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.
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.