Letters

Health beliefs among British Bangladeshis

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7155.412a (Published 08 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:412

Whole community must be studied

  1. Jim Hardy, General practitioner
  1. London E2 6LL
  2. The Limehouse Practice, London E14 8HQ
  3. Qualitative Research Unit, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, University College London Medical School, University of London, Whittington Hospital, London N19 5NF

    EDITOR—Greenhalgh et al attempt to combine the techniques of qualitative research with anthropological investigation, but their paper is flawed.1 They draw attention to Bengali views on diabetes in an east London population without giving their reasons for being there. Is this genuine ethnography or is it an exercise in health promotion that has used ethnography to give it credibility?

    Ethnicity may be a source of fascination, but it is insulting to set ourselves up to study it because, as in the case of the Native Americans and the Aboriginals, we become “interested” in a culture only when that culture no longer poses a threat to us. We are not anthropologists, we are doctors in the late 20th century and work in multicultural settings that we find as confusing as those immigrants whom we choose to study.

    As general practitioners we work at the interface between a patient's conception of his or her problem and our own system of beliefs on biomedical health. The two are frequently at odds. On the one hand …

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