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Sociol Health Illn. 2007 May;29(4):515-35.

Afghan refugees and their general practitioners in The Netherlands: to trust or not to trust?

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  • 1Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In-depth interviews with Afghan refugees living in The Netherlands about their experience of healthcare, have led to a series of narratives. This article focuses on the relationship between the refugee-patients and their general practitioners (GPs) from the participants' point of view. It was possible to distinguish four different types of narrative, by analysing the individual interviews into critical episodes. Building trust was identified as the crucial issue. A number of possible explanations are given for the differences found. Links are made to participant expectations in respect of health and healthcare and to their personal and social resources. The GP has a key role in the Dutch healthcare system, but is a novel phenomenon for refugees arriving from Afghanistan. The development of a relationship of trust is sometimes compromised by negative personal experience and also by stories relating such experiences circulating in the Afghan community. The elements that constituted positive and negative episodes and led to the development or undermining of trust were identified in the narratives. Negative experience tended to be interpreted as a sign of prejudice on the part of the healthcare professional. The findings of this study are discussed in the wider context of research into patient priorities in general practice.

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