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J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2008 Mar;30(3):229-38.

Reproductive health practices among Indian, Indo-Canadian, Canadian East Asian, and Euro-Canadian women: the role of acculturation.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC.



Lower rates of cervical cancer screening in Indian women have been consistently reported, and this has been attributed to cultural barriers. In Canada, the fastest-growing and largest immigrant groups are South Asian and East Asian. Since traditional values are largely retained in Indo-Canadian immigrants and their children, identifying reproductive health behaviours among these ethnic minority groups is important. Our goal was to compare reproductive health knowledge and behaviours of Indian women living in India and in Canada, East Asian women in Canada, and Euro-Canadian women. We also explored the level of acculturation in the two immigrant groups in order to understand the extent to which affiliation with Western culture may improve reproductive health knowledge.


We recruited 663 women of reproductive age from India and from a Canadian university for assessment. These women completed the Health Beliefs Questionnaire, which measures reproductive health behaviours and knowledge, and the Vancouver Index of Acculturation, which measures the level of mainstream and heritage acculturation.


Euro-Canadian women were most likely to have ever had a Papanicolaou (Pap) test and to perform breast self-examination (BSE). There was no difference between the two Indian groups in the proportion who had ever had a Pap test, but Indo-Canadian women were more likely to have performed BSE. All women showed knowledge of reproductive health, but the three Canadian groups consistently had more accurate knowledge than the Indian group. Among the two immigrant groups, the level of acculturation was associated with reproductive health knowledge.


Canadian women show reproductive health behaviours and knowledge that is superior to Indian women. Moving to a western culture did not influence Indian women's Pap testing behaviour; however, the fact that the reproductive health knowledge of Indian women who moved to Canada was better than that of women in India suggests that there may be a knowledge-behaviour desynchrony in this group of women. Efforts targeted at ethnic minority groups that aim to improve reproductive health knowledge and behaviours are greatly needed.

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