To get you started on this assignment, let’s first brainstorm some of the ways in which society and culture impact people’s health. Then we’ll talk about how to prepare for your interviews.
Our daily health decisions are often impacted by the norms of our society and culture. Think, for instance, about the food choices we make each day. Society often places temptingly unhealthy foods before our eyes. Fast food restaurants stand on many corners, and they are expert advertisers. We have to work very hard to resist unhealthy choices, or at least keep them to a minimum.
Further, while we are often told that exercise is good for us, we are also encouraged to watch hours upon hours of television or spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a computer screen. Choices about when and how to receive medical care are also influenced by society and culture. Some cultural groups, for instance, resist professional care for various reasons, and this can impact the health of those groups. Finally, culture influences people’s beliefs about health, disease, and death, and these beliefs, in turn, influence people’s choices.
These are all topics you can address with your interviewees. Your first step with regard to them is to select possible interview candidates. You need someone who works in a physical health profession and someone who works in a mental/behavioral health profession. You may already know whom you are going to interview, but if you are drawing a blank, be sure to ask your acquaintances if they know of anyone who might be willing to be interviewed. If that fails, don’t hesitate to call a local clinic or psychologist’s office. Explain that you are working on a project for school, and ask politely if someone would be willing to talk to you.
Now you need to prepare for your interviews. Develop a series of questions to help you guide the conversation. Since your focus is on social and cultural factors, you should concentrate on those. You can begin in a general sort of way, asking your subjects to list some of these factors, both some that contribute to wellness and some that don’t. If they draw a blank, you can suggest some of the ones we brainstormed above. You should be sure to get specific details and reasons why your subjects answer as they do. If someone talks about cultural beliefs, for instance, ask for some examples and stories out of the person’s own experience. If another person talks about family life, politely ask if he or she can provide an anecdote about how a patient (who remains anonymous, of course) was affected by such.
You will want to either take detailed notes during the interviews or, better yet, record the interviews. If you do a recording, ask permission first.
As you prepare to write your paper, go back through your notes and/or the recordings and pick out several cultural and societal factors that stand out as positive and negative. These will form the backbone of your paper. Be sure to begin with an introduction that catches your audience’s attention and presents a thesis statement that states your position (perhaps an argument that particular factors lead the way in the development of and hindrance to good health). Then develop that argument with a detailed discussion of those factors, drawing from the information you received from your interviews. End with a conclusion that restates your thesis, sums up your main points, and leads your readers to some sort of reflection or action.