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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with allergist and immunologist Dr. Sakina Bajowala, we discuss how to provide culturally sensitive care.

MD Newsline:

How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice? Do you believe doing so improves treatment adherence? 

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Dr. Sakina Bajowala:

“Cultural awareness and sensitivity are so vital when treating any chronic disease, and asthma is no exception. Many minority communities are not especially trusting of the medical establishment due to a history of mistreatment and inequity. In addition, medical professionals are unfortunately often quick to dismiss cultural practices or home remedies with which they’re not already familiar.

This dismissiveness makes it very difficult to establish the rapport and trust needed to create an effective, long-term doctor-patient relationship. My experience caring for a diverse set of patients has taught me that it is essential to listen to families and take the time to understand their concerns and needs before jumping into a treatment plan because the same treatment plan is not going to work for every cultural perspective.

So can we incorporate traditional cultural practices into the treatment protocol as long as they’re not harmful? Are we being sensitive to religious dietary restrictions when prescribing medications? Are we taking care not to offend or alienate the family matriarch, for example?

You know, I truly believe that if we approach asthma care as a team effort rather than as a top-down approach, we’re far more likely to engage with these families in a manner that promotes successful disease control long term.”

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Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.