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J Immigr Minor Health. 2012 Oct;14(5):841-9. doi: 10.1007/s10903-011-9558-2.

The social meanings of traditional Chinese medicine: elderly Chinese immigrants' health practice in the United States.

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School of Communications, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, USA.


We situate elderly Chinese immigrants' utilization of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in social contexts (e.g., family and social networks), exploring how TCM is used as a tool, a resource, and a product of meaning-construction in their everyday life. We conducted in in-depth interviews with 20 elderly Chinese immigrants in the United State, exploring the complexity of their understanding and practice of TCM. We used grounded theory to identify the set of meanings that are particular to elderly Chinese immigrants' use of TCM as a part of their health practice. For our participants, TCM is not just a resource for illness management. Instead, incorporating TCM in their health practice allows them to: (a) perform and reaffirm their cultural identity as Chinese, (b) maintain their moral status and fulfill their social roles, and (c) pass down health knowledge and cultural heritage. Clinical implications were discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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