W6: The Hmong Among Us

Throughout the years, the numbers of immigrants and refugees have continued to climb. In 1970, the United States consisted of 9.6 million immigrants; however, in 2014, the United States consisted of 42.4 million immigrants (Zong, 2016). I think that because of this, we should increase our health care initiatives toward the immigrants and refugees. Now, more than ever there is war after war going on and we need to help out the refugees when they come to our country.

It is very important to understand the Hmong tribe’s cultural, political, and social past because it is what shaped them to what they are today. Just like you should not judge a book by it’s cover, you should not judge the Hmong’s by their actions until you know why they act the way they do. At first, I was very disturbed when Fadiman wrote about the Hmong families burying the placentas in the house; however, once they went on to explain the reasoning and beliefs the people had behind it, the action did not seem as crazy as it sounded (Fadiman, 1997). Just because it is different from my way of life, does not mean that it is weird!

The political history of the Hmong tribe is very important because it explains and leads up to why they became refugees. It also explains why they have come to our country. The proxy wars were wars that were created by the CIA to use Hmong people as guerilla fighters for the Vietnam war. After the war was lost, the Hmong people left to refugee camps in Thailand, like the Lee family, and eventually to the United States (Fadiman, 1997). I think

that the Hmong people, as well as any other person, should receive adequate health care, but since they come from another place, there are some steps that need to be taken a little further.

I think that America has failed health care for Hmong people. Sometimes the treatment goes well, but other times they are worried that the women are going to eat the placenta so they refuse to let them continue with their traditions. I think that we need to turn this around. One way I think we should do that is by having a translator. “Language and cultural barriers fostered misunderstandings on both sides,” reported Diane Marcum in Lia Lee’s obituary (Marcum, 2012). I think that we could reduce some of the cultural and language disparities for refugees and immigrants. Ariel Burgess also wrote, “people of foreign-born background encounter unique barriers when attempting to benefit from health care; these include difficulties in cross-cultural communication, disparate health practice beliefs, and limited cultural awareness on the part of the provider,” (Burgess, 2004). Burgess just reinstates how important having a translator would be. I think that a translator would help out everyone foreign-born, not just the Hmong people. A translator would be a perfect solution to the language barrier problem. It would make the transition for the Hmong refugees a lot smoother.

The Hmong never do anything selfish. I believe that they are here because they know it is not good for them back home. They are refugees and are only doing this to survive. The least we could do is help them stay healthy, without any language barriers to hurdle across. As Fadiman said, “For the Hmong, it is never everyone for himself.”


i. Burgess, Ariel. “Health Challenges for Refugees and Immigrants.” Refugee Reports 25.2 (2004): 1. IRSA, Mar.-Apr. 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

ii. 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. Anthropology 370. MSU. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

iii. Marcum, Diana. “Lia Lee Dies at 30; Figure in Cultural Dispute over Epilepsy Treatment.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

iv. Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migrationpolicy.org. April 14, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states.


3 thoughts on “W6: The Hmong Among Us

  1. I do know that the number of refugees and immigrants have gotten higher over the years from what they were in the past. I agree that it is important for everyone to receive decent health care because I think it is a right that everyone should have as a human. Immigrants and refugees should most definitely be among those to receive cheaper and affordable health care when coming to America because often times when they get here they don’t have a lot of money. I like how you brought up the idea of getting translators in hospitals and doctors’ offices etc. to help with the issue of the language barrier, I agree that that would be a great idea and it would also make patients of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds more comfortable in the American health care setting. Another thing that I think would be important for hospitals and doctors to do in America, would be to respect another cultures traditions. As long as it does not cause physical harm to the patient then I don’t think it is a doctors right to tell Hmong women that they can’t practice their traditions such as eating the placenta after birth.

  2. Maria Green,

    I agree that some steps here in the U.S. do need to be taken a little further when it comes to the healthcare system that we have in place. Although we offer translators in hospitals, that alone is simply not enough. People from other countries need to learn the language not just have it translated for them. If people, such as the Hmong, were able to communicate with American doctors as easily as other Americans they would get there questions across much more easily. There would not be so many miscommunication problems that lead to tragedies such as the one that happened to Lia. Lia’s family underwent much miscommunication with Americas healthcare system and I would hate to see anymore awful results due to the miscommunication problems. I do believe that Americans will do as much as we can to fix this problem we are currently facing. By educating both sides, the refugees and Americans, a lot of our problems would be solved. If both sides were more familiar with each other there wouldn’t be as many of the issues that we would encounter here in the U.S.. Overall, great blog post! I agreed with a lot of the points that you nailed.

    Taylor Dabish

  3. Hi Maria,
    You make a good point about involving translators in our healthcare system. This should be mandatory for any health care to be taken place. I am pretty sure there are laws in place now that say that patients have understood the healthcare provided by their doctor and they have to sign to agree to this. Somewhere along the translation this is not being understood by the refugees so to have someone who is fluent in both languages would be very beneficial. You also mentioned that doctors are skeptical when the Hmong ask for their placentas after giving birth so they may take it home with them. It is not up to the doctor to determine what the family does with the placenta it is not the doctors to have or to make decisions about. It is up to the woman who just practically gave birth to it to decide what she wants to do with it. She is not harming herself or anyone else by asking to keep her placenta. Also if its for religious purposes doctors should have no say just like with Jehovah’s Witnesses they cannot get blood transfusions and doctors don’t go against this why should the Hmong religion be treated any differently?

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