Canada and Furman define spirituality as the heart of helping, which entails act of empathizing and caring for another human being. It is having the pulse of compassion that drives the energy of service delivery. There is a tie between spirituality and healing. Spirituality is the driving force of the social workers and strengthens them not to feel empty, tiresome and lifeless when delivering their services. Spirituality helps them thrive to successfully face the challenges that come along their precincts.
Topics on spirituality and religion have continuously gained popularity over time. Media have written stories on religion and political affiliations, moral and social issues concerning abortion, homosexuality and biotechnological advancement such as human cloning in the laboratories. Recently, much has been brought to limelight by the media, especially on issues regarding the role of religion on war and terrorism.
Additionally, the media have publicized the inspirational spiritual lives of great leaders such as Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism and Nelson Mandela the former South African President. In a statement, spirituality has become the major theme in the global market (Canada & Furman, 2010).
Scholars have examined the correlation between religion and health in the recent past. Undoubtedly, religion plays an integral role in most aspects of life, including health. The main concern is how the research findings can improve the clinical practice. Spirituality differs from religiousness. Religiousness refers to the degree of involvement to religion. It is an expression of spirituality, which encourages a person’s and religious well being.
This paper looks into the relationship between relation, spirituality and health. It will also delineate the importance of integrating spirituality in the Hong Kong clinical practice. Using Empirical studies from other nations, the paper will present the role of religion and spirituality in clinical practice. Lastly, it will look into the barriers of integrating the two aspects into the clinical practice.
Relationship between spirituality, religion and health
Despite the diverse and tremendous amount of research over the recent past on the correlation among spirituality, religion and health, it is still not exactly known how they relate. It is still unknown on the mechanisms by which religion and spirituality positively or negatively influence the overall well-being of an individual.
However, the topic remains an incredible research field. High quality studies can offer credible psychological, social, behavioral and biological mechanism on how religion and spirituality connect to health (Ness & Larson, 2002). Nevertheless, the available theological findings indicate that the relationship between spirituality and health has been cycled between institutions since the time in history. In the past diseases have been associated with bad luck:
The most advanced civilizations of ancient times (Assyrian, Chinese, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Persian) equated physical illnesses with evil spirits and demonic pos- sessions. (Lee & Newberg, 2005, p. 1)
Treatment, therefore, entailed casting out these spirits. Physicians and health practitioners then were viewed as religious groups irrespective of the source of their healing power. Recently, there has been increased interest in understanding the effects of assimilating spirituality in the medical field.
Much has been covered by popular news magazines and televisions on the interplay of religion and health. Additionally, research reveals that most patients highly regard religion and wish that their physicians could discuss religious issues with them (Lee & Newberg, 2005).
This remains an imperative topic in Hong Kong. Hong Kong have the right is protected by the law and various other relevant legislative bodies. There are diverse religious groups in Hong Kong Special Administrative Religion (HKSAR) SUCH AS Hinduism, Buddhism, Taosim, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Sikhism. All these groups have a significant number of adherents. The religious groups also offer other services apart from religious instructions, including schools and health care facilities (Koenig & Cohen, 2002).
The path of spirituality in Hong Kong Clinical practice
The paths are guided by various Eastern philosophical religious traditions. Psychological decenter has been identified as the most contemporary relevant attainment of spirituality. According to Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, spirituality is the act of forgetting oneself to contemplate the welfare and the equality of all things. It is the act of thinking of others first.
Spirituality in work contemplates on the mechanisms in which it can be resourced to promote the well-being and harmony within an individual, the society and the entire world. Spiritually sensitized social worker addressed the ways in which the entire community can seek a sense of meaning, connectedness as they aim to attain the highest aspirations, and they work together to overcome challenges and gaps in the resources (Castanheira et al., 2010).
Individuals express spirituality in religious or non religious ways across the nation. Healthy spirituality encourages individuals and communities to create a purposefulness, personal integrity, joyful, peaceful and contented coherence of overall world being. It engenders respect and support extending to other people.
It encourages the establishment of mutual support, philanthropic activity to appreciate diversity. However, many are times when the concept of spirituality is distorted and misdirected to beliefs, attitudes and behavioral activities that result to hopelessness, oppression and discrimination in the society (Canda, 2009).
In this context of spirituality, it is high time for the Hong Kong Medical industry to emulate other nations by establishing ethical principles and standards such as USA’s National Association of Social workers (NASW) and the international association of schools of social work and International Federation of social Workers (IASSW/IFSW).
These principles are put in a way that they set in a way to encourage and challenge each of the workers to exercise full responsibility and rightfully in order to enhance social stability between the citizens, spiritual perspectives and the sociopolitical aspects (Canda, 2009).
Spiritual health workers enable them to utilize their expertise to help patients to recover by attending biological, physiological and spiritual needs. It assists the worker to utilize his or her strengths and environmental resources in a socially and ecologically responsible manner improving his or her service delivery. Additionally, spiritually sensitive workers will deliver services in fairness, particularly when dealing with the vulnerable and oppressed groups in the society.
This way, they will fight environmental racism, international social injustice or any intercultural conflicts prevailing in the nation that can be detrimental to the ecological systems of the universe. Additionally, integrating spirituality in the health care unit will ensure that medical practitioners treat all patients compassionately and respectfully irrespective of cultural differences, or religious diversity.
They address the patients with utmost professionalism responsive to the values of the patient and the community at large. This will enhance respectful connections across differences establishing a common ground for harmony and cooperation in Hong Kong (Lee & Newberg, 2005).
Medical practitioners honor the universal human needs bringing in purpose, morality to sustain doctor-patient relations, which boost self-determination in the effort to fight communicable and non communicable diseases as a community’s global responsibility. The healthy relationship is important for growth of clinical practice. This is because it facilitates the collaboration between the religious and non religious spiritual support systems.
In turn, it strengthens, restores and sustains the well-being of the patient, families and the entire society bringing in the issue of communality. Furthermore, spirituality increases professional competence for effective practice, especially in regard to explicit use of religious and non- religious spiritual beliefs, rituals and other prevailing therapeutic practices.
Medical practices across the diverse traditions and cultures equip the practitioner with the relevant knowledge and skills so that the practitioner can perform his duties with respect to the values and preferences of the patient’s traditions. This helps the spiritual practitioner to understand on how to cooperate and collaborate with the community-based health practices with spiritual support of the culturally competent healers (Canda, 2009).
Empirical studies on Role of religion and spirituality in Clinical practice
Various investigations done indicate that religion and spirituality takes an integral part many individuals’ lives. Americans are dominantly God fearing people: “Over 90% of American adults say that they pray and believe in God or a higher being, two-thirds are members of churches or synagogues, 40% attend religious services regularly” (Lee & Newberg, 2005).
Religion gives hope to an individual; it helps to set the mood right. When one has a strong will to live even through hard times, he or she forms the right attitude and approach towards life. Having the right attitude helps one to keep on moving in the right direction.
At least, 75% of patients wish the physician would integrate spiritual issues in their medical field such as discussing their religious faith with them. Not many physicians acknowledge the relationship between religion and healing. Research points out inadequate time, inadequate training and difficulty of identifying with the specific patients’ spiritual issues as the main discrepancies that hinders integration of religion into clinical practice (Lee & Newberg, 2005).
However, various scholarly reviews show a relationship between morbidity and mortality.
In G. W. Comstock and K. B. Partridges (1972) analysis of 91,000 people in a Maryland county, those who regularly at- tended church had a lower prevalence of cirrhosis, emphysema, suicide, and death. (Canda, 2009, p. 1)
Several other studies after also revealed that religion and higher religiosity had a beneficial effect on blood pressure. It has been shown that mortality and morbidity are affected by: “religion, biological, behavioral and socioeconomic differences” (Canda, 2009, p. 1).
For instance, a study of contemplative monks in the Netherlands showed that mortality compared with the general population varied with time during the 1900s. Another study elsewhere showed that: Greater morbidity and mortality have been reported among Irish Catholics in Britain, which may reflect their disadvantaged socioeconomic status there. (Canda, 2009, p. 1).
A number so scholars have shown that being religious help one to recover fast especially after a major surgery. Oxman’s and colleagues research in 1995 on 232 open-heart surgery patients indicated that absence of strength and comfort from religion as consistent predictors of mortality. Similar studies carried out have shown the same results. In study on African-American Women suffering from breast cancer also indicated that longer survivability to religious patients (Anon, 2006).
Behavior and lifestyles accounts for the above observed effects of religion on health. Studies in Israel showed that secular citizens had poor eating habits whereby they fed on food rich in saturated fatty acids, high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins as compared to the religious ones. Additionally, religion involvement is associated with the increased use of preventive measurements such as use of seat belts.
Religion also plays a large role in preventing sexual immorality. Study by McCree at al. (2003) showed that religion played a significant role in ensuring that young were open to each and could literary discuss any topic. These young people were found to have clear understanding of HIV, proper birth control methods and risks associated to unprotected intercourse. However, the findings are not universal as in some religion traditions and environments suppress open discussion of topics related to sexuality (Lee & Newberg, 2005).
Religious groups are the major sponsors of the majority of hospitals and health care clinics. This implies that the religious groups promote and provide access to better health.
Additionally, Religious belief provides greater meaning in people’s lives. This helps the patient to cope better with their diseases. Religion views suffering from different perspectives: “many major religions have deemed illness and suffering the result of sin, many also believe that pain and suffering can be strengthening, enlightening, and purifying the individual” (Koenig & Cohen, 2002).
It gives hope of restoration to the patient as pain and suffering is inevitable. They are test the virtue that stimulates spiritual growth and defines human life. However, religions differ on how they confront illness. For instance, Buddhists believe in enduring pain Whilst Hindus stress the understanding and detaching from the pain. Muslims and Jews resist of fight the pain whilst Christians seek atonement and restoration/redemption (Koenig & Cohen, 2002).
Barriers of assimilating spirituality and religion in Hong Kong Clinical practice
Spiritual experiences are not easily articulated verbally. Sometimes they may not even be acknowledged by the individual experiencing it. It is highly personal such that it is not easily revealed to others. Religion has also been associated with negative effects: For instance, some religion directly opposes certain health care procedures such as transfusions or birth control procedures.
An example is that of a research carried out by Mitchell and colleagues in 2002 indicated that religious beliefs delayed African-American from seeking medical intervention to diagnose breast lumps (Ho & Ho, 2007). In other occasions, religious laws or dicta can be misinterpreted to justify oppressive behavior causing psychological anguish to the patients.
In some cases, spiritual abuse such as telling a patient sinner that they will burn in eternally among others can complicate patient illness (Ming-Shium, 2006). There is a need therefore for doctors to counter such kind thinking and ensure that any person attended to him or her follows strictly prescription.
Another major dilemma is the training of the medical practitioner in order to understand the different community based beliefs. The government will be forced to chip in for the faith communities in order to provide the aid desperately needed by the community.
Media have publicized heavily religious and political affiliations, moral and social issues concerning abortion, homosexuality and biotechnological advancement such as human cloning in the laboratories. Additionally, much has been discussed on issues regarding the role of religion on war and terrorism.
This calls for Assimilation of spirituality and religion in Hong Kong Clinical practice to promote harmony locally and globally. Also, it is aimed at strengthening the available resources by incorporating spirituality and religion into the social practice. The move aims at addressing obstacles and gaps in the society brought by tradition and cultural beliefs and practices. Spirituality and religion in the health sector will be used to impede nepotism or social injustice.
Evidently, by using each community own religious and spiritual traditions and practices properly, it will result to empowerment, beauty and wisdom in the society eradicating great discrimination that prevailed before. Integrating Spirituality and religion to clinical practice will conceptualize the strengths and resources of the Hong Kong communities in the aim of transforming challenges to opportunities for the society’s welfare.
Healthy spirituality and religion will encourage individuals and communities to develop a purposefulness, personal integrity, joyful, peaceful and contented coherence of overall world being.
The move will engender reverence and support extending to other people and encourages the establishment of mutual support, philanthropic activity to appreciate diversity. It will facilitate impeding concept distortion and misinterpretation of spirituality and religious concepts by beliefs, attitudes and behavioral activities eradicating hopelessness, oppression and discrimination in the society and in the world.
It is advisable that doctors should have different knowledge on how different religion viewed treatment. Such an information is crucial to the doctor as he or she will be in a position make the right judgment which does not conflict the patient belief system.
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