Lost in translation: reproductive health care experiences of Somali Bantu women in Hartford, Connecticut

Khadija Gurnah, Kaveh Khoshnood, Elizabeth Bradley, Christina Yuan
Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health 2011, 56 (4): 340-346

INTRODUCTION: Reproductive health problems are the leading cause of women's morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the United States, officially sponsored refugee women continue to face challenges in accessing reproductive health programs despite having access to health insurance.

METHODS: The objective of this study was to explore the reproductive health experiences of 1 such population--Somali Bantu women in Connecticut--to identify potential barriers to care experienced by marginalized populations. The study was qualitative, consisting of key informant interviews, a focus group session, and a semistructured survey.

RESULTS: Although all the women in the study reported having access to reproductive health care services, they also reported having unmet health needs resulting from barriers to care that included ethnic distinction/language barriers, passive acceptance of incorrect care, cultural discordance in family planning services, patient-provider sex discordance, and desire but limited scope for ownership in health care outcomes. The root cause of the various types of patient-provider discordance was the lack of recognition that the Somali Bantu are distinct in culture, language, and solidarity from ethnic Somalis, resulting in Language Line translation services being conducted in a Somali language that the Somali Bantu women did not understand.

DISCUSSION: The results of the study primarily highlight the larger issue of information asymmetry within the health care system that, if left unaddressed, will persist as new vulnerable populations of refugees arrive in the United States.

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