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Ethnicity, health and medical care: towards a critical realist analysis of general practice in the Korean community in Sydney

Ethnicity, health and medical care: towards a critical realist analysis of general practice in the Korean community in Sydney

Ethnicity and Health 11(4): 409-430

This paper investigates the use and provision of biomedicine among Korean-Australian men on the basis of interview data from all of the eight Korean-speaking doctors practising in the Korean community in Sydney in 1995. From the viewpoint of these general practitioners, an analysis is made of the processes Korean men go through in adjusting to a new country, being involved in constant hard manual work and long working hours, and explores how they make use of all available resources to stay healthy. The Korean men have fully utilized the 'freely' available medical services under government-subsidized Medicare, bearing in mind that health is a capacity to work under the current environment, although illegal migrants restrained themselves from using it until they obtained legal status. Korean-speaking medical practitioners have been able to provide their fellow Koreans with 'culturally appropriate' health care, with the key factor being the absence of a language barrier. The level of patient satisfaction is high, possibly due to the excellent understanding the doctors have of the social aspects of illnesses, although the doctors do not go beyond curative medicine in their practice. However, the increasing number of Korean-speaking doctors in the small Korean community means that there is competition for patients. Consequently, the medical care is highly entrepreneurial. Referral by Korean doctors to practitioners of Korean herbal medicine is also a notable feature of the health care sector of the Korean community, especially as this offers Korean patients 'satisfactory' health relief for problems that are not easily relieved by doctors in the biomedical system.

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Accession: 012786746

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PMID: 17060035

DOI: 10.1080/13557850600824054

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