Hmong In America
The concept of culture can be defined as an orchestrated integration of unconsciously learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of a group of people. Many varying constituents compose a particular culture. This causes many different cultures to deviate from one another greatly. Such components as ethnicity, life experiences, values, beliefs, religion, time orientations and socializations are all examples of these aspects. (Warner and Mochel, p.4)
Because of the great differences many cultures exhibit between one another, within situations where cross-cultural interactions take place, many discrepancies, disagreements, and difficulties arise. These situations are becoming increasingly evident in the United States today due to the cultural diversity brought upon by immigrants and refugees new to this country.
One prominent example of an intercultural disharmony is apparent in the situation of health care systems. Here at the Minneapolis Health Center, we often see the problems faced by the health care staff when it comes to administering western bio-medicinal procedures to patients within the large Southeast Asian Hmong community.
Western Biomedicine, the very governing system here at the Minneapolis Health Center, can be viewed as a cultural system. It is the primary viewpoint of health care in America today. “Values of clinical reality assume that biologic concerns are more basic, real, clinically significant and interesting than psychological and sociocultural issues”. (Warner and Mochel, p.5-6) This also carries with it a highly ethnocentric viewpoint that there are no other effective alternate forms of healing besides that offered by western biomedicine.
The Hmong community’s culture is one in which such an alternate form of healing is taken to. The belief’s that shape their ideas concerning illness, health, causation of ailments, diagnostic methods, and plans of treatment drastically counter those of Western Biomedine.
Immigrants and refugees, such as the Hmong, are faced with many hardships when seeking health care in the United States. Aside from linguistic barriers, a lack of understanding of the Hmong is also problematic in providing health care. In order for progress to be made concerning this problem knowledge of their cultural beliefs much be known.
The Hmong, meaning “free people”, originated in Southeast Asia. In the 1960’s the United States C.I.A. recruited them as guerilla fighters in the Vietnam War. After the loss of the war by the Americans, the Hmong were faced with terrible discrimination and prosecution in their homeland. They were forced to escape and take refuge in the United States. (Lecture notes, 8/28/00)
The Hmong are an animistic people, believing in ancestral worship and reincarnation. Traditional convictions of the Hmong center around the body housing many souls, up to approximately 30, within. Illnesses are caused by soul loss, or souls wandering away from the body. Other causes of illness are hostile spirits, known as dabs. (http://www.acithn.edu.aq) There is a strong belief in both herbal and spiritual remedies. Spiritual treatment exists in the form known as Shamanism. In this, an individual is chosen by spirits to have the ability to venture to the underworld and negotiate to bring lost souls back to the land of the living. Sometimes this negotiation consists of sacrificing an animal. (Lecture notes, 8/28/00)
Many examples of Hmong beliefs directly conflict with Western Biomedicinal beliefs, as we clearly see evident here at M.M.C. For instance, the Hmong believe that each person’s body contains only a finite amount of blood, which cannot be replenished. This notion has lead to many disputes between patient and health care staff when involving blood drawing. Also, the Hmong believe that to speak of a medical problem is to assure that it will come to pass