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J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2012 Sep;27(3):291-304. doi: 10.1007/s10823-012-9168-z.

Exploring discrimination in american health care system: perceptions/experiences of older Iranian immigrants.

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Hartford Foundation Geriatric Scholar, School of Social Work, University of Alabama, 220 Little Hall, Box 870314, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0314, USA.


The United States population is older and more diverse than ever before. Older Immigrant and minorities have been found to suffer from health care disparities. The National Institute of Health (2002) has identified discrimination as one of the factors that contributes to health disparities among immigrants and minority populations. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore older Iranian immigrants' perceptions/experiences of discrimination in their encounter with the American health care system. In depth interviews were conducted with 15 Iranians who had immigrated to the United States after the age of 50. The following major themes emerged from the study: 1) "American doctors don't discriminate", 2) class discrimination in American and Iranian health care system and 3) treating the illness and not the whole person. In general the participants reported that they did not perceive/experience discrimination in their encounter with the American health care system. In fact majority of the participants reported highly positive impressions of American health care providers. Some participants claimed that language barriers may have protected them from recognizing possible discriminations, while others reported that this absence of perceived discrimination may be a function of American provider's perception of a patient as an "illness" and not a whole person.

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