Understanding the role of culture in the health-related behaviors of older Asian Indian immigrants
Thaker, Swathi Nath
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The purpose of this study was to understand how cultural values influence health-related behaviors among older Asian Indian immigrants in the United States. To achieve this purpose, the following questions guided this research: 1) How do older Asian Indian immigrants learn about health-related issues? 2) In what ways do culture and heritage affect older Asian Indian immigrants’ health behaviors? and 3) How do older Asian Indian immigrants mediate between Western and Eastern healthcare approaches? A qualitative research approach was employed. In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven participants to obtain data on how cultural values shape the health-related behaviors of older Asian Indian immigrants. A purposeful sampling was conducted to find suitable participants. All participants were at least 60 years of age and had moved to the U.S. as adults. Neither they nor any immediate family member was involved in healthcare professions. Eight men and three women representing various regions of India were interviewed using in-depth interviews with open-ended questions. Analysis revealed five key resources the participants used to learn about health. These included their healthcare professional, immediate family, the Indian community, media, and the Internet. An analysis of the findings also addressed three cultural values that influenced these immigrants’ health behaviors. First, the participants worked to establish a personal relationship with their healthcare professional. Second, there was a high level of family involvement not only during the treatment process, but also in the everyday maintenance of health. And third, these immigrants value alternative medicine, making it a viable option when these individuals are faced with an illness. Finally, analysis of the last set of findings highlighted the participants’ decision making process when they are considering medical treatment. Data indicated that these immigrants experiment with both Western and Eastern medicine and their belief in traditional systems of healing cause them to be skeptical of certain Western medical practices. Based on the findings the following conclusions were drawn from the study: Indian culture and heritage shape healthcare behaviors of older Asian Indian immigrants and informal learning is the primary way these immigrants learn about health.