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Cultural Sensitivity in Sleep Research

Posted on October 19, 2007

Martica Hall (bio) talks about sensitive issues that arise when studying people in their homes.


With a multi-ethnic—and this study was the sample of women, multi-ethnic sample of women—there are all sorts of issues that I had not anticipated, despite the fact of being a Hispanic minority myself, and that was sort of cultural sensitivity issues. We were studying women in their homes and having sleep technicians and study staff come in and studying women in their homes, getting them ready for sleep recording. So women were in their pajamas and dealing with how you have your study staff speak to the study participants and advise them ahead of time of what kind of PJs to be wearing because you show up in people's homes, and they could be wearing a nightgown, and you have to affix electrodes to their torso, and that's an issue. It wouldn't matter, regardless of what somebody's ethnic background is, it wouldn't matter.

But there are all sorts of sensitivity issues that are associated with how you relate to people. We've recently submitted an application to study sleep in a Hispanic population in Miami. And how you have a male come into the home, and they may be trying to study the woman, and the husband is there, or the children are there, and how you address them, and the things that we're doing ahead of time to prepare for that is talking to the study staff about cultural sensitivity or hiring people from these backgrounds so that they can tell us what the issues are, are very important.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2006 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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