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September 2022

West J Med. 1992 Sep; 157(3): 310-5.

Use of traditional and modern health services by Laotian refugees.

Gilman SC, Justice J, Saepharn K, Charles G.

Regional Medical Education Center, Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Long Beach, San Francisco, CA.

Although refugee health care emerged as a special interest in the United States following the influx of almost a million Southeast Asians since 1975, few studies have been done of the influence of refugee traditions on the use of Western medical services. The illness patterns, medical beliefs, and health care behavior of a Southeast Asian refugee group, the Mien from Laos are described in this study. A cohort of 119 Mien refugees living in Richmond, California, was observed for a 6-month period. In-home interviews were undertaken about all episodes of ill health, including treatment and health care decisions. This study shows that the Mien integrate traditional healing beliefs and practices with the use of American health services. Such findings are important because the increasing cultural diversity in the United States, particularly in Western states, necessitates that health care professionals understand the importance of cultural factors for access to and the use of health care by all patients including refugees and other immigrant groups.

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