Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chicana and Chicano StudiesLatino Health Issues

Understanding Your Patient

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Items and Their Uses

Why Use a Botanica?



pic of doctor examining patients


According to Dr. Hayes-Bautista, “a sound understanding of our diverse cultures, and the importance of culture to health, is still lacking” (2003).  The term “cultural competence” is making its way into many healthcare systems in the United States today and it is important that, as a physician, you understand the culture of the patients you treat.  Latinos use botanicas because they offer them a culturally appropriate way to get medical advice, and if physicians can understand these beliefs, Latinos will feel more comfortable seeking advice in a medical office.  


Familismo is the belief that in many Latino culturesla familia—the family—comes first.  Many Latinos are raised to believe that the needs of the family come before there own.  Thus, they usually emphasize cooperation, assistance, and sharing resources in order for their family to function. 

This holds especially true for older Latinos because they rely on the support of their family for help and this can sometimes include financial support, as well.  It is important to consider these factors when treating Latino patients because, oftentimes, the extended family will be included in the healthcare decisions.


Traditionally, the Latino family is considered patriarchal.  The head of the house is usually the eldest male and all decisions must go through him.  It is also important to respect the leader of the household.  There is also an emphasis on respecting the older persons versus the younger persons.

Because most decisions are taken to the head of the house, sometimes privacy is not valued as much for Latinos, like it is for Western society.  Therefore, many Latinos may need to consult with another person before making a healthcare decision.


This belief values building personal relationships based on trust, respect, pride, and dignity.  Latinos value the person as a whole rather than an individualist in society.  This can present some misunderstandings in the healthcare field because interactions that may seem ok between an Anglo physician and Latino patient, may be perceived as disrespectful.  It is often suggested that, as a physician, you establish a more personal relationship with your patient and not be concerned just with their medical situation.


It is important to understand this belief as a physician because it can affect the way in which your Latino patients seek healthcare.  Value is not given to the past or future times in Latino culture.  Rather, value is given to the present time and situation.  This can lead to a delay in seeking healthcare and not practicing prevention of disease because both of these things do not have a direct impact on the present. 

Cultural competence affects the:

    • Quality of care
    • Decision making for both the patient and physician
    • Compliance of the patient

To achieve cultural competence we need:

    • Knowledge
    • Skills
    • Open attitude

We must never:

    Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Jessica Blair in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2007.