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During my fieldwork, I was able to create a resource guide tailored to Southeast Asians while developing a better sense of the community by talking with Families in Good Health (FiGH) staff about their work.
As a first-generation Hmong American, my interest in Southeast Asian community health is personal. After Laos fell to communist forces in 1975, the Hmong were forced to flee, many resettling in the United States – including my parents. Nearly 40 years later, health providers and agencies still lack the cultural competency and resources to effectively improve Hmong health. As the incidence of debilitating chronic illnesses surges in my community, the need to collect reliable data and tailor health services to this underserved population has never been greater.
Recently I had the opportunity to assist Families in Good Health (FiGH) in tailoring programs to the Cambodian and Lao communities in Long Beach. FiGH was established in 1987 as a joint venture between the St. Mary Medical Center and the United Cambodian Community, Inc. – a partnership between health care and community. It seeks to build capacity within the community to make informed choices and to access needed health and social resources.
Like my parents, many Southeast Asian Americans came to the United States in the 1980s to escape from the war-torn countries of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. These groups represent some of the most vulnerable communities. Far from the “model minority” stereotype of Asian Americans who achieve higher-than-average success, they lack the cultural and linguistic resources, media outlets, education and advocacy that would ameliorate some of the hardships and disparities they face. During my fieldwork, I was able to create a resource guide tailored to Southeast Asians while developing a better sense of the community by talking with FiGH staff about their work. I learned that constant communication, networking and collaboration are essential to gaining trust.
Families in Good Health