Health care access and preventive care among Vietnamese immigrants: do traditional beliefs and practices pose barriers?

Soc Sci Med. 1996 Oct;43(7):1049-56. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(95)00368-1.


Some have speculated that underutilization of Western health services among non-Western populations can be explained by traditional health beliefs and practices rooted deep within cultures. These beliefs and practices may act as barriers to access to and utilization of services. Among Vietnamese, in particular, a number of traditional health beliefs and practices have been identified which are said to pose barriers to Western medical care. No studies to date, however, have examined this hypothesis empirically. To examine this hypothesis, we measured traditional health beliefs and practices among Vietnamese in the San Francisco Bay area and analyzed the relationships between these factors and access to health care and use of preventive health services. The results of this study show clearly that many Vietnamese possess traditional health beliefs and practices which differ from those of the general U.S. population. Yet, the data do not support the hypothesis that these traditional beliefs and practices act as barriers to access to Western medical care or to utilization of preventive services. Being married and poverty status were the most consistent predictors of health care access. Furthermore, the components of access to health care (having some form of health insurance or having a regular doctor, for example) were the strongest predictors of preventive health care services utilization. Importantly, the cultural attributes of individuals did not explain either lack of health care access or underutilization of preventive health care services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • California
  • Communication Barriers
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • San Francisco
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vietnam / ethnology