The Hmong people have been through a lot in their past, and there are obvious reasons as to why the Lee family may not have completely trusted the “American way” of doing things, specifically medicine. When the Vietnam War was occurring, the United States recruited Hmong people, living in Laos, to help fight against the communist forces. The United States eventually withdrew their support, leaving hundreds of thousands of Hmong people, who were originally helping our country, to be forced to out of their own homes. The Lee family was one of the Hmong families that was forced out of their homes to escape persecution and when many of the Hmong people arrived in the United States, they were not welcomed as well as they should have been, and many had to deal with unemployment and mistreatment from the Americans. This backstory is incredibly important to reference, especially with relation to the Lee family, because it gives logical reasoning as to why they were not fully trusting of the United States and our style of doing things. Through the visualization activity in our second lecture this week, I was able to better feel exactly how the Lee family must have felt throughout Lia’s health issues. Because of their background and the visualization, I understand the caution that the Lee family took and why they took it, but I do think there are better ways to go about a situation such as this one, with regard to both our doctors of Western medicine and the Lee family.
The United States is a country unlike any other, what with our whole population being a mix of different immigrants from around the world. This is how we began as a country, and this is how we continue to grow. In order for this growth to continue positively, with regard to immigrants’ and refugees’ transitions into the United States, some changes need to be made. One huge transition for refugees to make deals with health, illness, and treatment. We all know that there are many different belief systems in other countries that base their feelings towards medicine upon religion or spirits. This is something that we, as in medical professionals within the United States, need to be more open to. This has to do with the idea of “cultural competence” and trying to better understand the cultures and beliefs of different people coming to our western medical system for help. Anne Fadiman, the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, makes note as to what approaches to cultural competence could be helpful to improve healthcare experiences for refugees. Some of these suggestions include first, acknowledging the other belief systems that refugees and immigrants bring into the United States (Fadiman, 1997). Fadiman also suggests including cross-cultural programs into the medicinal practices here, which would include shamans working alongside western health care providers (Fadiman, 1997). This would help to intertwine the two different types of healing and to make the refugees feel that they are being understood and listened to from two trusting sources. Cultural competence and cross-cultural programs within medicine and healing would greatly help to improve the experiences of refugees coming into the United States. This improvement is necessary because in a study done surrounding healthcare barriers of refugees, it was found that “the majority of refugees do not regularly access health services” (Morris et al., 2009). Refugees ran into problems like language barriers, and cultural beliefs about health care affecting refugees’ expectation of care (Morris et al., 2009). Again, these are things that can be fixed, or at least tried to be fixed with simple actions, as aforementioned.
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
Morris, Meghan D., Steve T. Popper, Timothy C. Rodwell, Stephanie K. Brodine, and Kimberly C. Brouwer. “Healthcare Barriers of Refugees Post-resettlement.” Journal of Community Health, December 2009.