of our own beliefs to ensure that we don’t become bias when we are confronted with clients with different beliefs from our own. Once we understand that our client may have some cultural beliefs that differ from what we are normally use we need to educate ourselves to meet our client’s needs. This can be by gaining information off websites, journals, or more accurately asking our patient about their cultural preferences involving their medical care. Medical professions need to make sure not to stereotype or label patients and should never judge a patient by their beliefs. They need to follow their oath and provide the best medical care possible.

Healthcare facilities are aiming to provide more freedom for their clients to carry out and follow their beliefs and rituals as much as they feel necessary. This sensitive culture care is becoming a common practice. The growing awareness that everyone has their own cultural beliefs and practices and the act of taking these practices into consideration for planning care, makes certain that we respect all our clients.

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Healthcare Practices And Beliefs Of Cambodia. (2020, July 15). WritingBros. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from
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