Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New study calls for bilingual and culturally competent medical professionals

There are many reasons why Asian-Americans are the least likely to seek out mental health care services in comparison to others. A recent study from the December 2010 American Journal of Public Health might provide one reason why only 3 percent of AAPIs use it compared to 5.59 percent of African-Americans, 5.94 percent of Caribbean Blacks, 4.44 percent of Mexicans, 5.55 percent of Cubans, and 8.8 percent of the general population.

The study was also done due to other recent research findings on the increasing association between racial discrimination and mental health issues among the AAPI population. Some forms of modern discrimination the study mentioned include the model minority stereotype, hate crime, racial profiling, and discrimination in the workplace.

Previous studies have shown that discrimination is correlated to the low rates at which Asian-Americans seek mental health care resources. The December 2010 study said discrimination can occur because some patients speak another language, speak with an accent, or because cultural bias can be directed toward patients.

The researchers explored this by analyzing data 2,095 Asian-Americans. The figures come from the first national survey on AAPIs called the National Latino and Asian American Study. The sample included 600 Chinese, 508 Filipinos, 520 Vietnamese, and 467 other Asians. The research findings state that discrimination was found with higher informal services, but not with lower use of formal services. Additionally, higher levels of discrimination along with lower English proficiency levels were connected with more use of informal services.

Based on its findings, the study called for more culturally competent and bilingual medical professionals. This could be accomplished through education and collaboration between medical institutions and community resources.

Racial discrimination may be one cause for the reason why AAPIs do not seek mental health resources, but further research must be done on all 50 Asian groups represented in the United States. More ethnographic research is also needed in the communication, psychology, sociology/anthropology fields in order to fully help the increasing amount of Asian-Americans today that might need mental health care.

- Theresa Campagna

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