Discovering Comanche health beliefs using ethnographic techniques




Davis, Anne Walendy

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​​The concept of health has many meanings in a pluralistic society. Nursing strives to identify and meet health needs of cultures through providing care which is sensitive to each culture's definition and meaning of health. While much has been written about traditional health beliefs of Native Americans, there is meager information available on current health beliefs. A gap in the literature exists; the available literature did not yield one source in reference to current Comanche health beliefs.

The purpose of this research was to identify Comanche Indians' current health beliefs and actions. Four open-ended statements were developed as a foundation for data collection: tell me what wellness means to you; what are some things you do to stay healthy?; could you give me some examples of things you do to stay healthy that might be different from someone who is not Indian?; and, do you think other Comanches you know would answer these questions the same way you have; if not, how do you think they would respond?

Participants were asked the Comanche word for "health." Participant-observation and taped interviews were used to gather data. Eleven full-blood Comanche, ranging in age from 46 to 79, participated in the interviews which were conducted at two sites in Comanche county, Oklahoma, over a four month period.

Content analysis of the interviews identified descriptors and themes of current Comanche health beliefs. Themes extrapolated from the definition of health included: social/happiness, active/energetic, absence of illness/does not take medication, independence, and holistic health definition.

Within "actions taken to stay healthy," these themes were identified: diet/weight control, socialization/happiness, stay active/exercise, prevention/knowing limits, and spiritual activities. Five participants reported participating in traditional Comanche health practices and each acknowledged concurrently following physician's advice and prescriptions. The variety offered in the participants' health definitions and actions negates the notion of a universal health definition based on culture or tribe.



Cultural anthropology, Native American, Health Education, Comanche, Ethnographic techniques