Asian Americans are more likely to die from complications in hospital care

The first problem is the general grouping of Asian Americans. Asia is a huge area with over 100 different cultures and 48 countries, and to say that someone from India would be the same as someone from Mongolia would be a complete understatement. In order to understand race in context with health disparities, specific groups must be targeted. Without the lack of specific data on specific ethnicities and their living environment, it’s hard to make a conclusion based upon a community and in this case Asian Americans.

For example, according to this NPR interview, (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127091480) many Korean Americans are four times more likely to have no health insurance than others. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders experience high rate of diabetes and obesity. U.S. Born Vietnamese women, are four times greater of dying of breast cancer than other groups. Even as Americans, each specific Asian group is overcome and affected by different health care access, symptoms, illnesses, and diseases. To say that this is mainly caused by genetics is possible, but there is more of an underlying issue than just those aspects.

There is also said to be a model minority myth for Asian-Americans in that they don’t suffer from health problems. In the case of not dealing with many Asian American patients, some physicians could and have believed this idea.(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127091480).

The second issue would probably be communication. Language barrier is a huge issue for immigrants, and particularly among the first generation. My dad as an immigrant does not speak English fluently, and when he had intestinal and stomach pain he refused to go see a doctor. Mainly due to the fact that he didn’t want to go alone without my mom who speaks English fluently. It seemed that the idea of just going to the doctor gave him more pain from the stress and anxiety than the physical pain.

Not only on the part of the patient, but the doctor or hospitals should make it a priority to hire translators or make sure that each other is understood based upon symptoms. Different languages have different ways to describe their symptoms, while as some symptoms don’t exist and even the words to describe it don’t exist in translation.

In an emergency situation, there aren’t going to be translators, and without speaking the same languages, there will probably be miscommunication and misunderstanding of certain pains and symptoms, and more importantly providing the best care and treatment. In the case study of the Hmong child in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, is a perfect example. From the perspective of the Hmong family, evil spirits had taken over the girl, but the hospital diagnosed her with severe epilepsy. Long story short, there was much miscommunication and lack of understanding on both parts linguistically and in their cultural ecology. Thus, not giving the child the proper treatment and delays in what we would be the best for her current state. The idea of genetic determinism can easily misconstrue the idea of social race versus biological race.

1 thought on “Asian Americans are more likely to die from complications in hospital care

  1. I very much appreciate your analysis of the problems Asian Americans face medically, as it contained much information I had not previously considered, or at least considered in-depth. The dilemma of grouping is a large problem that seems to be ignored in most medical studies. Where race may or may not exist, it is hard to argue that genetic background is not an important factor. I tend to disregard studies that use the terms “white” and “black” as indicators of ethnicity based on the sheer crudeness of doing so. There is such a wide window of background for the terms white and black that it almost negates the results, not to mention other people exist outside of these classifications as well. I actually refused to fill out the census this past year because my only option for ethnicity was “white”, to which I took great offense. Turns out the government gets a bit annoyed when you repeatedly ignore their letters demanding you return the form, but it’s all sorted out now.

    Just like you mentioned, I find ethnic background (rather than using the term race) to be very important because of how many unique backgrounds exist. Each situation is bound to present a multitude of variables affecting health and treatment, both genetically and culturally. I think we would agree that clinical studies, though more cost effective on a larger scale, need to be more specific and the concept of race replaced with actual ethnic background.

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