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Older Chinese people's views on food : implications for supportive cancer care.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Ethnicity and Health
Issue number5
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)497-514
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Objectives. As people face cancer and the end of life, the social, cultural and therapeutic role of food takes on an increasing significance. As part of a larger study involving older Chinese people resident in the UK, we investigated their beliefs about the influence of food on cancer and its role in supportive cancer care. Design. A two-phase qualitative research study involved older Chinese people identified via Chinese community groups. In phase one, 46 older Chinese people participated in seven focus group discussions. In phase two, semi-structured interviews were conducted in Cantonese or Mandarin with 46 different older Chinese people to elicit their understandings of the role of food in health and illness generally and specifically for those with cancer. Results. The analyses revealed four main themes: (1) food as 'therapeutic'; (2) food as 'risky'; (3) food as supportive and comforting; and (4) beliefs about the lack of culturally appropriate and acceptable food in hospitals. Expectations about the lack of Chinese food and the poor quality and perceived unsuitability of 'western' food were regarded as major concerns in relation to hospital admission. Discussion. Understanding the perceived cultural and therapeutic significance of food and its functions in social exchange is one important aspect of promoting supportive and end-of-life cancer care for minority communities. These views helped explain the diversity and salience of food use in illness for older Chinese people resident in the UK.