Emory undergraduate Sandy Jiang recently presented the results of her summer research project at the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Emory) research symposium. The SURE program provides research training opportunities for undergraduate students over the summer break. Sandy completed her research under the supervision of Dr. Cassandra Quave and the Center for the Study of Human Health. Sandy’s research project, entitled “A Comparison of Traditional Food and Health Strategies among Taiwanese and Chinese Immigrants in Atlanta”, examined traditional knowledge and practices related to food and health . Sandy plans to continue work on this project in the fall and submit a manuscript for publication.
Abstract from the study:
Introduction: Traditional knowledge (TK) systems can play a crucial role in local health strategies and outcomes, especially among migrant communities. The aims of this study are to (1) compare traditional knowledge and practices related to food and health of Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants in metro Atlanta; (2) evaluate how immigrants adapt to new medicinal frameworks; and (3) document the use of medicinal foods and local substitutes as they relate to human health in these communities.
Methods: Snowball sampling techniques were used to recruit 50 adult informants (≥ 18 years-old) from the Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant communities in metro Atlanta for participation in semi-structured interviews and structured surveys regarding the use of the local flora for medicinal and food purposes. Standard ethnobotanical methods were employed and prior informed consent was obtained for all study participants. Voucher specimens of quoted species were collected for deposit at the Emory University Herbarium.
Results: A total of 44 medicinal and/or “healthy” food plants were cited by informants as being central to their traditional health practices. Taiwanese were more likely to use Eastern medicine, plant their own food gardens, believe in the concepts of Yin and Yang, and use certain medicinal foods more than their Chinese counterparts.
Conclusions: TK concerning medical and nutritional practices of immigrant communities represents a fundamental aspect to the study of human health. Results from studies focused on the documentation and analysis of local health strategies can be used to facilitate better communication, bridging the gap between biomedical healthcare providers and users of Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) strategies in immigrant communities.