W6: A Better Understanding

When we’re talking about improving healthcare in refugee camps, there’s a lot to take into consideration and there’s a lot to look into in order to understand how to effectively heal the different types of people contained in these camps. The suggestions I’ll present will be applicable to all cultures, not just the Hmong, though the Hmong will be used as examples for the purposes of this assignment.

My proposition for better quality healthcare in refugee camps is a similar message that I’ve posted about most of the way through this course: We need to be educating our physicians.  For example, a class like this one would be perfect for anybody looking to do medical work with refugees.  Not only refugees, but this knowledge is highly valuable for the average MD.  This fact leads into the idea that yes, it is imperative to know the and study the culture before making major medical decisions, and Lia’s case is a perfect example.  Understanding particularly the political history of the Hmong people in Laos being part of a “secret war” is critical to approaching this culture.  As we saw in the video “The Split Horn” we see that Hmong traditionalists don’t take very nicely to changing to western culture, and there are many other historical events where this type of behavior is displayed from them (The Split Horn.  2013).  To give a little background of the situation, American troops trained a secret army in Laos, which consisted of Hmong troops, and they fought side by side against the communist forces of the USSR and Communist Vietnam.  Shortly into this campaign the US quickly evacuated Vietnam and left their Hmong allies to fight the North Vietnamese alone (Historpedia.  Date Unkown).  Shortly after, the Hmong genocide began.  During this massacre many Hmong people tried to escape Laos and find refuge in Thailand.  However this support was cut off by Thailand so that they may appear neutral in the conflict.  Unfortunately this genocide is still going on today.

Understanding this background is essential to know when approaching a traditional culture in the medical setting.  In this case, we are talking about refugees.  If we really want to help these people, they must receive not only our “functional” medicine, but their own medicine.  I’m suggesting we marry the two efforts together so that both sides can see and understand where the other is coming from.  Yes, there are sensitive cultural aspects to medicine that shouldn’t be messed with.  In that case, I would leave it solely up to the patient as to what the next step is.  It is the western physician’s duty to better understand the culture of their patients and learn to abide by their traditions before our own here in the states.


The Split Horn. Directed by Taggart Siege. Youtube. February 2, 2013. Accessed August 9, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LnvuMyUvfI.
“Hmong Involvement in Vietnam War and the Aftermath (Fall 2012).” Historpedia. Accessed August 9, 2016. https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/historpedia/home/politics-and-government/hmong-involvement-in-vietnam-war-and-the-aftermath-fall-2012-1.

One thought on “W6: A Better Understanding

  1. Hi Antonio,
    I really could not agree with you more about educating our physicians. Simple cultural classes and even ones that are specific to the other ethnicities in the area are a key factor in promoting the growth of health care in general. I find it odd that we are not more willing to invest in these people because in turn, as citizens, our health could be improved too and many opportunities could be opened up for health care professionals. What I mean by this, is many people believe that immigrants and refugees bring in disease and illness into the country. That really is not that true but they do carry a burden and have some medical needs. If there are diseases present, it is to our benefit to assist them in treatment as diseases spread and they are just as much a part of the public as we are. “Marrying” two sides of the medical practices is a really great idea and something that should have been tried from the start in the case of Lia Lee. I think a change like this needs to start in medical school. It will be difficult because people are very set in their ways, but medicine is always changing to these new doctors should have the ability to keep up with it. Great ideas here!

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