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Responses of Chinese Elderly to the Threat of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in a Canadian Community


Dr. Janice Morse, College of Nursing, 10 South 2000 East, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: To describe responses of Chinese elderly living in Edmonton, Canada, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic, and their use of Western and/or traditional Chinese medicine.

Design: A QUAL-qual mixed method design, using grounded theory as the core method and ethnographic strategies are used to inform the cultural aspects of the study.

Sample: A purposeful sample of 19 Chinese elderly was interviewed and tape recorded. Four traditional Chinese Practitioners were also interviewed.

Methods: The interviews were transcribed and analyzed in Chinese and later translated into English. Data analysis utilized the constant comparison method.

Results: Participants experienced a 5-stage process of protecting self, family, and others, responding according to the perceived threat of SARS. Participants used both Western and traditional Chinese strategies to combat SARS. Their desire to protect others took precedence under the moral code of filial piety. Once SARS was under control, the community remained vigilant and continued to monitor for its possible reoccurrence.

Conclusions: Cultural beliefs and practices within the Chinese population support the recommendations set by the health department for the protection of individuals and the community during the SARS pandemic. Therefore, the public health sector should become familiar with and support these Chinese cultural networks during pandemics.