In this paper I will first examine two different health systems in their respective social and cultural context. You will first describe two main features of the Hmong health system and the American health system. Next you will explain how each health system works with other aspects of the same society. Finally you will briefly explain, from the Functionalist perspective, why there are differences and similarities between the two health systems.
(Compare and contrast Hmong health system with American biomedical health system in terms of Etiology, or causal explanations of health problems.)
Healthcare is a complex matter, increasingly fragmented. Cultural and language barriers complicate the situation. Western medicine has developed into a subculture with its own history, language, codes of conduct, expectations, methods, technologies, and concerns about the science which supports it. Science teaches us that human populations are governed by biologic universals that transcend cultural boundaries. The methods and language of biologically based and somatically focused health care have created an extraordinary gap between practitioners and the public they serve.
There is a disparity between the biomedical categorization of human disruptions as disease and the patient’s personal and social experience of illness. The dichotomy between disease and the illness experience has provoked extensive commentary. It has been proposed that the inability to deal with illness is a major failing of biomedicine. Cross-cultural circumstances often magnify the discrepancy between the views held by patients and health care providers. Unable to identify problems and developing plans for solving them. This conflict arises from misunderstanding and mistrust from both health professionals and the Hmongs. The Hmong who enters the American health system often does so only when all traditional methods fail. Now, the patient is most often they become extremely ill, sometimes critically. This emergency health care entry reflects the pattern practiced in their homeland. Their extreme geographical isolation during pre-refugee times prevented them from regularly seeking more sophisticated medical care, which was available only – if at all – in the more urban communities. A family member usually had to be close to death before the arduous trip could even be considered or justified by the clan. This learned behavior about when to enter the health system has persisted in the US, even though the element of geographical isolation has been removed.
Apart from the spiritual dimension, other cultural differences make Southeast Asians more reluctant to enter the US medical system. The intense cultural shock of relocation, for one, serves to further confuse the Hmong. They lose their sense of socioeconomic identity. The significant language barrier sometimes seems nearly impossible to overcome. The typical Hmong is very shy, conditioned by Hmong culture to remain closed, not revealing fears and anxieties.
The health practices and beliefs of the Hmong people are traditional for the most part. The Hmong are spiritual people and this philosophy permeates their concepts of health and illness. Many cultures share in common having indigenous healers who specialize in the following areas: midwifery, bone setters, herbalists, and spiritual healers.
Western medicine goes by various terms including modern medicine, scientific medicine, biomedicine, and cosmopolitan medicine. They share aims to combat disease primarily through the use of medications and surgery. Many non-Western practices do not have counterparts in Western medicine.