Between two worlds: the use of traditional and Western health services by Chinese immigrants

J Community Health. 1999 Dec;24(6):421-37. doi: 10.1023/a:1018742505785.


This study examined the use of traditional and Western health services by Chinese immigrants, as well as the cultural and socioeconomic factors affecting health-seeking behaviors and health service utilization patterns among the study population from the perspectives of consumers and Chinese health care providers. Two instruments were used for data collection. The first, a consumer instrument, was designed for interviews of service recipients; the second, a health provider instrument, was designed to elicit information from traditional and Western providers. A few topics in the former instrument were cross-examined from the perspectives of health care providers. The investigation employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods for data collection. Qualitative ethnographic methods used included: (1) participant-observation, (2) face-to-face interview, and (3) case study. To complement the qualitative data, structured quantitative survey were conducted with all selected informants. A total of 105 informants participated in the study: 75 Chinese consumers and 30 Chinese health professionals. The latter group was composed of Western physicians and traditional practitioners. Results revealed several patterns of health-seeking and service utilization behaviors among the Chinese of Houston and Los Angeles. These included high rates of self-treatment and home remedies (balanced diets and other alternative medicines); medium rates of utilization of integrated Western and traditional health services, including travel to country of origin for care; and low rates of exclusive utilization of Western or traditional Chinese treatments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • China / ethnology
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Data Collection
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Insurance, Health
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Texas