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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perception of health : a phenomenological study of the meaning of health to Indo-Canadians Thompson, Robyn D.


This study was designed to investigate the meaning of health to Indo-Canadians. Given the increasingly multicultural nature of Canadian society and the nursing profession's growing recognition of the importance of cross-cultural knowledge, this area of investigation is both timely and relevant. The explanatory model of Arthur Kleinman (1978a,b, 1980, 1984) was the framework which guided the researcher to adopt the phenomenological method to conduct this qualitative study. The phenomenological method is highly suitable for enquiry into the perception and explanation of the health phenomenon. A pilot study conducted prior to the actual research assisted the formulation of suitable questions to elicit in-depth description of the health phenomenon from individuals of this cultural group. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants contacted through an informal network of colleagues and acquaintances. Theoretical sampling techniques determined the final sample size. Participants were first generation Indo-Canadians of the Hindu faith between the ages of 28 and 56, who had resided in Canada for 6 1/2 to 21 years at the time of the study. Most participants were in their mid-40's and had lived in Canada for about 12 years. Data collected from a total of 15 interviews with the 8 participants were analyzed according to the technique of constant comparative analysis. Common themes and catagories arising from the data formed a final analytic framework which organized the presentation of research data, and represented the essential meaning of health for the Indo-Canadians who participated in this study. Although the researcher's original intent was to investigate the influence which culture exerts on perception of health, socio-economic circumstance and educational background were important factors in the construction of participant's health accounts. Definition of health emerged as a construct which is structured by culture, and intimately related to social milieu. Participants described health as a multidimensional, holistic phenomenon where the body and mind are inseparable. Health was conceptualized primarily as "doing normal activities". The mind was described as the most important factor influencing health. The findings of this study have important implications for the nursing profession. In terms of nursing practice, the findings support increasing use of cross-cultural theory to guide nursing practice. For culturally relevant nursing care to become a reality, it is crucial that nurses recognize health as a construct defined differently within different socio-cu1tural contexts. This research supports current moves to incorporate cross-cultural theory into undergraduate and graduate nursing curricula. Finally, in terms of nursing research, the findings of this study advocate on-going investigation of the explanatory models of health and sickness held by the Indo-Canadian community and other cultural groups making up the Canadian mosaic.

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