Making choices between two systems: Premenopausal Korean immigrant women's lived experience of health seeking and healthcare utilization in the United States
Seo, Jin Young
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Significance and Background: Despite the rapid increase of Korean immigrant women in the U.S., due to a relatively short immigration history and a tendency of underutilizing health services, research on healthcare utilization and health seeking behaviors among Korean immigrant women is limited. Purpose: To understand the experiences of premenopausal Korean immigrant women's health seeking and healthcare utilization in the U.S. from their perspective. Methodology: The study was designed and guided by interpretive hermeneutic phenomenology. Twenty premenopausal Korean immigrant women were recruited from the local Korean community in a mid-size Northeastern city in the U.S. Data were collected using individual semi-structured interviews and analyzed using a team approach followed by seven-stage hermeneutical process of interpretation. Findings: Since their initial encounters with the U.S. healthcare system through childbirth and childcare, Korean immigrant women had experienced differences and difficulties between the U.S. and Korean healthcare systems. Despite limited resources, they had tried to maintain their health by seeking health information via local ethnic network and the Internet in Korean language and by relying on self-management based on Korean traditional medicine in the U.S. They also kept their access to the Korean healthcare system and utilized Korean healthcare services whenever they visit Korea, while they are residing in the U.S. They made rational choices by comparing two healthcare systems considering the urgency of their symptoms and their past experiences. Conclusions: Korean immigrant women resided in-between spaces of two healthcare systems including both geographic and cultural space. They carefully calculated usefulness, cost-effectiveness, convenience, familiarity, and accessibility when they made choices between two healthcare systems. Implications for practice: Findings from this study can be applied to clinical practices to aid healthcare providers in better serving Korean immigrant women through culturally competent health practices and to improve quality of care.