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Autonomy in Health and Health Seeking Behavior among Older Mexican Immigrant Men in California's Central Valley

  • Author(s): Pacheco, Tania L
  • Advisor(s): Pinderhughes, Howard
  • et al.

This dissertation expands the understanding of how gender, immigration, and aging impact health behaviors in older Mexican immigrant men. Along with other Latino elders, these men are poor and plagued with chronic or disabling conditions, however, they live longer and have higher self-reported health than their white male counterparts. This research aims to 1) explain their conceptualization of health, illness, risk and prevention and 2) map the health seeking process. Data gathered includes 20 in-person interviews of older Mexican immigrant men in four Central Valley counties using a semi-structured interview guide and ethnographic data. Analysis of written, audio, and visual data was coded using grounded theory methods. Participants had clear conceptualizations of health, illness, and risk. While active in their own self-defined health regimens, participants rely on women to help them navigate the United States healthcare system. Participants saw themselves as adhering patients, did not have overarching negative sentiment about the healthcare system, and yet did not adhere to screenings, lab work, and avoided seeking healthcare. Abstaining from health care or modifying prescribed health regimes was due to distrust of biomedical risk, and the labeling of sick as being an overall impediment to their autonomy. They identified systemic barriers that were the sum of their lives as agribusiness farmworkers. Older Mexican immigrant men are using their agency to make decisions about seeking healthcare. Their desire for autonomy is conceptualized within the constraints to health care and as a consequence of systemic barriers. A discussion is needed on other marginalized groups and their movements in and out of the US healthcare system, its belief system, and technologies.

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