Patterns of Health Risk

Hmong older adults endured numerous losses upon their arrival to this country (lifestyle, key relationships, role identity) and threats to their cultural heritage (Parker, 1996).

When compared to other refugee or immigrant groups in U.S. history, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement has identified older Hmong as having the greatest difficulty adjusting to life in America (Hunn, n.d.)

This is compounded by

  • language barriers
  • low socioeconomic status
  • lack of formal education
  • insufficient means of transportation
  • social isolation

(Thao 2002; Parker, 1996)

These factors have been linked to individuals who are at high risk for health disparities (Kue, Redo, & Yang, 1995), yet health of elder Hmong has not received the attention that it deserves.

Guided Interviews

There is a dearth of research that has focused on health issues of Hmong American elders. Gerdner (2007) conducted a three-year study using ethnographic techniques of guided interviews and participant observation to explore the perception and care of Hmong American elders with chronic illness living in selected areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In-depth interviews were conducted with elders (over 60 years of age), family caregivers, traditional healers, non-Hmong Western health care practitioners, Hmong Western health care practitioners, and ministers (both Hmong and non-Hmong serving the Hmong community)
Taped interviews, when transcribed, produced over 1000 pages of qualitative data. Refinement of the qualitative data analysis continues.

Preliminary findings identify the following primary health concerns:

  • hypertension
  • chronic pain
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • renal disease
  • chronic confusion
  • asthma
  • “heart problems”
  • stroke
  • gallstones
  • hepatic disease
  • “colon problems”