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"So We Adapt Step by Step": Acculturation experiences affecting diabetes management and perceived health for Chinese American immigrants

  • Chun, Kevin M.
  • Chesla, Catherine A.
  • Kwan, Christine M.L.
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    This study examines how acculturation affects type 2 diabetes management and perceived health for Chinese American immigrants in the U.S. Acculturation experiences or cultural adaptation experiences affecting diabetes management and health were solicited from an informant group of immigrant patients and their spouses (N = 40) during group, couple and individual interviews conducted from 2005 to 2008. A separate respondent group of immigrant patients and their spouses (N = 19) meeting inclusion criteria reviewed and confirmed themes generated by the informant group. Using interpretive phenomenology, three key themes in patients' and spouses' acculturation experiences were identified: a) utilizing health care, b) maintaining family relations and roles, and c) establishing community ties and groundedness in the U.S. Acculturation experiences reflecting these themes were broad in scope and not fully captured by current self-report and proxy acculturation measures. In the current study, shifting family roles and evaluations of diabetes care and physical environment in the U.S. significantly affected diabetes management and health, yet are overlooked in acculturation and health investigations. Furthermore, the salience and impact of specific acculturation experiences respective to diabetes management and perceived health varied across participants due to individual, family, developmental, and environmental factors. In regards to salience, maintaining filial and interdependent family relations in the U.S. was of particular concern for older participants and coping with inadequate health insurance in the U.S. was especially distressing for self-described lower-middle to middle-class participants. In terms of impact, family separation and relocating to ethnically similar neighborhoods in the U.S. differentially affected diabetes management and health due to participants' varied family relations and pre-migration family support levels and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, respectively. Implications for expanding current conceptualizations and measures of acculturation to better comprehend its dynamic and multidimensional properties and complex effects on health are discussed. Additionally, implications for developing culturally-appropriate diabetes management recommendations for Chinese immigrants and their families are outlined.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 72 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 256-264

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:2:p:256-264
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