Laotians Are Not Taking Care of Themselves

A post at Lao Voices had me thinking about Laotians and their health. Since my little brother is a clinical pharmacist I asked him several questions about health care and health plan in regards to Laotians, illegal immigrants and the Hmong refugees. My brother worked at a low-income clinic (CUHCC) in Minneapolis for two years. He had many Laotian patients and Hmong who were on Medicare or Medicaid. Most of them were laborers with very limited income and education. Some of his patients were lucky to bring interpreters with them to the clinic so they can communicate with the doctors. Fortunately, for many Laotians, my little brother was able to speak Lao so they could ask him questions about meds or their illnesses. He was the first Lao doctor they saw at that clinic and they were grateful that they had someone who could understand them. When my brother told me this, I started thinking about why the older generations of Laos people do not take better care of their health. The answer is quite simple to me: lack of education, cultural beliefs, and language barriers.

I notice that some of my parents’ generation lack education when it comes to their health as compared to my generation. Some older Laotians wait until they are very sick or they wait so long to go see a doctor that it has adverse effects on their health. For example, my mom complains about her leg or her back or her high blood pressure, but when we tell her to go see a doctor so she can get medication she always answer, ” If I’m going to die then I’m going to die, who cares?” Then my brother would explain to her what she can take and do to alleviate those symptoms. Most of the time she simply ignores his advice and would rather complain. I think this parallels a health care quiz I read on Lao Voices about how “Health beliefs and practices in Laos are significantly related to Brahmanistic and animistic beliefs. As a consequence illness maybe be attributed to the loss of one of the thirty-two spirits”. Even though my mom lives in America she still holds on to those cultural/ religious beliefs which at times becomes a big obstacle in her taking better care of herself. It can be frustrating for many people when they have friends or relatives who needlessly suffer from ailments that can be cured or alleviated through education.

I asked my brother what are Laotians like as a patient? His immediate response is, “They are non-compliant!” He explains that many Laotians do not take their medication as it is prescribed because they do not like to take pills so they would only take it when they feel they need it. Then they would complain that the medication does not work. When he drills them about how often and when are they taking it, he discovers that they are not even following the instruction. For example, they would take only one pill a day versus three a day as recommended. Sometimes they do this because since the pill is so expensive they try to make it last longer by only taking the minimum. There are also cases where the patient would take too much because they think that it will help them feel better. They do not understand that the recommended dosage is there specifically to treat the ailments and it must be followed in order for the medication to work effectively and to reduce the amount of harmful side effects.

It is understandable that some Laotians can not or do not follow the instruction because of language barrier. Even some of us who are proficient English speakers have problems either following the instructions or understanding how some meds work because of all the confusing medical terms. However, we can at least question our doctors or pharmacist and ask them to break it down in simple terms where we can understand. Imagine if you do not know any English or just know the basic, would it not be frustrating to try to communicate with your caretaker? This is what some Laotians face unless they are fortunate to have an interpreter with them or their doctor speaks the same language.

We need to educate Laotians about their health so they can take better care of themselves.


27 thoughts on “Laotians Are Not Taking Care of Themselves

  1. Pingback: A post at Lao Voices had me thinking about Laotian · We cares

  2. >>>I started thinking about why the older generations of Laos people do not take better care of their health. The answer is quite simple to me: lack of education, cultural beliefs, and language barriers.

    I don’t see that as a problem if the younger generation also helps taking care of our elders. I never have any problem with my dad (or mom when she was still alive) not wanting to go see the doctor, but for most elders, the money, not having health insurance coverage, and not having anyone to take them are the main reasons IMO. When my dad was still working, I would pay for his deductible, and I think it eased his mind, as most elders don’t like to go into debt. Some are very stubborn, but I think it’s our job to convince them and our responsibility to take them to the doctor. If we want to see the ones that we love living a longer and healthier life then we really need to help take care of them as well, we can’t just dismiss the fact that they’re stubborn.

    Btw, I love your new theme. 🙂

  3. dallaslao

    Do you have a huge Asian community in your area?
    Every year there is an Health Fair down at the “Asian Town” here in Dallas area.

    In my past experience…..getting to the doctor is the main problem I’ve encounter. Second is the language barrier.

  4. Laotian Teacher

    In Yuma there is not a huge Asian community, but in Clovis where I grew up there used to be a lot of Laotians. I still have friends in Saginaw and Garland so I know Dallas has many Laotians. I think it is great that there is a health Fair especially with different race there to interpret or present information needed.

    There is a huge Hmong and Lao population where my brother is a pharmacist now. Language barrier is a big reason why most of them do not go see doctors or even pick up their meds at the pharmacy. However, the word is out there that there is a Lao doctor working at CVS of my brother’s customers are Laotians. As for transportation being an issue, I can see that. Some either do not have a means to get there and must wait to find someone to take them.

    Ginger, when I was living at home my siblings and I took turns going to the doctor with our parents as interpreters. We did the same for anybody who needed help that is nice about being part of a Laotian community… we all pitch in whenever and whoever needed the help. I will have my brother discuss the health care issues in the next day or so.

  5. amphone

    Karmadiva, when I attended SEARAC training in DC a couple of years ago, 90% of the attendees were Hmongs representatives from their own organization…and there were many dot org in Minn. Speaking for myself, I am Laotian and I am pretty much like what you and your brother said, I don’t take care of myself. Not, I do but I hate going to the doctor. Fear of needles. I had enough shots to last a life time in he Army.

    Speak of which, the ref camp life once upon a time ago, I stayed at ar karn sarm sib si. When the camp became congested, the overflows took the liberty to build themselves a hut city along the fence. There, the gay Laotians huddled. They helped a lot of single women who needed roomies. They were treated like everyone else, normal. Nobody bothered them. They like to join the men at the water point to bath and fletch water. They played with each other sometime. As a kid I think nothing of it, too young. Too much was on my plate already. I still don’t.

    By the way, Happy New Year mam.

  6. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone! Happy New Year! I know you will have peace and happiness because you are so positive, but just in case you need some good luck … I’m sending you some postive energy!:)

    I did not know you were in the Army, you should talk about that. I hate needles as well! I make such a fuss when I have to get my blood drawn that I scared everyone else in the room!

    In 2005, Minneapolis had over 30,000 Hmong refugee so my little brother who was doing his clinical rotation at CUHCC had a chance to treat them. They are very nice people, but struggling just like we did when we first came to the states.

    How long were you in the refugee camp? I was not and am not bothered by gays and lesbians. I have some students who are and I treat them the same.

    Nye, my parents are Buddhist, but they are not bothered by gays and lesbians. It is interesting information about how the Dalai Lama feels about the issue. It made me think of how the prominent religious leader from the pope to the monk feels the same way about same sex relationship.

  7. amphone

    Hi, Karmadiva. Shots, I got all kind of shots when I was in the service. We got shot every six months. Before we shipped out to boot camp anyway. When we got shipped to Germany we got all kind of shots for prevention. The two years oversea, I got all kind of shots there. Luckily, I didn’t get shot at by the guys on the side of the fence. Thank goodness for that. When I got home, I join the National Guard, they gave me some shots at the processing center. When I joined the Army Reserve, they gave me some shots. I figure with all those shot, I should be pretty immune. I just had to stay in shape to be healthy. Last month when the company had a health fair, the nurse needled me for some blood, I nearly cry. My tear was ready to pop.

    Enough of the shots talk, you had your flu shot I suppose. Got to watch the children. The main thing is tell them to keep their hands clean and eat hot meal. No cold food or junk food. People don’t eat right that’s why they get sick. Ha ha ha. Sorry, just wanted to laugh. Ha ha ha. Again. Ok, I stop now.

    Ha ha ha ha ha. Laughing out loud is healthy too. It release a lot of negative chi. Ha ha ha ha… Try it more often and you ‘ll see.

  8. Amphone! Ha hahaahahhahahhaaha! I LOVE TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH AND I LOVE TO LAUGH MYSELF. In fact, I readily laugh and cry because I am a very emotional person. Laughing and crying is a great way to release tension. Don’t worry I don’t go around crying at the smallest thing.

    No, I didn’t get a fltu shot! When I said I hate needles I really mean it! In fact, last week I had the flu. I don’t often get sick but when I do it knocks me out!:) By the way do you work with disease control or something because you had mentioned SEARAC. That sounds like something to do with disease control or public health?

  9. amphone

    Ha ha ha ha ha, you see, you got to get a flu shot. You got knock out? Ha ha ha ha ha, what a way to describe your being attacked by the flu.

    No, I don’t work with CDC. South East Asian Resource Action Center is a not for profit organization in DC. They have a branch in Fresno now I heard, our very own is the ED there. SEARAC hosted a training for South East Asian’s community advocates. The training is very resourceful. Go to their website to learn more about their activities. Every Lao community that has some kind of organization should send someone to the training, if anything, it’s good for networking and share resources.

    Ha ha ha ha, you thought that it’s a disease control center. You killed me on that one. Ha ha ha ha.

  10. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone! Stop it! You are making me laugh! Anyway, SEARAC can be like a disease control: the prevention of ignorance!:) I will go to their site and check it out. Unfortunately, here in Yuma, I am a one woman show! I have not found any Laotian people except Noi who is in my Yoga class. She was not born in Laos, she’s Chinese who lived in Laos. Anyway, control that spread of disease okay!:)

  11. amphone

    Ha ha ha ha, oh sorry. I will get serious here in a minute. NOT! Ha ha ha ha, you laugh too. Ha ha ha. Okay okay, I quit now.

  12. Judy

    It all get frustrating sometimes because our OG’s don’t like to be told what to do when it comes to taking care of themselves. My mother has diabetes and she didn’t start listening to my suggestions until she eventually went int a diabetic shock…. We live in Saginaw and I know first hand as a daughter of the community how flustered one can get trying to help the elders. What I have been doing which has worked and help is providing them with isotonix drinks which are for maintenence.. where they mix a powdered formula with a certain amount of water, and it’s just like taking a shot of hennessy. It’s so easy for them! lol. None the less, to put technical health terms into lamen Laotian terms tends to get a bit difficult sometimes, too…. None the less, I’m likin this website!

  13. Laotian Teacher

    Thanks Judy for sharing your story! I’m glad you are liking this site. I hope you visit often and share your own experiences!

    I think that is interesting about the isotonix drinks for maintenence. When you said your mom went into a diabetic shock because she didn’t listen, I am reminded of how many of our parents wait too long or too late to take care of something that could have been prevented. In a weird way, they would rather put up with the pain than take their meds or go see a doctor.

    I used to go to Saginaw and Garland all the time when I was a teenager over 20 years ago and it was just starting to grow. I bet there is a huge Laos population down there now!

  14. amphone

    Diabetes and Cancer seem to be two causes of death among Asian immegrants. Don’t you think? In my community a lot of people die and all I heard was “caner” or “diabetes.”

    Well, I am glad that this coalition that I am a part of is finally getting somewhere. We got our funding for advocacy and training. The funding is for 4 years. I and key members of the coalition will speak to the press on our success thus far. Teacher, I am so happy. I went to coalition meeting every month for 2 years. This Laotian boy made it known that we care and we are a part of the community. I can’t wait to tell you more. May be after the press release tomorrow.

  15. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone! You are killing me here with the suspense! You better tell me okay after the press release!

    I know what you mean about hearing a lot about how this person or that person just died of cancer. When I was younger I don’t remember hearing any Lao person died of cancer or diabetes, but now that has changed. That is why it is so important that we educate people about their health issues!

  16. amphone

    We got to tell them, while they are young, to take better care of themselves. A lot of our elder die young. They usually go to the doctor when things are too late.

    We Asians are not support to die young. And what is this about cancer and diabetes? Some of my Cambodian friends said with anger, “You are fine, you go to the doctor you die.” “Boom boom boom, I survived bombs, bullet, but I am going to die of stupid cancer.” “What sense does that make.” One of my Cambodian friends who is in his late forties is wearing a feeding tube around his waste waiting to die. He has colon cancer. We lost our precious sweetheart of he community to breast cancer two years ago. She was in her late twenties.

    I think your topic, We Laotians Die Young, would be a good one.

  17. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone, let’s start a movement here to educate Laotians about health care. I will get my brother who is a doctor to help with this issue. I will start a health section here at the blog with my brother’s help since he is an expert!

    It is maddening to think that so many Asians survived wars to get here to America where they should be able to get better health care, but instead more are dieing here than in Laos. My grandma is in her seventies and she is doing okay.

    I feel so sad for your friend, makes me want to cry that he knows he is dieing and just waiting for that day. That is too horrible. I hope those around him help make him as happy as he can be under the circumstances.

  18. amphone

    Hi again, back already. Last night was great. The local Asian news medias came. The Atlanta Journal Constitution interviewed us earlier while I was at work. So Laotian is going to be mention. 4 of us spoke to the press briefly about the coalition. I spoke about my journey with the group since we started a little over two years ago. Some of my Laotians friends came with their kids. We ate afterward and chat. It was time well spent. Lao man dot com shop was closed around midnight.

    Hey the movement sounds good. With the internet, we can connect to many Laotian and Asian agency. First thing to do is to establish communication. Then….Once the coalition takes off, there will be trainings for coalition members. Our roles will probably be advocates and navigators since we are not full timers. There will training for that. SEARAC just announced that they received a grant to do an awareness on domestic violence.

    Now you are talking about start a blog on health. That’s great idea. Anything health related should be posted. Health tips and so on can be valuable to anyone of us. We can even take another step, have a Q & A session. I am sure there is a lot I don’t know. It’s like going to medical school, heh?

    Speaking of Q & A, What is a good remedy for a stuff nose due to cold or flu?

    I always do this. I would turn on the shower hot until it fogged up the entire bathroom. I would then shower and breath hot steam. I would drown myself in all that steam, let the water run through my nose. I will stay in there as long as possible or at least until the heat water ran out.
    Sometime when we have a cold, we are cold. This is a good way to forget about the cold. Before shower, I would prepare a long john, nice comfortable loose clothing and then I will dawn them in the bathroom. When I come out of the bathroom, I will prepare my mind for a fresh new beginning and kiss the cold good bye. This helps your mind to help heal.

    That was an example. I really use this method. It’s how I over come them before they overcome me. The cold I meant.

  19. Laotian Teacher


    It is awesome that SEARAC receive a grant for raising awareness of domestic violence. That is long overdue!

    As for the health blog, I do not have a medical degree but my little brother has one so I will have him write on different issues. I’ll create a tap and title it: Ask Dr. Joe where people can ask him about anything to do with medicine and what to take for different ailments.

    I am going to have my sister write articles in regards to mental health since she has a masters in that area. I have two sisters who graduated with degrees in psychology and sociology.

    Stuffy nose remedy? Well, personally I eat a lot of spicy food because it does clear my nose. Second the shower idea is great as well. I love the smell of menthol. You can buy SudaCare Shower Soothers Vaporizing Shower Tablets , 7 tablets. The tablets will not only help with the congestion, but it will relax you.

  20. amphone

    Hmm…interesting. Didn’t know that. Health tips is always needed, you think? We can’t advise people. No way, we’ll be in trouble. “You said I should…” You know what I mean? Truth is, a lot of Laotians have great remedies for cure minor sickness and stuffs. You think?

  21. Laotian Teacher


    We can’t advise people, but we can give suggestions of things we ourselves have used or experience . When it comes to medical advices, I will not be giving any, I will have my brother talk about different health issues to raise awareness. Don’t worry I know about the legality of it. I don’t want people to be angry or sue me for giving medical advices when I’m not qualify.

    I’ll have my sister write issues on mental health and my brother on physical health. People can ask them things but they will stress that it is best if they see their mental health professional and doctor.

    You must have read my mind about Laotians having great natural remedies for minor sicknesses and ailments. When you talk about the shower remedy for your cold, I thought of my mother because she had me do the same thing when I lived at home!:)

  22. amphone

    That’s great having brother and sister in the field. You said, you’ll have your sister write. Is she okay with that? She’s probably younger than you right?

    Okay, later on then.

  23. May Saeng

    My name is May. I am also the program director overseeing the division of women and health for a Laotian community based organization in the Chicagoland area. I would really like to chat with you more about the health care needs of the Laotian people and what we can do to encourage better medical self care. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

  24. Sam

    I too have a stubborn old Laotian father. He is Diabetic and I’ve been looking for a Lao or Vietnamese speaking doctor in the Dallas area with no luck. Does anyone know of one in the Garland/Dallas area. You are welcome to email me at Thank you for your help!

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