Variation in asthma beliefs and practices among mainland Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, Mexicans, and Guatemalans

J Asthma. 2002 Apr;39(2):119-34. doi: 10.1081/jas-120002193.


This study reports on community surveys of 160 representative Latino adults in Hartford, CT, Edinburg, TX, Guadalajara, Mexico; and in rural Guatemala. A 142-item questionnaire covered asthma beliefs and practices (e.g., causes, symptoms, and treatments). The cultural consensus model was used to analyze the agreement among respondents within each sample and to describe beliefs. Beliefs were then compared across the four samples. Analysis of the questionnaire data shows that there was overall consistency or consensus regarding beliefs and practices among individuals at each site (intraculturally) and to a lesser extent across respondents of all four different Latino cultural groups (i.e., interculturally). This pattern of response is indicative of a shared belief system among the four groups with regard to asthma. Within this shared belief system though, there is systematic variation between groups in causes, symptoms, and treatments for asthma. The most widely recognized and shared beliefs concerned causes of asthma. Notable differences were present between samples in terms of differences in beliefs about symptoms and treatments. The biomedical model is shown to be a part of the explanatory model at all sites; in addition to the biomedical model, ethnocultural beliefs such as the humoral ("hot/cold") aspects and the importance of balance are also evident. The Connecticut Puerto Ricans had a greater degree of shared beliefs about asthma than did the other three samples (p < 0.00005). It was concluded that the four Latino groups studied share an overall belief system regarding asthma, including many aspects of the biomedical model of asthma. In addition, traditional Latino ethnomedical beliefs are present, especially concerning the importance of balance in health and illness. Many beliefs and practices are site-specific, and caution should be used when using inclusive terms such as "Hispanic" or "Latino," since there is variation as well as commonality among different ethnic groups with regard to health beliefs and practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Female
  • Guatemala
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
  • Surveys and Questionnaires