Beliefs and attitudes toward obstructive sleep apnea evaluation and treatment among blacks

Raphael Shaw, Sharon McKenzie, Tonya Taylor, Oladipupo Olafiranye, Carla Boutin-Foster, Gbenga Ogedegbe, Girardin Jean-Louis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Although blacks are at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), they are not as likely as their white counterparts to receive OSA evaluation and treatment. This study assessed knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes towards OSA evaluation and treatment among blacks residing in Brooklyn, New York. Methods: Five focus groups involving 39 black men and women (aged ≥18 years) were conducted at State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn to ascertain barriers preventing or delaying OSA evaluation and treatment. Results: Misconceptions about sleep apnea were a common theme that emerged from participants' responses. Obstructive sleep apnea was often viewed as a type of insomnia, an age-related phenomenon, and as being caused by certain bedtime activities. The major theme that emerged about barriers to OSA evaluation was unfamiliarity with the study environment. Barriers were categorized as: problems sleeping in a strange and unfamiliar environment, unfamiliarity with the study protocol, and fear of being watched while sleeping. Barriers to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment adoption were related to the confining nature of the device, discomfort of wearing a mask while they slept, and concerns about their partner's perceptions of treatment. Conclusion: Results of this study suggest potential avenues for interventions to increase adherence to recommended evaluation and treatment of OSA. Potential strategies include reducing misconceptions about OSA, increasing awareness of OSA in vulnerable communities, familiarizing patients and their partners with laboratory procedures used to diagnose and treat OSA. We propose that these strategies should be used to inform the development of culturally and linguistically tailored sleep apnea interventions to increase awareness of OSA among blacks who are at risk for OSA and associated comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-519
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2012


  • African Americans
  • Focus group
  • Knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs
  • Sleep apnea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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