Health care services for the Sami

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The Sami are the indigenous people of Norway. International conventions and Norwegian law safeguard their rights.

This also applies to encounters with the health care services. Within the Sami community, there are individual and local differences with regard to language, culture, and industries. Health care providers must have knowledge about the influence of social, historical, and cultural factors on encounters between Sami individuals and health care services. The official Norwegian health care policy is to provide culturally appropriate health care services to the Sami population within the frames of the established health care services, rather than developing services specific to the Sami population.

Health care services are used to the same extent by the Sami and the majority populations. However, the Sami are less satisfied with the services. There are no significant differences between the Sami and the majority populations with regard to health status and incidence of disease. However, literature emphasizes conceptions of health, disease, and treatment as different among the Sami. There are good reasons not to assume this to concern all Sami individuals. Literature emphasizes that the Sami communicate about health and illness in indirect manners and through the use of metaphors. Recent research nuance the prevailing conception that Sami speaking patients prefer to use the Sami language in encounters with health care services. Language preferences are individual and situational. The importance of relatives and traditions for self-help is emphasized in the literature. However, research suggests that more help from the public health care services is requested.

Individual and collective experiences of assimilation and stigmatization may influence encounters with health care services. Research does not conclude that such experiences have an impact on self-reported health. The literature illustrates the complexity of the concept of Sami identity.

Knowledge about Sami language and culture is important in encounters with persons with dementia. Little research has focused on the living situation for Sami persons with dementia, their relatives, and their interactions with public health care services. Recently, research projects focusing on these issues are initiated.

Given the complexity of the Sami population, individual tailoring and local anchoring of initiatives are essential and necessary.