Equal Healthcare for All

The Hmong people came to America in the past after being put into refugee camps in Thailand because their homes had been bombed during the Vietnam war. The Hmong people fought on the behalf of the united states in the war in Laos before they were put into the refugee camps which they then came to the U.S. after leaving the camps. When it comes to health care the Hmong people faced a lot of difficult issues when it came to trying to maintain and uphold their beliefs and traditions while being in America. Often times doctors like to force their opinions on how to handle and treat illness and disease on their patients without taking into consideration a persons cultural, religious, and or spiritual beliefs and practices. In the case of Lia Lee in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Lia’s mother wanted to call the ambulance this one particular time that she began seizing because she felt it was the only way to get Lia immediate attention once at the hospital and said if they didn’t call the ambulance the “tsov tom people” wouldn’t even look at her (Fadiman 1997). She used the words “tsov tom” to describe the American doctors as a tiger which in their culture symbolizes wickedness.

The fact that this Hmong family thought so negatively towards doctors which are the people that are supposed to be here to help when people are sick shows that changes need to be made in the relationship between the Hmong (as well as other refugees) and the American health care system. Also in the book the Lee family had to call their English speaking nephew to call the ambulance for Lia when she was having a seizure because they were unable to communicate with the hospital themselves (Fadiman 1997). According to an article on the website Dimensions of Culture, when talking about the Hmong people it states that, “As a people, their adaptation to our western model of healthcare delivery is often slow, hindered by particularly strong traditional beliefs, culturally-based patterns of communication, limited English proficiency, and a deep distrust of governments” (Carteret). In order to make more refugees and immigrants, including the Hmong, comfortable in the United states when it comes to our healthcare system i think the use of translators in hospitals and doctors offices would be very helpful. The lee family talked about how they would have to carry Lia and walk when going to the hospital or have someone else call an ambulance because they were unable to communicate their needs in the English Language. Also Doctors need to be more open to taking a patients culture and spiritual/ religious beliefs into consideration when working with them out of respect and understanding because not everyone in the world believes in doing things the same ways as we do here in America.

Carteret, Marcia. “Providing Healthcare to Hmong Patients and Families.” Dimensions of Culture. Accessed August 10, 2016. http://www.dimensionsofculture.com/2012/01/providing-healthcare-to-hmong-patients-and-families/.

7 thoughts on “Equal Healthcare for All

  1. I agree with your statement about doctors sometimes forcing their opinions and beliefs on others. I think that sometimes doctors do not even realize they are doing this. In order to become a doctor there are so many years of schooling and a vast amount of information thrown at you, I can believe how some doctors could believe that the way they were taught things is always right. Although, there is no excuse for not considering everything about a patient, including their culture and beliefs. Doctors should be able to offer help to everyone without them being in fear. I also agree with your opinion of employing more translators in hospitals. There really is no other way to get around a language barrier, and I do not see this problem going away anytime soon or ever. Overall, I believe a step needs to be made away from the strict biomedicine views some Western medicine professionals hold. Many people think that these two worlds cannot collide, but I believe there is a way for a doctor to be highly intelligent in biomedicine, and take the time to consider their patient’s beliefs. This is the first step to strengthening the relationship between refugees and Western medicine as well as Western medicine as a whole.

  2. Hi Kendra, I enjoyed reading your post because I like how you discuss the language barrier between the Hmong people and the American doctors. I agree that this is a major problem and if we address the fact and provide translators between patients and doctors, many misunderstandings and confusion can be avoided. Also, addressing the problem of how some doctors do not honor the culture and traditions of other can increase the trust the Hmong have with doctors. When they are being forced to follow a certain way, it causes fear and confusion and are doing things they would never do and that will lead to distrust. The lack of trust leads to sort of a rebellion from the patient, or in this case, the parents of the patient and they did not give her the proper amount of medicine because they thought it would do more harm than good. They did not trust the advice of the doctors because nothing was making sense to them. Having translators available would provide so much relief to both patients and doctors as confusion from a language barrier would be eliminated. Patients would follow instructions because they would understand the importance of the medicine they are receiving.

  3. First, I really like how you addressed the specifics of Lia’s family such as the language barriers and the culture differences. I think this help to explain some of the “mistreatment” from Americans. I believe that some of it was mistake and that there was a communication barrier. As you stated the Lee’s refused some of the treatment because of their beliefs from their home culture. American doctors would not have understood this because unless they took a deeper look into the culture and therefore I think they were accustomed to the American culture and were not sure of how to respond r properly treat a different culture. This brings me to the pint that you stated the one of the best ways to improve healthcare is to bridge cultural gaps. To do so I think that American doctors must be open to providing care based on the person’s preference and belief. I really appreciate that you addressed that if you are not aware of a problem you will not address it. The only way to know there is a problem is to figure out ways to break the culture differences, maybe given further assistance and training to medical doctors and nurses on diversity. I believe an exercise similar to the one from our lecture will be very effective in raising awareness to the difference in treatments. In recognizing those differences I think that America will begin to change the medical care given to refugees, maybe something more understanding, caring, and culture effective.

  4. I also believe that the Hmong people were very negative towards doctors but they had right to be. When someone is forced to be in such a negative atmosphere and they are treated poorly and talked down to then they have a right to act the way they did. Because medicine is such a spiritual connection and its something that is brought up within a culture then it is super hard to change your ways at the snap of a finger. Think of it as a spartan being in the big house and you’re the only one in your section cheering on your team, being forced and talked down to would make someone in that circumstance enraged. This was the example I used in my topic and I hope that this adds to our argument and I didn’t completely butcher what you were trying to get across.

  5. Hey Kendra, I really enjoyed reading your post! I definitely agree with your post about doctors who think they way they have learned things trumps a patients beliefs. It’s really important that doctors give patients the same respect regardless of a difference in culture and traditions. I really liked your suggestion about having translators working in hospitals who are able to properly communicate with the family the doctors orders and medication instructions. This could have prevented the situation with the Lee family where Lia was taken away due to a miscommunication with the medication. It’s sad that this gap in communication between the patients family and the doctors caused the Lee family to resent and fear the doctors working with Lia. Doctors should not be viewed as evil or controlling in any culture and as long as proper lines of communication exist this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Also it’s important for health professionals to understand the political factors that the Lee family endured in the past that might cause them to have a mistrust of Americans. Overall I definitely liked the ideas you had about getting translators in the hospital and also teaching doctors to respect those with different beliefs.

  6. Kendra,

    I thought the saddest part of the book was when Lia’s mother felt the need to call an ambulance because she felt that was the only way to get immediate medical attention. I feel this was an important part of the book because many readers can sympathize with the parental drive to get the best care for your child by any means possible. I believe that Fadmin’s use of stories the evoke empathy is an important asset to the impact this book has made in the medical community.
    I really agree with your suggestion to incorporate the use of translators in hospitals. I actually found the same article that you cited in your blog post and thought that the use of translators would be beneficial to both sides. The Hmong would get more individualized attention that they desperately need in a biomedical setting, and doctors would receive more accurate information in a timely fashion. I feel like modern medicine is extremely fast paced which makes it so hard for many people who come from cultures based in in tradition and without the technology boom. I think that the addition of translators is important to America’s ultimate goal of cultural assimilation in medicine.

  7. Hello, I agree with you that changes do need to be made regarding the Hmong and American health care systems. Better communication and more regard for empathy needs to be put into place. Implementing translators in hospitals is a great idea as well. My mom is a translator and I talked to her about this issue and she completely understands and agrees with all of us. She translates French to English with students and helps guide them to speak fluently. She knows how important it is learning more than one language. Why should the Hmong feel out of place because of a language disparity? The last thing a patient wants is to feel distrusted or misguided regarding their health especially if they are in critical condition. Although it is not the doctor’s job to fix the language disparity, it is their job to be honest and offer guidance regardless of the circumstances. I also believe the implementation of more health care systems within the Hmong community needs to be fixed as well. Equal health care among all is essential and is the only fair way to deal with these kinds of issues. Giving refugees the proper treatment and correct information should be a goal of the United States health care systems. I hope one day this can be achieved. Good read!

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