• Sweden's news in English

Somalis 'shut out' of Sweden's health system

The Local/js · 28 Dec 2011, 13:07

Published: 28 Dec 2011 13:07 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The findings come from a new doctoral dissertation by Kristian Svenberg with the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University.

Svenberg's research, which is based on the experience of Somali refugees in Sweden, found that people from other cultures sometimes find there is an unnecessarily authoritarian approach toward them by Swedish healthcare personnel.

Many Somalians, in particular, feel they are not taken seriously when they seek help for health problems.

“A prerequisite for a functioning health care is that the meeting between patient and doctor is characterized by mutual respect and understanding. If this is not working it could easily result in misunderstanding, incorrect treatment and unnecessary examinations,” Svenberg said in a statement.

As a part of his study, Svenberg also interviewed doctors in training and found they sometimes find it difficult to understand patients from Somalia.

There are often misunderstandings when an interpreter is present and some doctors tell of feeling left out when they cannot communicate directly with their patient.

“When there are problems, some doctors choose to approach the patient with curiosity and try to explore the patient's background in order to create trust and understanding. But other doctors adopt an old-school authoritarian approach to control the situation," said Svenberg.

Svenberg thinks there is a lack of research into refugees' health and their experience with the Swedish medical system and hopes his research will help improve the treatment of people from different cultures

“It would bring human, financial and medical benefits,” he said.

Between the 2000 and 2010, around 25,500 Somalis applied for asylum in Sweden, according to figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) and the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

During the same time period, around 14,000 Somalis took Swedish citizenship.

Story continues below…

As of 2010, there were approximately 30,800 Somali citizens in Sweden.

Svenberg's dissertation, entitled "The meeting between the patient and the doctor: experiences among Somali refugees and medical trainees" was defended on December 16th.

Related links:

The Local/js (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

14:51 December 28, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
And the Somalis compare Swedish healthcare to... what? Other European healthcare systems? Doubt it. Maybe the "authoritarian approach" they find in healthcare is what national healthcare systems Europe wide are like? Hard to take views that are said by someone who is from a country living in the 3rd century and apply it to a developed economy. Maybe this strict style of healthcare is because doctors do not just give out medicine, also we have a referral system, etc. This is not just the way helathcare works but all forms of government... they had best get used to it.
14:53 December 28, 2011 by Svensksmith
As usual, you get what you pay for.
15:00 December 28, 2011 by jvtx3232
Here's an idea: go back to Somalia!
15:14 December 28, 2011 by jostein
Funny, in somalia the same people would shamelessly be referred to as swedes by the local. In sweden they are somalis. Why is swedish press so pathetic?
15:32 December 28, 2011 by Brtahan
Its a case of miscommunication and that in fact that they dont speak swedish that well, and with a pinch of doctors and health personals think who the heck is this stupied uneducated person have to say ,we are the educated people we know what we are talking about so thats the idea in their heads most of them, so they case thier problems as mental and not physical teq abdonimal pain they will say its in your head you dont have any problem etc. Its not just about somalis or other nationalities even poor swedes are treated the same way , and doctors start interfering in personal life like if you have back pain they will say dont smoke , start training etc . The title should be poor paitents shut out of swedens health system.
15:33 December 28, 2011 by Frobobbles
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:03 December 28, 2011 by seborga82
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:22 December 28, 2011 by krattan
Anyone working in any form of customer service would be able to tell you that it is harder to give the same service to people not speaking the language as well as you do and have different forms of expressions. I'm sure this doesn't just apply to Somalis but also other immigrants and even Swedes from different social backgrounds.
16:38 December 28, 2011 by jvtx3232
"Funny, in somalia the same people would shamelessly be referred to as swedes by the local. In sweden they are somalis."

Swedes are people who if you performed the kind of sophisticated DNA tests that we have at our disposal today on them, they would show significant markers for being in and around what's today known as Sweden as long as 10,000 years ago.
16:55 December 28, 2011 by canuk
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:58 December 28, 2011 by Grokh
Honestly shouldn't Sweden be more worried about how doctors misdiagnose and people end up dying or without a breast.

or even when people are refused ambulance.(all of which happen often in sweden)

Its not just somalis that are mistreated by doctors its all of sweden.

so they should pay attention to that and not make this a culture issue -_-x
17:38 December 28, 2011 by jostein
16:38 December 28, 2011 by jvtx3232

Possibly. There was a switch to an indoeuropean language some 1500 BC-1000 BC (3.5 TYA) This might have meant switching population as well, it is hard to tell. A switch from huntergatherers to agriculturalists is always a candidate for populationreplacement since agriculture allows for much much higher population densities.

Some say that germanic languages maintain an unusually large portion of non indo european words when compared to other indo european languages such as greek or latin. Which might suggest that the indo europeans fused with earlier peoples in germanic areas and exterminated them in others. Or it might not.

18:32 December 28, 2011 by occassional
Oh yeah? Been chewing khat again have we?
20:20 December 28, 2011 by godnatt
They should all be treated to a one way cruise back to enjoy the fruits of the Somali health care system which consists of eating khat and the application of cuturally respectful leeches.
02:02 December 29, 2011 by Kaethar
I can definitely understand why. Doctors aren't social workers and they're not trained to "get to know" their patients at a (non-medical) intimate level. It's very common when met with language and cultural barriers to simply resort to authoritarian methods to get the job done. Hardly unique to dealing with Somali's though but rather everyone who speaks poor Swedish.

As for a solution to this it's really not that simple. There are no medical systems in the world I'm aware of that handle this issue well. I'm currently doing some light reading on US hospitals and the issues they face with linguistic and cultural minorities. But this dissertation will no doubt help in the long run so there's nothing wrong with doing it. Svenberg just needs to be aware that there's no easy solution to the problem.
07:17 December 29, 2011 by Tengo

That is terrible what you say. These people have experienced a lot of difficulties and they still do, you advocate that they be ignored, with that kind of attitude no wonder we let nazis kill so many Jews in Europe, it is because we never cared, we let it happened
09:03 December 29, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
Not ignored at all... all deserve medical care but just need to consider the nature of the complaints against the medical community. Just as I would not ask a blind person to describe a sunrise, a deaf person to walk me through Mozart's Queen of the Night Aria, I would not ask a Somali to rate our medical system as they have nothing else to compare it to. If we want to rate our healthcare we best benchmark it against other European systems, not ask Somali immigrants how they feel about it.
09:46 December 29, 2011 by Rey Stockholm
The true problem with the entire system lies with the type of liberal swede who wrote the report - not the somalis.themselves, Thye are taking advantage of a ludicrously soft swedish system .

It is this type of swede who lets people into the country with no need to learn the language, no need to work and get benefits thrown at them.

And surprise surprise the somalis do not integrate and can not communcate with their doctor

Its the left wing / liberal swedes at the root of the problem
09:50 December 29, 2011 by tgolan
Somalias are always complaining, in Somalia they lived with out modern conveniences and healthcare but in the west they want luxary treatment for free. If its all so bad here then Here's an idea: go back to Somalia!
10:00 December 29, 2011 by johan rebel
If you come from a culture where medical treatment either consists of visiting the witch doctor and being prescribed powdered vulture talons or bushbaby eyes; or going to a western practitioner and getting stufffed full of antibiotics and other colorful pills, in both instances regardles of what ails you; then Swedish medical care might not quite meet with your expectations. It is these expectations that are mainly the problem, not the care provided.

Doctors who treat black patients in Africa tell me that they routinely prescribe unnecessary medication because this is what is demanded of them. No cure without pills, preferably lots of them. This is a problem even in the western world, were many people demand treatment for the most trivial ailments (yep, these are the idiots that keep genuine patients waiting for six hours at Sweden's wonderful akutmottagningar), but it seems to be ingrained in African culture. Hard to change, but if you want to live in Sweden (which nobdy is forced to do), it is a good idea to change your attitude and expectations. And if you stop mutilating the genitals of your young girls, they might not even need medical care that often.
10:25 December 29, 2011 by laymanscc
Is it me or the majority of people commenting here has completely missed the point of the article. Probably because of your condescending view of Somalia and Africa. They way I read it, the article says that the way Somalias are treated by medical personnel has led the majority of them to feel that they are better of looking for alternatives. The article says little about the medical system as such. But, hey it seems majority of you guys think that how dare Africans complain about being misunderstood or mistreated by our medical. However, serious the misunderstanding and however mean the treatment they should just suck it up, right?? So condescending!!!!

10:30 December 29, 2011 by cogito
Yesterday, a commentator asked if Somali dissatisfaction could be partly based on the refusal of (some) Swedish doctors to perform ritual genital mutilation on young girls.

The comment has been removed.

Why would a Local Moderator censor mention of this widely practiced ritual? The only reason I think of is….approval? Shame on TL.
10:48 December 29, 2011 by Rey Stockholm
I would like to see the moderators explain why they have removed articles

Perhaps based on cogitos comments we will get a response ?.
11:10 December 29, 2011 by Tengo
@ bourgeoisieboheme and all others that look at this negatively...

I just dont understand why we have democracy in this country if we encourage totalirian thoughts?

Jews were systematically opressed and killed by the Nazi regime because of people who stod by and watched others love, jews where put in ghettos, nade to suffer because of people with negativity and incapable of understanding others problems, and now we want to shut up to frustration felt by an ethnic group that sees others get listened too and not them...in this case we even think that africa n american and civil rights leaders deserved to be treated the way they did, or catholics when they first came to america, or the gypsies in Rumania or all the other places in the world where you here cries of injustice..none of those have to complain or look for explanation...we justify the way the way the elderly were treated in Carema and elederly care in sweden...my friends you are opening a can of worm. Negativity and closing your eyes to the problems that exist in health care and in other instances in our society
17:45 December 29, 2011 by DeadPrez
most people here seem to misunderstand how laws work in a democracy. Somalis in sweden are ethnically Somali but Swedish by nationality. it does not matter if their ancestors didnt lived in sweden or if they r not blue eyed blondes, they are swedish by nationality. So to say Somalis have no right to complain about healthcare is to imply that Swedes should not have the same rights.

Another thing, with most of the members of this site being foreigners, I think u should ease up on the "go back to ur country" comment especially if ur here on a visa :)
22:32 December 29, 2011 by nathan45
During the same time period, around 14,000 Somalis took Swedish citizenship.

As of 2010, there were approximately 30,800 Somali citizens in Sweden.

You guys in Sweden must be crazy if you think thats good for your country.
00:14 December 30, 2011 by Tengo
@ Nathan45 Around "50,000 to 100,000 Irishmen, majority of them Catholic, came to America in the 1600s, and around 100,000 Irish Catholics arrived in the 1700s. During the Swedish emigration to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, about 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden for the United States. Then Norwegians, portuguese, spaniards, Germans, Italians, Greeks etc etc has anyone question them? I don't know where you come from it is that kind of attitude people have that never helps bring people together, and why shouldn't Somalis become Swedish citizens? why would you denied them these basics rights? Have you forgotten how Jews were denied their basics rights by Nazis? Why?...
04:58 December 30, 2011 by Marc the Texan
The US is a modern state, built in part upon the arrival of immigrants. Sweden is a modern state, built upon the Swedish nation and culture that existed before the rise of a modern state. Why Sweden insists on importing such a high proportion of Somalis whose culture is inherently in conflict with Swedish culture, I'll never know. I suppose it has something to do with putting extremes of ethnic and cultural diversity at the top of Sweden's CV. Thereby meeting the vanities of some political agenda. I think the confounding factors of culture relegate this study to being a waste of money seeking to support a particular political agenda.
07:04 December 30, 2011 by Tengo
@ Marc the Texan For you information it has nothing to do with modernism or the importation of labour. These are a people that have been displaced because of War, which in fact one can blame the united states for and other western nations. The deliberate destabilisation the whole region for many years is because of the oil reserves and Somaliland strategic position and it's 3300 km coastline, Like the way the USA has gone in Irak, In Afghanistan, in Vietnam, in Congo/Zaire there is nothing that you the USA has brought except death and destruction, to to that what the USA has done to the indigenous population of America, to top that supporting totalitarian regimes, dictators to suit the interests of the United States. Different cultures can exist together but it is thoughts like yours that poison and destroys the human family. Somalis are different and so are the American Indians, the Vietnamese, the Jews in Europe, the blacks that were brought to the America as slaves and those that existed a prior, but do you know what has caused hate and mayhem towards these people? It is that kind of thinking, the we are better than them attitude, the alienation attitude and bureaucracy. These are refugees /asylum seekers...
17:18 December 30, 2011 by heyheyhey
I am quite sick to death of the complaining that Somali people are so adept at doing. What country has not been inundated by these people?

Of any immigrant population that I have worked with, THIS group has a sense of entitlement like no other group, particularly Somali men.

If you only want to complain, then go back to Somali. Otherwise, be grateful that the world has been helping you.
17:58 December 30, 2011 by Zedman
Oh the poor dears, try being English that way you don't get health care in Sweden, don't get free language courses, help finding work, sod all. All we get is to pay taxes to the swedish government and be told that we cannot stay in the house we own and have to go back to England because we do not have enough money to be welcome in Sweden.
21:36 December 30, 2011 by Migga
It`s nothing wrong with the swedish healtcare or it`s doctors. It`s amongst the best in the world. The problem lies with the patients. Why else don`t we hear anything about this problem with any other group?

The problem is that the somalies can`t make themselves understood. How can you blame the swedish doctors when the somalie patient is saying that he has a headache because he is possesed by a djinn.
03:07 December 31, 2011 by Tengo
Don't complain about Somalis it was you governments that created the inequality, the Italians, french, and Germans when they colonised somaliland. You reap what you sow. don't hear anyone complaining. You created the situation. Somalis haven't had a country for many years, the civil war existing is is funded by different interest groups because of the wealth the country has...yes their is a language problem between doctors and patients and not just with Somalis a lot of other ethnic groups that don't speak english or swedish. Those commenting here about Somalis they don't know a thing about them. This really accentuates lack of knowledge and empathy of some members in this forum, the only thing some could say is that Somalis should leave, and that they are favoured..what hogwash, these are very hard working and enterprising peoples, they just lack opportunity and people willing to employ them. assistance they get is little to the problems they have. Many haven't gone to proper school because of the civil war coming to Sweden they have to start al over and adapt to the swedish normality which is different from theirs. don't judge the book by it's cover.....get to know them first.
11:16 December 31, 2011 by mafketis
Tengo? What the ....? How is Sweden responsible for whatever the Italians, French and Germans did in Somalia?

Somalia is a hellhole because that's what Somali values lead to. Most Somalis do not value anything that Sweden has to offer and what they do value will turn anyplace into another Somalia.

Or can you find any evidence that Somalis value civil society? secular education? non-violent conflict resolution? female autonomy? If so, please give some citations.

Playing the victim card gets real tiresome.
18:54 December 31, 2011 by Chickybee
It might be more helpful for Somalians to seek sanctuary in the Muslim world where they can practise poligamy, sexual segregation, have Sharie Law (i.e. no human rights) female circumcision and a man of 50 + can happily marry a veiled 14 year old girl without an eye being batted.

Fortunately, I prefer to live in the 21st century!
19:36 January 2, 2012 by Tengo
@ Mafketis What is the matter with you? Of course the people of Somalia value civil society, would you say that Northern Island doesn't with it's " violent and bitter ethno-political conflict" (then?), Somalia has gone through a lot and still is bleeding from the raging civil war. The Somalis that are here are running away from all that, if they'd found civil society, secular education, non-violent conflict resolution, non-desirable they wouldn't have come to Sweden. If they are marginalised with this kind of attitude then we have a problem.

http://tinyurl.com/899wsld Somalis are victims and not playing as such..
Today's headlines
Swedish photographer shot near Mosul
Hansen was being operated on in the Iraqi city of Erbil on Sunday. Photo: Nora Lorek/ TT

Paul Hansen, a photographer working for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has sustained light injuries after being hit by what appears to be a sniper while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

Trollhättan remembers school attack victims
'It was an attack on all of Sweden,' Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said. Photo: Thomas Johansson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there.

Sweden wants emission-free cars in EU by 2030
Photo: Jessica Gow/ TT

Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030.

Hundreds protest Swedish asylum laws
Around 1,000 people protested in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers.

Dylan removes Nobel-mention from website
The American musician has more or less responded to the news with silence. Photo: Per Wahlberg

American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website.

Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available