Culture is the knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and habits that are acquired by people as members of society. It is also the common ways of life and set of thoughts and feelings shared by the members of a society. Just as there are cultural practices that are good for health, such as breastfeeding a child, there are also cultural practices that adversely affect health and these can be considered to be cultural hazards. There are practices that are widely accepted and found in different areas that can be hazards for health; for example, the belief that evil spirits are the source of diseases, practices of storing drinking water uncovered, open defecation and not handwashing before meals and after latrine use.
Hygiene and health promotion and community mobilisation are critical interventions that help improve practices that are not useful to the community. To change human behaviour away from undesired practices, you need to change knowledge and attitudes.
Let us assume you have observed that one of the households in your area has a clean latrine but it has not been used for the last few months. What could be the explanation for not using the latrine?
You may have thought of some different reasons, but here are some we have thought of:
- The head of the household might not have taken the lead and guided others in using the latrine.
- Children may be afraid of falling into the latrine hole.
- They may be afraid the bad odour will cause a disease.
- They have plenty of space for open defecation and don't understand why this is not a good practice.