Explicit guidelines for qualitative research: a step in the right direction, a defence of the 'soft' option, or a form of sociological imperialism?
Within the context of health service research, qualitative research has sometimes been seen as a 'soft' approach, lacking scientific rigour. In order to promote the legitimacy of using qualitative methodology in this field, numerous social scientists have produced checklists, guidelines or manuals for researchers to follow when conducting and writing up qualitative work. However, those working in the health service should be aware that social scientists are not all in agreement about the way in which qualitative work should be conducted, and they should not be discouraged from conducting qualitative research simply because they do not possess certain technical skills or extensive training in sociology, anthropology or psychology. The proliferation of guidelines and checklists may be off-putting to people who want to undertake this sort of research, and they may also make it even more difficult for researchers to publish work in medical journals. Consequently, the very people who may be in a position to change medical practice may never read the results of important qualitative research. (+info
Computer analysis of qualitative data: the use of ethnograph.
Ethnograph, a code and retrieve software program for computer analysis of qualitative data, was utilized to assist in analyzing the content of in-depth interviews and focus group data. This program requires basic computer hardware and is fairly easy to use. The main advantage of the program is easy access to data dealing with a particular issue and easy retrieval of text for analysis and illustration. However, to get the maximum benefit from this program, documents need to be structured In the format suitable for the software. Among the difficulties encountered were the absence of on-line documents dummy coding, lack of options in printing facility and the tendency for the program to hang whenever there was a printing error. (+info
Rapid ethnographic assessment of breastfeeding practices in periurban Mexico City.
Before carrying out a breastfeeding promotion programme in a periurban area of Mexico City, we conducted a rapid ethnographic study to determine the factors associated with absence of exclusive breastfeeding. The responses to pilot interviews were used to develop a standardized questionnaire regarding reasons for infant feeding choice, sources of advice, and barriers to breastfeeding. We interviewed a random sample of 150 mothers with a child < 5 years of age; 136 (91%) of them had initiated breastfeeding; but only 2% exclusively breastfed up to 4 months. The mothers consistently stated that the child's nutrition, health, growth, and hygiene were the main reasons for the type of feeding selected; cost, comfort, and the husband's opinion were less important. Physicians were ranked as the most important source of advice. Reduction or cessation of breastfeeding occurred on the doctor's advice (68%); or when the mothers encountered local folk illnesses such as "coraje" (52%) or "susto" (54%), which are associated with anger or fright; or had "not enough milk" (62%) or "bad milk" (56%); or because of illness of the mother (56%) or child (43%). During childhood illnesses and conditions, breastfeeding was reduced and the use of supplementary foods was increased. This study emphasizes the importance of cultural values in infant feeding choices, defines specific barriers to breastfeeding, and provides a basis for interventions to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the study population. (+info
Fish and mammals in the economy of an ancient Peruvian kingdom.
Fish and mammal bones from the coastal site of Cerro Azul, Peru shed light on economic specialization just before the Inca conquest of A. D. 1470. The site devoted itself to procuring anchovies and sardines in quantity for shipment to agricultural communities. These small fish were dried, stored, and eventually transported inland via caravans of pack llamas. Cerro Azul itself did not raise llamas but obtained charqui (or dried meat) as well as occasional whole adult animals from the caravans. Guinea pigs were locally raised. Some 20 species of larger fish were caught by using nets; the more prestigious varieties of these show up mainly in residential compounds occupied by elite families. (+info
Building momentum: an ethnographic study of inner-city redevelopment.
OBJECTIVES: One factor contributing to the decay of inner-city areas, and to consequent excess mortality, is the massive loss of housing. This report studied the effects of a redevelopment project on social functioning in an inner-city community. METHODS: This ethnographic study included the following elements: a longitudinal study of 10 families living in renovated housing, repeated observations and photographing of the street scene, focus groups, and informal interviews with area residents. The project was located in the Bradhurst section of Harlem in New York City and was focused on a redevelopment effort sponsored by local congregations. RESULTS: Those who were able to move into newly renovated housing found that their living conditions were greatly improved. Neighborhood revitalization lagged behind the rehabilitation of individual apartment houses. This uneven redevelopment was a visual and sensory reminder of "what had been." Residents missed the warmth and social support that existed in Harlem before its decline. CONCLUSIONS: Rebuilding damaged housing contributes greatly to the well-being of inner-city residents. The current pace and scope of rebuilding are insufficient to restore lost vitality. (+info
Natural experimental models: the global search for biomedical paradigms among traditional, modernizing, and modern populations.
During the past four decades, biomedical scientists have slowly begun to recognize the unique opportunities for studying biomedical processes, disease etiology, and mechanisms of pathogenesis in populations with unusual genetic structures, physiological characteristics, focal endemic disease, or special circumstances. Such populations greatly extend our research capabilities and provide a natural laboratory for studying relationships among biobehavioral, genetic, and ecological processes that are involved in the development of disease. The models presented illustrate three different types of natural experiments: those occurring in traditionally living, modernizing, and modern populations. The examples are drawn from current research that involves population mechanisms of adaptation among East African Turkana pastoralists; a search for etiology and mechanisms of pathogenesis of an emerging disease among the Yakut people of Siberia; and psychosocial stress, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease in women working outside the home in New York City and among subpopulations in Hawaii. The models in general, and the examples in specific, represent natural laboratories in which relatively small intrapopulation differences and large interpopulation differences can be used to evaluate health and disease outcomes. (+info
Household poisoning exposure among children of Mexican-born mothers: an ethnographic study.
OBJECTIVE: To explore reasons for high rates of unintentional poisoning among Latino children under 5 years old. DESIGN: Ethnographic interviews were carried out using a sample of mothers identified via door-to-door canvassing in an area with documented high injury rates among Latino children. Interviews included many open-ended and follow-up questions to elicit a detailed family history and emphasized observation of conditions and behaviors in the homes. SETTING: Low-income neighborhoods of Southern California. SUBJECTS: Fifty mothers born in Mexico with children under 5 years old. RESULTS: Children were exposed to potential poisoning agents in more than 80% of homes. Contributory factors related to culture included favorable attitudes toward iron as a healthful substance; extensive use of products that lack child-resistant packaging, such as rubbing alcohol and medicines from Mexico; high prevalence of shared housing; limited familiarity with toxic household chemicals not widely used in Mexico; and inability to read warning labels in English. CONCLUSION: Current Poison Control Center outreach efforts should be expanded. Clinicians are uniquely positioned to advise parents about the safe use and storage of toxic substances, including widely used products lacking child-resistant packaging. Medicines should be labeled in Spanish for those who do not know English. (+info
Ethnographic interviews to elicit patients' reactions to an intelligent interactive telephone health behavior advisor system.
Information technology is being used to collect data directly from patients and to provide educational information to them. Concern over patient reactions to this use of information technology is especially important in light of the debate over whether computers dehumanize patients. This study reports reactions that patient users expressed in ethnographic interviews about using a computer-based telecommunications system. The interviews were conducted as part of a larger evaluation of Telephone-Linked Care (TLC)-HealthCall, an intelligent interactive telephone advisor, that advised individuals about how to improve their health through changes in diet or exercise. Interview findings suggest that people formed personal relationships with the TLC system. These relationships ranged from feeling guilty about their diet or exercise behavior to feeling love for the voice. The findings raise system design and user interface issues as well as research and ethical questions. (+info