Perceptions of oral illness among chinese immigrants in montreal

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Perceptions of Oral Illness Among Chinese Immigrants in Montreal: A Qualitative Study�
Mei Dong, D.D.S., M.Sc.; Christine Loignon, Ph.D.; Alissa Levine, Ph.D.; Christophe Bedos, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Abstract: Providing culturally competent care has been a growing concern for health care professionals in recent years. Being culturally competent means taking into account the culture of patients in orderto provide high-quality services. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to better understand how oral illness was perceived by the largest visible minority group in Canada: Chinese immigrants. We conducted qualitative research based on in-depth interviews with twelve Chinese immigrants in Montreal, Canada. The participants had a high level of education and had lived in Canada for thirteenyears or less. The interviews were transcribed, and thematic analyses were then performed. Among the participants, traditional beliefs coexisted with scientific dental knowledge. On the one hand, the subjects had a fairly good understanding of dental caries in terms of etiology, process, prevention, and treatment. On the other hand, they held strong traditional beliefs concerning gingival swellingand bleeding, which had an influence on their attitudes toward dental care and professional services. Oral health care professionals should be informed about Chinese immigrants’ oral health beliefs and the acculturation process in order to understand their patients better and provide culturally competent care. Dr. Dong is a graduate student, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University; Dr. Loignon isa postdoctoral student, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University; Dr. Levine is a research associate, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University; and Dr. Bedos is Associate Professor, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal. Direct correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Christophe Bedos, Division of Oral Health and Society,Faculty of Dentistry, Strathcona Building (238F), McGill University, 3640 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B2; ��4-3�8-�203, ext. 0�2� phone; ��4-3�8-8242 fax; christophe.bedos� Key words: oral health beliefs, traditional medicine, oral diseases, Chinese immigrants, Canada Submitted for publication 3/19/07; accepted 8/6/07


orth America is a land of immigrants.Since the sixteenth century, successive waves of new arrivals have built an ethnically and culturally diverse society. Currently, immigration fulfills well-recognized economic and demographic needs since the fertility rate of the Canadian-born population has declined for almost half a century.� In Canada, �8 percent of the population is foreignborn, with nearly �80,000 new immigrants arriving everyyear.2 Whereas European nations were the main source of immigrants to Canada for many decades, Asia is now the leading continent of origin. People from China, in particular, have become the largest visible minority group: in 200�, more than a million Chinese immigrants accounted for 3.� percent of the Canadian population.2 This creates a challenge for health care professionals as immigrants’experiences and perspectives on illness may differ from those of the predominant biomedical culture.3 Consequently, it is not surprising that providing culturally competent health care has become a growing concern for health care professionals in North America.4,� Cultural competence signifies sensitivity to the culture of patients in order to provide high-quality services. Culture is a broad

termthat includes people’s health values and beliefs, such as the way they perceive oral health and illness, interpret symptoms, and seek dental care. However, despite the growing size of the Chinese community in Canada, dental professionals and other health care providers know relatively little about the beliefs and care-seeking behavior related to the oral health of individuals in this population....
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