Background: Understanding the sociocultural dimension of a patient's health beliefs is critical to a successful clinical encounter. Malaysia with its multi-ethnic population of Malay, Chinese and Indian still uses many forms of traditional health care in spite of a remarkably modern rural health service.
Objective: The objective of this paper is discuss traditional health care in the context of some of the cultural aspects of health beliefs, perceptions and practices in the different ethnic groups of the author's rural family practices. This helps to promote communication and cooperation between doctors and patients, improves clinical diagnosis and management, avoids cultural blind spots and unnecessary medical testing and leads to better adherence to treatment by patients.
Discussion: Includes traditional practices of ‘hot and cold’, notions of Yin-Yang and Ayurveda, cultural healing, alternative medicine, cultural perception of body structures and cultural practices in the context of women's health. Modern and traditional medical systems are potentially complementary rather than antagonistic. Ethnic and cultural considerations can be integrated further into the modern health delivery system to improve care and health outcomes.