Health, medicine, and beliefs: Chinese American elderly in a developing multicultural urban community

Date of Completion

January 1994


Anthropology, Cultural|Gerontology|Health Sciences, Public Health|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




This study reports the results of research on cultural patterns of health-seeking among Chinese "new migration" elderly persons. The research was carried out from May 1992 to July 1993 in King City (pseudonym), a northeastern American urban community.^ Focusing on Chinese American elderly in this rapidly growing multi-cultural community, the patterns of health cultures adaptation, practices and health-seeking in this population are addressed through a mixture of qualitative and quantitative ethnographic techniques.^ Chinese-Americans is the largest subgroup of Asian American population in this community. The Chinese-Americans, as well as its elderly population is a heterogeneous subgroup in King City. The diversity of this population is the result of the variations in immigration patterns, diverse economic adaptations, and differing degrees of acculturation among the subgroups.^ The data from King City present a very complex picture of health beliefs and behaviors. These data remind us of the considerable intra-cultural, intra-community variation within an ethnic minority, despite the outward appearance of homogeneity.^ The uniqueness of this study serves to highlight practical problems in the American health care system. The practical cooping strategies of these Chinese elderly provide an interesting and important example of thorough-going cultural pluralism, or integrated health care. In depth exploration of this population provides some guidelines for development of pluralistic approaches to care of the elderly that might be useful in other populations as well.^ It is to be hoped that health providers, policy-makers, and other people in King City can work to develop a better integration of Chinese and Western medical approach. Improvement of health care services should build on the strengths and advantages, at the same time, the many positive features in the health beliefs and behaviors of the Chinese elderly are an important component for an effective, integrated health care system. ^