South Asians living in the USA are more reluctant to seek medication for pain

South Asians living in the USA are more reluctant to seek medication for pain

South Asians living in the USA are more reluctant to seek medication for pain

Source: School of Medicine, University of Missouri Health System

Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that healthcare providers perceive South Asians living in the US to be 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. Researchers say this finding provides an opportunity for healthcare professionals to deliver better culturally responsive care to South Asian patients and their families.

“In future years, healthcare workers in the US 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 healthcare 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 healthcare professionals who had experience providing care to seriously ill South Asian patients and their families. Healthcare providers told Khosla and Washington that they perceived South Asian patients to have minimalistic attitudes toward medication in general. Further, South Asians may have prior experiences having limited access 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 typically ask patients to rank their pain from one to 10. Those pain scales are not used in South Asia, and people from that region may not be accustomed to discussing pain in that way. In addition, Khosla said participants in the study revealed it is not uncommon 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.

Washington said many South Asian patients and families in this country spent a considerable amount of time living in South Asia, and their experiences with medicines there influence their attitudes about medicine here.

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 and was funded by the University of Missouri Alumni Association’s Dr. Richard Wallace Faculty Incentive Grants program. Hariharan Regunath, MD, a critical care fellow at the MU School of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, is the third author of the study.

Source: School of Medicine, University of Missouri Health System

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