International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 1144–1151 | Cite as

Cultural barriers encountered by Norwegian community pharmacists in providing service to non-Western immigrant patients

  • Helle HåkonsenEmail author
  • Karine Lees
  • Else-Lydia Toverud
Research Article


Background Western societies’ need for knowledge about how to meet the challenges in health care following increased immigration has emerged as studies have showed that non-Western immigrants tend to experience more obstacles to drug use and poorer communication with health professionals. Objectives To identify the cultural barriers encountered by Norwegian community pharmacists in providing service to non-Western immigrant patients and to outline how they are being addressed. Setting Community pharmacies in Oslo, Norway. Methods A qualitative study consisting of four focus groups was conducted. In total 19 ethnic Norwegian pharmacists (17 female and 2 male; mean age: 40.6 years) participated. They were recruited from 13 pharmacies situated in areas of Oslo densely populated by non-Western immigrants. The audio-records of the focus group discussions were transcribed verbatim. A thematic content analysis was conducted. Main outcome measure Cultural barriers identified by Norwegian community pharmacists in the encounter with non-Western immigrants. Results All the pharmacists were in contact with non-Western immigrant patients on a daily basis. They said that they found it challenging to provide adequate service to these patients, and that the presence of language as well as other cultural barriers not only affected what the patients got out of the available information, but also to a great extent what kind of and how much information was provided. Although the pharmacists felt that immigrant patients were in great need of drug counselling, there were large disparities in how much effort was exerted in order to provide this service. They were all uncomfortable with situations where family or friends acted as interpreters, especially children. Otherwise, cultural barriers were related to differences in body language and clothing which they thought distracted the communication. All the pharmacists stated that they had patients asking about the content of pork gelatin in medicines, but few said that they habitually notified the patients of this unless they were asked directly. Ramadan fasting was not identified as a subject during drug counselling. Conclusion This focus group study shows that language and other cultural barriers, including differences in body language, non-Western gender roles, and all-covering garments, are of great concern for ethnic Norwegian community pharmacists in the encounter with non-Western immigrant patients. Although the pharmacists recognise their role as drug information providers for immigrant patients, large disparities were detected with respect to kind of and amount of information provided to these patients.


Cultural barriers Ethnicity Immigrant Language problems Medicine use Pharmacy 



The authors would like to thank the pharmacists who participated in the study.


Financial support was given by the Norwegian Pharmaceutical Society.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helle Håkonsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karine Lees
    • 1
  • Else-Lydia Toverud
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Pharmacy, School of PharmacyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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