Understanding and Applying the Heritage Assessment Tool

Heritage Assessment

Nurses have to be culturally competent, they need to assess their individual values and beliefs about health and health care; otherwise, nurses might assume that all cultures share western premises and values. In order to be considerate to an individual, nurses must remember that beliefs and values influence individuals and families health care decisions. Nurses and healthcare providers should stay up to date on the diversity of patient culture, if they plan to be effective (Grand Canyon University. 2011). The purpose of this paper is to discuss applying the heritage assessment tool, identify health traditions of certain cultures and interviewing individuals from three different cultures for comparison and how they subscribe to their traditions.

About The Assessment Tool

When discussing the usefulness of applying a heritage assessment in evaluating the needs of the whole person, it behooves nurses to remember that treating an individual as a whole, includes understanding the patient, family and community. All these observations can be found within the heritage assessment tool. The assessment tool asks family members to include distant family members and how often they see their family. It also focuses on the community by asking about their schooling and neighborhood environment.

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Furthermore, the assessment inquires an individual is active in their religious community, how often they participate within their community, and the area in which the individual resides. Therefore, a nurse should feel that this tool is valid when assessing an individual as a whole. The heritage assessment tool is beneficial when assessing health promotions of a person from all cultures because it gives the nurse a foundation and perspective on how begin to planning of care for an individual and family as a whole.


When comparing the health between our Western culture and other cultures, other cultures place a higher emphasis on the family as one of their most important values. This is important when looking at how an individual responds to health maintenance, health promotion and health restoration.

The three cultures that participated in the cultural heritage assessment tool were American, Arabic, and Pacific Islander. By comparing this assessment tool, the nurse can see that other cultures focuses more on the family contribution as a whole and that religious beliefs have a deep meaning in respect to someone’s health, which affects an individual overall view about their health. In western medicine when someone is sick, they are taken to a doctor to promote healing. However, other families that were raised within different cultures such as Islamic and Pacific Islander stated that when a family member was sick they were not taken to a doctor; this is of course differs from the western cultures traditions.

American culture

Within the American culture, common health traditions are immunizations, follow up appointments and yearly exams. When it comes to immunizations, it is now left up to parents to decide if they do or do not want the children to be immunized. At one time, every school age child was required to have their shots; however, as the American culture has grown to such a diverse culture, parents can now opt out of requiring their child to be immunized for school. Other health issues crippling Americans are drugs, obesity, alcohol and smoking, which is partly why health preventions are such a big key in preventing diseases. There are cultures that believe an individual should not take anything harmful into their bodies and that is why many other cultures may not be facing these harmful modifiable risk factors like Americans are facing (Edelman. & Mandle, 2010).

Islamic Culture

According to A. Hammad, the Islamic belief is that when a person has been taken ill, that they ask “Allah” God, to promote taking the sickness away through prayers. They subscribe to their traditions by doing what was passed down from one generation to the other. The family, to include extend family and close friends, surrounds the sick person for prayers. They also ask the elder person, known as “Baba,” for his advice and prayers. A Baba is thought to be a folk healer due to his age, wisdom and community standing.

Within the Islamic culture when someone is sick, they are considered excused from certain behaviors such as going to the Mosque, daily prayers and if it is during their holy month of Ramadan they are excused from the tradition of fasting, so that the sick person can continue to heal. There are also certain rules that must be followed; for example, an Islamic woman should only be seen by a woman doctor and when giving meds or feeding patients there can be no pork derivative being given to the patient to respect their belief practices (A. Hammad, personal communication, October 30, 2013).

Pacific Islander culture

According to D. Perez who was raised in Guam, they also have a strong family belief- where an individual does not seek medical treatment unless absolutely necessary. Their religious beliefs are from the catholic faith. If they get sick they are treated at home by their family members, this includes praying and often the pastor is called for what is called anointing of the sick. This anointing is performed to promote good health over an individual and this is viewed as traditions. If an individual falls and has a broken bone then they would have to be treated by western medicine (D. Perez, personal communication, October 27, 2013). Health maintenance and health protection.

In the American culture, individual attend follow up appointments and yearly exams for their health maintenance and protection. In Pacific Islander culture health maintenance and health protection are not always pursued initially, but they do not refuse health preventions either. Children get their immunization shots to help prevent disease and families also attend follow up appointments and exams (D. Perez, personal communication, October 27, 2013).

In Islamic culture, they do not pursued health maintenance or health protection, individuals that live in Jordan and even those brought up in America stick with family traditions of attending Mosque for their educational schooling. The Mosque does not require immunizations for children. In Jordan, families live in close net community and when someone gets sick they seek the guidance of the eldest member of their community. This is in part done due to financial issues and partly done due to their traditions (A. Hammad, personal communication, October 30, 2013).

Health restoration. Many American’s used western type of medicine such as pharmaceuticals to help restore their health; nurses have seen the use of alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, herbs and oils used to try and alleviate pain or halt the disease process, which are all a part of health restorations. Pacific Islander families that have hypertension, diabetes or cardiac disease do follow up with doctors as ordered to prevent further complications and restore their health. They also use pharmaceuticals needs to help restore their health when applicable (D. Perez, personal communication, October 27, 2013).

For individuals from the Islamic Culture do not pursue health restoration because this is viewed to be Western medicine; even if an individual does seek out western medicine they do not generally trust western medicine. Many elderly people from Islamic culture will not seek out western medicine for treatment because they were raised that Allah takes an active role in their health (A. Hammad, personal communication, October 30, 2013).


There are differences when it comes to health restoration. When an individual has an illness like a stroke and needs to be placed in a facility for rehab, the American and Pacific Islander culture are more likely to be inclined to placing a family member in a facility; however, the Islamic culture wants to care for their family member at home, surrounding by family that respects and understands their culture and beliefs (A. Hammad, personal communication, October 30, 2013).


While there is a difference between the cultures, there are similarities that exist within the Islamic and Pacific Islander cultures. The similarities between these two cultures are that the older family members are respected and their authority is unquestioned by others, their extended family has significant influence and the oldest male in the “family” is often the decision maker. Religion and family is considered to be the cornerstone when it comes to these cultures health beliefs (“How culture influences”). All of these similarities and differences show us how these individual families subscribe to their traditions.


Having a full understanding of an individual’s culture and utilizing the heritage assessment tool can only make nurses more vigilant in how we care for those of different ethnicity. The nurse should be mindful that how one views their culture, traditions, religion and beliefs do not represent all people from that ethnic background and that the views may simply be an opinion. Being culturally competent will help us minimize imposing our values on others and minimize the patient, families and communities anxiety. If nurses intend to make positive patient outcomes, then they must recognize culture care (Grand Canyon University. 2011).


  1. Edelman. & Mandle, (2010). Health Promotion Throughout the Life Span (7th ed). Mosby. Retrieved from http://pageburstls.elsevier.com/books/9780323056625/S1/0
  2. Grand Canyon University. (2011). NRS 429V, Family Centered Health Promotion, Lecture notes Retrieved from https://lc-ugrad1.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/
  3. How culture influences health beliefs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.euromedinfo.eu/how-culture-influences-health-beliefs.html/?lang=en_us&session

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Understanding and Applying the Heritage Assessment Tool. (2017, Feb 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/understanding-and-applying-the-heritage-assessment-tool/