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Examining the health-seeking patterns of immigrant South Asian women : family members’ influence Grewal, Sukhdev Kaur

Abstract

Immigrant South Asian women living in Canada are not only at increased risk for health problems and experiencing unnecessary illnesses, they also face barriers to culturally appropriate and safe health care. There is a paucity of research exploring the health beliefs, practices and health-seeking behaviours of this vulnerable immigrant population residing in Canada. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of family members on immigrant South Asian women's decision making related to their health concerns and their health-seeking behaviours. This study also sought to identify suitable strategies to facilitate their access to culturally appropriate and safe health care. This qualitative study was part of a larger study that examined the health-seeking practices of South Asian women living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Using ethnographic methods, data was collected through face-to-face individual interviews with immigrant South Asian women. The sample included women of a variety of ages and religious backgrounds. Their years of residence in Canada ranged from 10 months to 31 years. Interviews were conducted in the language of the women's choice, and included Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Kutchi and English. Analysis of the translated and transcribed data revealed that the women did not make health decisions in isolation but in consultation with other family members. Overall, family members were perceived to be supportive in assisting women with their decisions regarding health issues. Family members provided both indirect and direct assistance and often responded positively to women's needs. The women were expected to fulfill their traditional roles and responsibilities as wives, mothers, caregivers, housekeepers, dutiful daughters, and daughters-in-law. These roles and responsibilities often affected the decisions they made with regards to their health. This way of living was shown in this study to be both positive and negative for the women in terms of their health. The findings from this study suggest implications for nursing practice, education, administration, and research. Health care providers should ensure that there are adequate resources available and that there is a provision of culturally sensitive, appropriate, and safe care for this special group of women. Health care providers should be equipped to provide care to South Asian women taking into account the women's relationships with their family and that the women are not alone in making health care decisions. Crosscultural courses should be integrated into nursing education. Future research needs to focus on replication of this study with a second-generation population. In addition, research is needed to examine the effect of arranged marriages on women's health.

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