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Health Educ Res. 2003 Apr;18(2):135-44.

Meaning and knowledge of health among older adult immigrants from Russia: a phenomenological study.

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Department of Counseling Psychology, School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-3096, USA.


This qualitative study examined the meaning and knowledge of health among older adult Russians who have immigrated to the US. Prior studies have shown that this group has a high rate of chronic disease and low compliance with preventative health behaviors. However, little is known about the knowledge and beliefs about health among Russian immigrants that may be driving their low participation in health behaviors. The goal of the present study was to use a phenomenological approach to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of health in this population. Twelve older adults were recruited through English language classes, and interviewed in focus groups about their experience with health and health care. Qualitative analysis using the phenomenological approach revealed a number of important health themes: participants (1) define health as the absence of disease, (2) feel distrust toward media information about health, (3) experience alienation from their current health care system, and (4) experience a sense of stress and helplessness in the US because they do not understand the English language or the US health care system. These themes may underlie the immigrants' lack of participation in health practices and in seeking out information about health. Information about the Russian immigrants' knowledge about health behavior is also reported. This study represents a first step toward better understanding the barriers facing older adult Russian immigrants in learning about and practicing health behaviors. The study also draws attention to the ways in which beliefs about health may impact health behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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