Relationships Through Understanding
With Focus on Health Care
Recognizing that a growing number of their hospital patients and clinic customers are Hmong, practitioners and staff of Tracy Area Medical Services (TAMS) arranged a Hmong Community Cultural Awareness Workshop this summer. With support from United Way of Lyon County, organizers from TAMS, which includes the Westbrook Health Center in Westbrook and Murray County Memorial Hospital in Slayton, hosted a July 12 Community Cultural Diversity Workshop at the Walnut Grove School in Walnut Grove. Lilian Vang from the Center for Cross-Cultural Health in Minneapolis provided the cultural competency training. Representatives from youth organizations, educational institutions, social service, employment and counseling agencies from Lyon, Redwood, Cottonwood, Murray and other counties throughout southwest Minnesota attended along with TAMS medical staff.
Vang provided information on background and history of Hmong people, family structure and migration to the United States, Minnesota and Lyon County. Among some of the highlights:
The Southwest Minnesota Hmong Culture-History Center located at the Walnut Grove School provided an additional experience for workshop attendees with its display of information, pictures, artifacts, books, and embroideries on Hmong culture. (For more information on the Center, contact culture advisor, Harry Yang at the Walnut Grove School 507-859-2141.)
Implications for Health Care
Community leaders and service providers need to think about what our communities and health care settings can put in place to serve as “cultural brokers” or “cultural liaisons” to assist service providers and immigrant consumers. These liaisons need to be not only bilingual, but also bicultural in order to bridge the language and cultural barriers that challenge effective delivery of services.
Hmong families and individuals will need to understand their rights and responsibilities involving health care.
Many Western concepts will present challenges for Hmong people, for example, the concept of living with a chronic condition such as diabetes can lead to dissatisfaction with a health care provider, seeking out cures from other providers, and general frustration with the system.
When providing medical care, practitioners should ask Hmong consumers whether they use alternative medicines and remedies, whether they practice “old” ways (Hmong traditions) or “new” ways (Western medicine).
Health care practitioners and all types of service providers are encouraged to be aware of the Hmong extended family social structure as they work with Hmong community members. They are further encouraged to know that the culture’s family decision - making model is that information is brought back to the family. That is, the extended family is very much involved in the ultimate health care decisions and choices.
Health care practitioners, service providers and all community members must be willing to continue to learn about Hmong ceremonies, culture and values, and especially to deal with Hmong people respectfully in the health care setting. Says Vang, “The negotiation piece is the hardest part. Sometimes it’s humbling to get to know people – the missing pieces. As providers, it is especially difficult. We feel we know what’s causing an illness, and we know we have the answer or treatment. (But) we need to remember that the patient and family have responsibility for the decision.”
The Center for Cross-Cultural Health is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to “integrate cultural competency into health and human services through information, training, research, and consulting.” The vision is better health for all through cross-cultural understanding. Website: www.crosshealth.com
Tracy Area Medical Services has also received a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation “to assist in providing better awareness of health care through TAMS and the communities of Tracy and Walnut Grove.” For more information on TAMS and its initiatives and programs in cultural competence, contact Community Relations Coordinator, Carol Cooreman at: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing & Community Relations Coordinator,Robin Madson at: email@example.com or Licensed Social Worker, Angela Nelson, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Article prepared by Lois
Schmidt, SW MN Private Industry Council Workforce/ABE Collaborative
Lyon County Government Center • 607 W. Main St. • Marshall, MN 56258 • (507) 537-7046