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Why Responses to Public Health Emergencies Need to Incorporate a Broader Understanding of Culture

Author:

Ines Böhret

CoronaNet Research Project; University of Manchester, GB
About Ines

Research Assistant; MSc Global Health Graduate. I would like to express my gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their very lucid insights and to Rafael Mazin for reading and commenting on an early draft of this article.

An earlier and shorter version of this article from 2018 was published on research gate. This version has been adapted and refined https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328841925_The_Role_of_Culture_in_Response_to_Epidemics [Last accessed 09.12.2020].

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Abstract

Responses to epidemics have shown a lack of cultural and contextual understanding which has led to measures being ineffective and harmful. Given the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic, lessons learned from previous epidemics need to be integrated into response measures. This paper critically reflects on the lessons learned during the HIV/AIDS and Ebola epidemics and their implementation in response to COVID-19. It argues that there is a need for an increased awareness of cultural complexity when reacting to public health emergencies. Particularly, it stresses the dangers of a one-dimensional understanding of culture. A limited conceptualization that considers culture only in terms of behaviour, can enable stigmatisation and racism and ignores interconnections of culture with inequities in power. It is concluded that awareness of cultural complexity, which comprises flexible visible negative and positive aspects as well as the underlying context, must be integrated for effective and respectful responses to epidemics.
How to Cite: Böhret I, ‘Why Responses to Public Health Emergencies Need to Incorporate a Broader Understanding of Culture’ (2020) 2 Cross-cultural Human Rights Review 5 DOI: http://doi.org/10.52854/cchrr.44
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Published on 11 Dec 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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