239854 Immigrant Somali community: Challenges in data collection and interpretation

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Josephine Wilson, DDS, PhD , Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Andrew Hakala-Finch, BA , Psychology Department, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Elyse Ream, BA , Psychology Department, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Somali war refugees began arriving in the US in 1991, and since 1995, Columbus, OH, has been a popular Somali refugee destination. Columbus currently has the second largest immigrant Somali community in the US. This investigator has been working with local organizations in Columbus, such as Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence and Helping Africans in New Directions (an organization created by Somali businesspeople) to assess substance abuse treatment needs of this community. This presentation will outline problems encountered while collecting data from male Somali immigrants and compare data from this group with that from age-matched American-born men. Procedure. Data were collected from 34 male Somali immigrants, ages 18 - 74, and 77 American-born men, who received $20 for their participation. Participants were surveyed about lifetime and current alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use and then asked to complete a Go/No-Go task designed to measure control of behavioral inhibition, a biological marker for stimulant use. (The stimulant of principal interest was khat, which is used traditionally by some Somali men.) Results. Of surveyed Americans, 98% admitted to drinking alcohol, 60% admitted to occasionally smoking cigarettes, and 84% admitted to using marijuana. Not one Somali immigrant admitted to using any ATOD, even though several were seen smoking cigarettes outside of the community center before participating in the study. Somali men made significantly more Go and No-Go errors than age-matched Americans (p < .001). Conclusions/Implications. Problems with participant recruitment, distrust about the purpose of the data collection, illiteracy, and poor English comprehension interfered with data collection and interpretation. Although anecdotal evidence suggests problematic alcohol abuse in this population, no participant would disclose any ATOD use. This unwillingness to answer questions about ATOD use may be related to distrust of public health investigators or religious beliefs that regard ATOD as haraam (forbidden).

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the barriers to communication when working with the Somali immigrant population. 2. List steps for recruiting participants from the Somali immigrant community. 3. Identify confounds that interfere with the interpretation of data collected from this immigrant population. 4. Explain why obtaining information about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use is so difficult in the Somali immigrant population.

Keywords: Immigrants, Drug Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I direct the Substance Abuse Resources and Disability Issues (SARDI) program at WSU. I have been working with the Somali community in Columbus, OH, since 2009 and I designed the study, helped collect the data, and analyzed the data for the project described in this presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.