Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

21.1 Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Nationality

Race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality are related concepts that are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. A person’s race and ethnicity can shape their cultural experiences and traditions, while their nationality can influence their legal status and access to resources. Understanding the complexities and nuances of these concepts is important for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in society.

21.2 Cultural Groups and Formation of a Cultural Identity

Culture is a broad term that refers to the shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that characterize a particular group or society. Culture encompasses many distinct aspects of the human experience, including language, religion, ceremonies, celebrations, art, music, food, clothing, social habits, and more. It is transmitted from generation to generation through socialization, education, and other means of communication, and it shapes how an individual thinks, behaves, and interacts with the world. Culture can be specific to a particular region, country, or ethnic group or shared across national and ethnic boundaries, and it evolves over time. Nurses must understand and appreciate cultural differences to provide client-centered care.

21.3 The Role of Culture in Shaping Health Beliefs and Practices

The definition of health has evolved over time and varies across cultures depending on cultural beliefs, values, and practices. Among many cultures, the causes of illness are believed to include both physical and spiritual factors. For example, some cultures attribute illness to a lack of spiritual balance, while others see it as the result of social or emotional stressors. Understanding an individual’s perception of health can help nurses develop plans of care that are appropriate and effective for the individual client.

21.4 Overview of Cultural Views and Practices

Culture plays a significant role in shaping health beliefs and practices. Health is viewed and experienced differently across cultures, and beliefs about appropriate treatments for conditions and diseases can vary widely. Cultural beliefs can influence health behaviors and decision-making, such as seeking medical care or adhering to treatment plans. By understanding and respecting cultural beliefs and practices related to health, nurses can provide more effective client-centered care.

21.5 Culture Matters in Addressing Health Inequalities

Culture is a social determinant of health because cultural factors affect an individual’s health and well-being. These cultural factors include beliefs, values, traditions, and social norms, which can all influence an individual’s health behaviors and outcomes. Intersectionality acknowledges that individuals may experience multiple forms of discrimination or privilege based on their various identities and that these experiences cannot be understood by looking at each identity in isolation. In health care, an intersectional approach can help nurses address health disparities by recognizing and addressing the complex and intersecting factors that contribute to health outcomes. Nurses have a primary responsibility to understand the role culture plays in shaping not only health beliefs and practices but also implications for health outcomes.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Apr 26, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.