Anthropological expertise facilitates multicultural women's health care

Collaboration between medical and anthropological expertise can solve complex clinical problems in today's multicultural women's healthcare, shows Pauline Binder, a medical anthropologist, who will present her thesis on 1 December at the Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Pauline Binder has applied in-depth medical anthropological research approaches to understand clinical problems in ways not possible using only statistics. Why pregnant Somali women have an increased risk of complications even after migration has been the starting point for her . She has elaborated why misunderstandings in the encounter might occur, which could lead to Somali women declining important , such as emergency .

"Maternity caregivers appear to perceive this decision-making as a culture-bound phenomenon and not as something that can directly affect women's health. Culture is seen as a , and therefore does not encourage the development of treatment programs even if declining treatment can be harmful to both mother and baby," says Binder, medical anthropologist, and PhD candidate at the Department of Women and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine.

Her studies show that the Somali women's fears appear to stem from previous experiences from their country of origin, where cesarean section is associated with life-threatening complications. is a reality for many of in European countries, which can encourage a rational, and yet different by western standards, of preventive risk.

Clinicians may use a language interpreter without recognition of women's private socio-cultural experiences, which can inhibit open dialog during the care encounter. They may also presume that Somali women only wish to meet female staff. The resulting misconceptions can lead to frustration among caregivers, and ultimately to a lack of trust and communication during the mutual care encounter. To avoid misunderstandings of this type – given the increased emphasis for clinicians to spend more time with clients during the medical consultation – it is essential to promote a consultation arena with two experts in the room: the woman and the doctor/midwife.

"My studies show that Somali women have as a first priority a need for competent and safe care, just as the majority of all pregnant women. Optimal interpreter use is a key ingredient," she says.

Binder also shows that Somali parents' childbearing roles have changed after migration. Interviews with Somali fathers indicate a welcomed engagement during their wives' pregnancy health checkups and supportive care – in a way that was unthinkable in Somalia. Childbearing decision-making is now shared, including the mutual decision to abandon traditions such as circumcision of daughters. This example suggests that deeply -rooted traditions can change after migration.

The thesis shows that the influence of cultural traditions and social norms, both among maternity caregivers and care-seeking , on complex clinical problems can be better understood thanks to collaboration between medical and anthropological expertise. The work was conducted in collaboration with Associate Professor Birgitta Essén, Uppsala University, and Professor Sara Johnsdotter, Malmö University.

More information: Binder P. The Maternal Effect Migration: Exploring maternal healthcare in Diaspora using qualitative proxies for medical anthropology. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012. uu.diva-portal.org/smash/recor… jsf?pid=diva2:561154

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reduced baby risk from another cesarean

Mar 13, 2012

A major study led by the University of Adelaide has found that women who have had one prior cesarean can lower the risk of death and serious complications for their next baby - and themselves - by electing to have another ...

Recommended for you

Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—There has been a recent increase in the rate of testosterone testing, with more testing seen in men with comorbidities associated with hypogonadism, according to research published online Nov. ...

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.