Academic journal article Hmong Studies Journal

Health Disparities Research in the Hmong American Community: Implications for Practice and Policy

Academic journal article Hmong Studies Journal

Health Disparities Research in the Hmong American Community: Implications for Practice and Policy

Article excerpt

Abstract

Since the first wave of their arrival to the U.S. over 30 years ago, the Hmong population has grown substantially. Although the focus on health disparities has led to improvements in recent decades in the health of the U.S. population as a whole, many non-white populations continue to lag behind. One such population is the Hmong. This article reviews medical studies since 1990 that focus on Hmong health issues and argues for long-term funding at the state and federal levels as well as immediate support to address the health needs of this significantly growing population. Furthermore, the authors argue that existing anecdotal reports and findings on the Hmong population require greater attention, further study, and a commitment to work for change.

Keywords: Hmong, Hmong Americans, Hmong health data, health disparities, health inequities,

Introduction

One of the major goals of Healthy People 2020, a national health promotion and disease initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is to "achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups" (Healthy People, 2012). According to Thomas, Quinn, Butler, Fryer and Garza (2011), although these disparities have been obvious and in many cases documented throughout the history of the U.S., federal efforts to address them have not been consistent. Furthermore, although improvements in recent decades in the health of the U.S. population as a whole have been significant, non-white populations continue to lag behind. One such population is the Hmong.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are over 17.3 million Asian Americans living in the United States, of which, 260,073 are Hmong (http://2010.census.gov/). Since the first wave of their arrival to the U.S. over 30 years ago, the Hmong population has grown substantially. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the Hmong population grew over 40% (Asian Pacific American Legal Center & Asian American Justice Center, 2011). This is significant, given that the total U.S. population grew only by 9.7% in the same decade (http://2010.census.gov/). Although the Hmong have been the subject of many research studies published in scholarly journals over the last 30 years (Herther, 2009), they are generally excluded as a group in large-scale research studies such as national health studies (Blendon et al., 2007; Kagawa-Singer, 2010) that include other Asian American groups with much larger population sizes.

The Absence of Health Disparities Data on Immigrant Populations

Since the first studies on health disparities in the U.S. were conducted in 1960, data has consistently shown that individuals with fewer resources are significantly disadvantaged (mainly African Americans compared to whites); however, the extent of health disparities continues to show great variation by outcome, time, and geographic location within the United States (Adler & Rehkopf, 2008). Several nationally-recognized studies, including The Heckler Report on Black and Minority Health; the Institute of Medicine's Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare; the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey's Comparing Urgent Medical Care; and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's National Healthcare Disparities Report, document the existence of health disparities in racial and ethnic populations in the U.S. (Buckner-Brown et al., 2011). These studies have shown that, overall, social and environmental factors, disparities in education, and cultural beliefs play a significant role in health disparities. Addressing these social determinants of health requires "multisectorial and transdisciplinary partnerships with community collaborators" (Buckner-Brown et al., 2011, p. S13).

In the last fifty years, national longitudinal data on health disparities have focused primarily on comparisons between whites and African Americans with growing comparison data on Hispanics.4 Data on the Hispanic population has made researchers aware of the need for data on foreign-born individuals to adequately assess health needs. …

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