U.S. South Asians more reluctant to seek medication for pain

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U.S. South Asians more reluctant to seek medication for pain

According to previous studies, Asians are the most unsatisfied individuals regarding the health care they received in the U.S when compared with the other ethnicities and this dissatisfaction partly is caused by health practices in the U.S. clashing with the practices Asian patients and families may be more used to experiencing overseas. Recently, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that health care providers in U.S. are more reluctant than other ethnicities to report pain as well as seek medications to treat the pain they experience near the end of their lives and this finding deliver better culturally responsive care to South Asian patients and their families.

"In future years, health care workers in the U.S. will provide care to an increasingly diverse group of patients that will include growing numbers of South Asians,” said Karla Washington, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the MU School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “It is important to understand the cultural differences in medical practice in South Asia, such as their low use of pain medication, so that health care providers here can better understand the factors that influence their patients’ attitudes toward pain medicines.”

Washington and her colleague Nidhi Khosla, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences at the MU School of Health Professions and lead author of the study, conducted focus groups and individual interviews with health care professionals with experienced health care professionals providing care to seriously ill South Asian patients and their families. They told Khosla and Washington that they perceived patients to have minimalistic attitudes toward medication. Moreover, they already have limited access experiences to pain medication overseas

"Doctors in South Asia do not routinely ask patients about their pain like they do here,” Khosla said. “In South Asian culture, it is common for patients not to report their pain to avoid burdening others or being seen as weak.”

Khosla said in the U.S., health care providers  a common request that patient rank their pain from 1-10 and those scales are not utilized as a part of South Asia, and individuals from that region may not be usual to talk about that pain. In addition, Khosla said members in the study revealed it is not remarkable for patients in South Asia to be given low-dose pain medications such as Tylenol after surgeries like Cesarean sections and gallbladder removals, which is a stark contrast to the narcotic medications typically prescribed here after similar procedures.

“When treating patients from this region, doctors should consider asking about their unique values and preferences,” Washington said. “Chaplains and social workers also can help facilitate communication between patients and doctors about medications and alternative treatment options that could be more aligned with patients’ spiritual and cultural needs.”

Approximately 75% of South Asians living in the U.S., and are culturally similar group with origins in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives. In 2010, the United States Census reported 3.8 million South Asians were living in the U.S., an increase of more than 80 percent since 2000. In The study, “Perspectives of Health Care Providers on U.S. South Asians’ Attitudes Toward Pain Management at End of Life,” recently was published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

University of Missouri Health

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