Family support and cardiac rehabilitation: a comparative study of the experiences of South Asian and White-European patients and their carer's living in the United Kingdom

Felicity Astin, Karl Atkin, Aliya Darr
European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2008, 7 (1): 43-51

BACKGROUND: Effective lifestyle modification facilitated by cardiac rehabilitation is known to reduce the occurrence of adverse coronary events and mortality. South Asians have poorer outcomes after a myocardial infarction than the general UK population, but little is known about their experiences of family support, cardiac rehabilitation and lifestyle change.

AIMS: To explore the nature of family support available to a sample of South Asian and White-European cardiac patients and to highlight similarities and differences between these groups with regard to cardiac rehabilitation and lifestyle modification.

METHODS: Using a qualitative approach, semi-structured interviews (in 1 of 6 languages) were conducted by researchers with; 45 South Asian patients and 37 carers and 20 White-European patients and 17 carers. Interviews were conducted in a home setting, up to eighteen months after discharge from hospital following myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass surgery or unstable angina.

RESULTS: The main themes that emerged related to the provision of advice and information, family support and burden, dietary change and exercise regimes.

CONCLUSIONS: Several cultural and ethnic differences were identified between patients and their families alongside similarities, irrespective of ethnicity. These may represent generic characteristics of recovery after a cardiac event. Health professionals should develop a cultural repertoire to engage with diversity and difference. Not every difficulty a person encounters as they try to access appropriate service delivery can be attributed to ethnic background. By improving services generally, support for South Asian populations can be improved. The challenge is to know when ethnicity makes a difference and mediates a person's relationship with service support and when it does not.

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