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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Dana El-Hajj: Health Behaviors through a New Scope, Acculturation

Observing the health behaviors and health outcomes of Arab Americans

Dana El-Hajj

Dana El-Hajj, a PhD student and RN in the ICU at at Rose Medical center, has worked her way through all the hoops—tests, candidate status, writing her proposal—to reach the point where she could research a topic that reflects her experiences and can help enlighten doctors and nurses of various aspects of acculturation that affect patient care.

According to Associate Professor Michael Galbraith, she is at the stage of doing the footwork—updating her literature and working on the writing—while she waits to hear back from the ethics review board for approval to begin the research leg of the PhD process.

El-Hajj, who is originally from Lebanon, gears her proposal toward uncovering something that has limited literature behind it in the hope of adding a new perspective on the medical treatment of Arab-Americans.

“I wanted to add spice to my dissertation,” says El-Hajj. “If I wanted to collect data on smoking, eating, or dieting there is already a lot of research out there, but there is not a lot on acculturation.”

She takes the idea of observing the health behaviors and health outcomes of Arab Americans through the scope of acculturation which is defined by Webster as a, “cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture.” She hopes by looking through this scope of acculturation to provide doctors and nurses with more information to help them better understand the increasing—860,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2000—Arab-American population (Jewish Virtual Library Website).

“This group of minorities is increasing; however, we don’t have enough information about their health habits and health outcomes,” she says. “So knowing more about this culture can help nurses identify with their Arab clients and be better able to provide culturally sensitive and congruent care for better patient outcomes.

“I am hopeful that I will be able to publish this information,” she says. “So it will serve as a base of knowledge so nurses and doctors who encounter Arabs in the practices will be able to identify with this culture and find health interventions that work for this population.”

El-Hajj is a 2011 recipient of the College of Nursing Alumni Association Scholarship.

The Arab Population in the U.S. Website for statistics