Purpose: This ethnography was done to explore the meaning
of illness in Korean Americans with chronic hepatitis B.
Methods: The participants were 6 patients with chronic
hepatitis B and 6 general informants who could provide
relevant data. Data were collected from iterative
fieldwork with ethnographic interviews within Korean
communities in two cities in the United States. Data were
analyzed using causal chain analysis developed by Wolcott.
Results: The analyses revealed three meanings for the
illness: hidden disease, intentionally hidden disease, and
inevitably hidden disease. The contexts of meaning of
illness included characteristics of the illness, social
stigma, structure of health care system and communication
patterns and discourse between health care providers and
clients. Conclusion: The meaning of illness was based on
folk illness concepts and constructed in the sociocultural
context. Folk etiology, pathology and interpretation of
one’s symptoms were factors influencing illness behavior.
These findings could be a cornerstone for culture specific
care for Korean Americans with chronic hepatitis B.