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.