Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 330–343 | Cite as

Communication and Cultural Issues in Providing Reproductive Health Care to Immigrant Women: Health Care Providers’ Experiences in Meeting Somali Women Living in Finland

  • Filio Degni
  • Sakari Suominen
  • Birgitta Essén
  • Walid El Ansari
  • Katri Vehviläinen-Julkunen
Original Paper


Communication problems due to language and cultural differences between health care professionals and patients are widely recognized. Finns are described as more silent whereas one concurrent large immigrant group, the Somalis, are described as more open in their communication. The aim of the study was to explore physicians-nurses/midwives’ communication when providing reproductive and maternity health care to Somali women in Finland. Four individual and three focus group interviews were carried out with 10 gynecologists/obstetricians and 15 nurses/midwives from five selected clinics. The health care providers considered communication (including linguistic difficulties), cultural traditions, and religious beliefs to be problems when working with Somali women. Male and female physicians were generally more similar in communication style, interpersonal contacts, and cultural awareness than the nurses/midwives who were engaged in more partnership-building with the Somali women in the clinics. Despite the communication and cultural problems, there was a tentative mutual understanding between the Finnish reproductive health care professionals and the Somali women in the clinics.


Communication Culture Reproductive health Immigrant Somali women Finland 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Filio Degni
    • 1
  • Sakari Suominen
    • 1
  • Birgitta Essén
    • 2
  • Walid El Ansari
    • 3
  • Katri Vehviläinen-Julkunen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Public HealthUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Women’s and Children’s health, International Maternal and Child HealthUniversity UppsalaUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Faculty of Sport, Health and Social CareUniversity of Gloucestershire, Oxstalls CampusGloucesterUK
  4. 4.Department of Nursing SciencesUniversity of KuopioKuopioFinland

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