Health Among the Hmong & Refugees

It is important to understand the Hmong’s political history because of the change of culture, which lead to the change of health care. It is not easy for people to change this suddenly or drastically in their lives. This just goes to show the level of comfort-ability the Hmong have with one another. The Hmong worked with the United States during the Vietnam War considering they had knowledge on dealing with the jungle. The CIA trained the Hmong to fight for the United States especially as ground troops. (Quincy 2002) The Hmong were slaughtered in Laos and all hope was lost. They fled and tried to disperse to safe refugee camps. Although they all didn’t make it, the ones who did faced harsh living conditions and weren’t able to keep their cultural traditions and values in place. The Hmong also don’t like to be told what to do so this can make it even harder for them to compromise in these difficult times. The Hmong are still currently facing genocide because of their involvement with the United States in the Vietnam War. Overcoming adversity is what the Hmong had to do which eventually shaped their culture. Because the Hmong helped us during the war, they experienced pain and agony in Laos for years. Many were killed because of the alliance they formed with us. This goes to show how important they were and continue to be to this day.

The Hmong deal with illness very differently compared to the United States. Their tradition was perfectly fine before they were sent to the refugee camps and basically forced to alter their medical policies. Lia dealt with health issues at a very young age and when she was in the United States, the doctors had trouble giving her the proper diagnosis because their family didn’t know very much English. This led to doctors prescribing her numerous forms of medicines, which Lia and her family opposed of considering they thought it was a spiritual illness. They preferred the use of herbal remedies and natural healing rather than what the doctors prescribed. These types of issues can be prevented for future people who don’t speak the homeland language. Anne Fadiman explains in the novel, “The differences are about power. Doctors have power to call the police and access state power, which Hmong parents do not. Because the Hmong have historically been so resistant to authority, they are especially confused and enraged when they are stripped of their power in a country to which they have fled because of its reputation for freedom.” (Fadiman 84) Lia’s parents refused to give her the medication, which led to her being placed in foster care. This goes to show that the United States prefers their customs over other cultures. Lia ended up living longer than the doctors intended her to because of her own traditional methods.

When it comes to suggestions to improve healthcare among refugees I suggest integrating other cultures beliefs and taking into consideration the difference of approaches can be a good thing. For example, Lia was right about her illness and the doctors thought she would die in a matter of days. One could make the argument that she better diagnosed herself compared to the doctors. Better communication between the doctors and patients also has to be assured to accommodate everybody. The absence of empathy in regard to this issue is something that needs to be changed. Being able to speak the proper language and understanding the issue properly is what needs to be altered. Having someone available to give the proper information would work well such as an interpreter. This gives the patients a sense of comfort-ability and guidance. (Montoya 2005) The language issue is the main suggestion I would consider. This would also help all people who have language disparities, which is facing the bigger issue at hand which is essential.

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997

Montoya, Isaac D. “Health Services Considerations Amongst Immigrant Populations.” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Services 3-4 (2005): 15-27. Accessed. August 10, 2016.

Quincy, Keith. “Hmong: History of a People First Edition.” Hmong: History of a People: Keith Quincy: Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

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