South African Family Practice

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Lay Beliefs And Responses Concerning HypertensionAnd Its Management In Two CulturallyDistinct Groups

SWP Mhlongo


Objective: To determine quantitatively whether there are significant differences in lay beliefs about hypertension and its management between African- Caribbean (A.C.) living in the UK but born in the West Indian Caribbean Islands and white hypertensive patients in the UK.

Design: Self-administered postal (and surgery) questionnaire.

Setting: Two general practices in the Wembley / North London and Dagenham (Essex) areas.

Participants: Male and female patients aged between 35 and 69 years of age registered with the above practices and receiving treatment for hypertension. These were selected from the age/sex/disease registers.

Interventions: None

Main outcome Measures: African-Caribbean vs. White/Caucasian responses to the 16-item questionnaire and determining statistical significance (the P value). This was done to determine whether or not there are significant differences in lay beliefs between the two ethnic groups i.e.A.C. versus white Caucasian.

Results: Out of 525 patients who were sent the 16-item questionnaire, there were 427 responses (238 men, 189 women). This was an 81% response rate. In terms of race, there were 224 white and 203 African-Caribbean respondents. The responses to the questions strongly suggested that there are significant ethnic differences on matters of lay beliefs regarding hypertension and its management. This quantitative study supported the findings and conclusions of a previous (1988) qualitative one by Myfawny Morgan and C.J.Watkins on the same subject.

Conclusions: Lay beliefs appear to be extremely important amongst all cultures and it would appear that these do have an impact on how an individual views his or her medical condition and how the doctors manage it. Intercontinental and international encounters appear to be here with us to stay due to a variety of factors e.g. trade, education, sports and wars. It is therefore of utmost importance that medical practitioners bear this in mind in their encounters with patients. An acceptance of this approach by all doctors and health workers may improve compliance.

Keywords: Hypertension, Ethnicity, Lay beliefs, Compliance, Doctors

SA Fam Prac Vol.25(2) 2002: 16-24

AJOL African Journals Online