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J Korean Acad Nurs. 2010 Oct;40(5):662-75. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2010.40.5.662.

[The meaning of illness among Korean Americans with chronic hepatitis B].

[Article in Korean]

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  • 1Department of Nursing, Inje University, Busan, Korea.



This ethnography was done to explore the meaning of illness in Korean Americans with chronic hepatitis B.


The participants were 6 patients with chronic hepatitis B and 6 general informants who could provide relevant data. Data were collected from iterative fieldwork with ethnographic interviews within Korean communities in two cities in the United States. Data were analyzed using causal chain analysis developed by Wolcott.


The analyses revealed three meanings for the illness: hidden disease, intentionally hidden disease, and inevitably hidden disease. The contexts of meaning of illness included characteristics of the illness, social stigma, structure of health care system and communication patterns and discourse between health care providers and clients.


The meaning of illness was based on folk illness concepts and constructed in the sociocultural context. Folk etiology, pathology and interpretation of one's symptoms were factors influencing illness behavior. These findings could be a cornerstone for culture specific care for Korean Americans with chronic hepatitis B.

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