The Culture of Health: Asian Communities in the United States

The Culture of Health: Asian Communities in the United States

The Culture of Health: Asian Communities in the United States

The Culture of Health: Asian Communities in the United States


This book examines a range of current health care issues affecting Asian Americans and explores ways to improve the quality of their health care. The author covers a variety of topics, including sociocultural approaches to health, illness, and health care; clients' experiences in accessing health care services; the important role of alternative practices in primary health care; and limitations on the professional development and practice of Asian health care providers. The book concludes with a look at challenges, implications, and research directions for Asian American health care improvements in the 21st century.

Health and illness always have multiple cultural and social dimensions that affect medical practices. Because we face rapidly evolving health care choices, it is important to understand the influence of sociocultural factors on health, illness, and health care.

The author emphasizes the cultural and socioeconomic factors that are shaping health-seeking behaviors of Asian Americans and the interrelationships among health service providers within the Asian American community. The book criticizes U.S. health care policy for discouraging the immigration of foreign medical-school graduates and limiting the number of language-competent physicians who have dual training in Western and traditional healing techniques. The book provides insights into the important role of traditional medicine in primary health care and also offers a critical analysis of managed care and its implications for Asian American health care in the 21st century.


In my hometown of Philadelphia, Chinatown is located three blocks and an easy five-minute walk from the front door of a major teaching hospital. As the closest hospital to Chinatown, it could be a model for welcoming Chinese to its facility. But there are no signs in Chinese at the front door. Recruitment of language-competent health professionals is not a requirement. Nor does the hospital organize outreach programs or have working relationships with the few physicians in Chinatown. a former emergency room director at this hospital commented to me once, “If someone from Chinatown comes into our emergency room, we pay a lot of attention because we know they must be sick.” When I asked further, he explained, “They basically wait until they are really sick before they are willing to come in.” These tragic statements only magnify the price we pay for not understanding each other. For the residents of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, three blocks might as well be miles away.

This cultural gap is the subject of this important book by Dr. Grace Ma. She offers us insight on the importance of understanding health beliefs in the Asian American community, which have a direct impact on caring for the fastest growing minority in America. To understand this she reviews the recent research on health beliefs in the Asian community and examines the historical roots of Asian immigration to America. While many view Asians in America as representative of one common culture, they are, in fact, many different cultures and languages.

Dr. Ma has done her own in-depth study of the Chinese American population in Houston, Texas. She offers lessons learned in providing health to the Chinese population in that city. in reading her book, I found several interesting revelations, including the isolation of many Chinese, who have become dependent on family members because of their own restricted language . . .

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