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Medical Management of Asthma and Folk Medicine in a Hispanic Community

Author: Bearison, David J.
Date Published: 2002

This paper describes beliefs about asthma and asthma treatment in a Hispanic (Dominican-American) community to determine how alternative belief systems affect compliance with medical regimens. Twenty-five mothers of children with asthma were interviewed in their homes, in their primary language, Spanish. Mothers were questioned about their beliefs regarding asthma etiology, treatment, prevention of acute episodes, and use of prescribed medications. Most mothers (72%) said that they did not use prescribed medicines for the prevention of asthma; instead, they substituted folk remedies called "zumos". The home remedies were derived from their folk beliefs about health and illness. Most mothers (60%) thought that their child did not have asthma in the absence of an acute episode. Eighty-eight percent said that medications are overused in this country and that physicans hide therapeutic information from them. Mothers' reliance on home remedies for asthma prevention leads to a high rate of noncompliance with prescribed regimens. Yet they perceive themselves as compliant with an effective regimen that differs from standard medical practice. Further studies should explore ways of promoting physician/patient communication in order to find ways of coordinating medical and folk beliefs to enhance compliance with medically prescribed regimens.

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Number of Pages: 8