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Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe the healthcare experiences of the Zabbaleen women.
Design and Methods: This study was an ethnography using constructivist methodology. Sample. Data were gathered from a convenience sample of thirteen women who were Coptic from the Zabbaleen community between the ages of 19 and 45, married or unmarried. Data included interviews, participatory observation and field notes. Findings: The data produced rich and insightful description of the Zabbaleen women's healthcare experiences. The women described their struggles with major health issues in their community such as Hepatitis C, health access and health information. Three themes emerged from data analysis in relation to their health issues. The first was the powerful influence their faith as Coptics affected their interpretation of their experiences. The Coptic Church plays a vitally important role in the everyday lives of the community and the women view health and illness through the lens of the teachings of their faith. Interestingly, traditional beliefs of the Egyptian culture also affected the way women interpreted their experiences. Health and illness was thought to be caused or removed by forces outside the women's control. Indeed, a blend of Coptic Christian and ancient Pharaonic traditions were described by the women during their interviews. Lastly and most poignant was the theme of suffering. The women spoke of suffering in almost every conversation. It was something the women dealt with every day on an ongoing basis and not just related to health issues. Suffering was explained in their unique mixing of traditional and religious beliefs.
Conclusions: Zabbaleen women offer a truly distinctive perspective on health through their experiences as a disadvantaged population in a Middle Eastern country. Understanding their experiences increases knowledge of women in vulnerable populations and provides insight into issues related to health and illness in another culture.