Communication and cultural issues in providing reproductive health care to immigrant women: health care providers' experiences in meeting the needs of [corrected] Somali women living in Finland

J Immigr Minor Health. 2012 Apr;14(2):330-43. doi: 10.1007/s10903-011-9465-6.


Communication problems due to language and cultural differences between health care professionals and patients are widely recognized. Finns are described as more silent whereas one concurrent large immigrant group, the Somalis, are described as more open in their communication. The aim of the study was to explore physicians-nurses/midwives' communication when providing reproductive and maternity health care to Somali women in Finland. Four individual and three focus group interviews were carried out with 10 gynecologists/obstetricians and 15 nurses/midwives from five selected clinics. The health care providers considered communication (including linguistic difficulties), cultural traditions, and religious beliefs to be problems when working with Somali women. Male and female physicians were generally more similar in communication style, interpersonal contacts, and cultural awareness than the nurses/midwives who were engaged in more partnership-building with the Somali women in the clinics. Despite the communication and cultural problems, there was a tentative mutual understanding between the Finnish reproductive health care professionals and the Somali women in the clinics.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Cultural Competency
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Finland / ethnology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Midwifery
  • Nurses / psychology
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Religion
  • Reproductive Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Sex Factors
  • Somalia
  • Women's Health