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Chew KS, Tan TW, Ooi YT
Correspondence: Dr Chew Keng-Sheng, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction In a multiethnic nation, it is not uncommon for doctors to encounter patients of different cultural backgrounds. Often, patients’ cultural beliefs influence their perception of health and illnesses, and their treatment option. Many Chinese cultural beliefs are influenced by the Taoist concept of yin-yang balance.
Methods We interviewed 50 Malaysian Chinese from the general public of a suburban population in order to unravel the impact of Chinese cultural health beliefs on their decision-making, and this was compared with the opinions of 50 Chinese medical students from second to final year. Convenience sampling was then applied.
Results From the survey, 78 percent of the general public believed that ‘too much heat’ or ‘too much coldness’ in the body could cause diseases. Compared to the medical students, a significantly higher number of the respondents held such beliefs, including the beliefs that abdominal colic is due to excessive ‘wind’ in the abdomen, consuming certain food can dispel wind from the body, and the importance of observing taboos during the confinement period after delivery. The majority of respondents from both groups believed that it is acceptable to combine both traditional Chinese medicine and modern medicine.
Conclusion There is a discrepancy in the extent to which these beliefs influence the perception of health and illnesses among the general public and among medical students. Healthcare providers need to be aware of such beliefs and practices regarding traditional Chinese medicine among their Chinese patients.
Keywords: cultural background, Malaysia, modern medicine, traditional Chinese medicine
Singapore Med J 2011; 52(4): 252-256