Largest study of Hmong shamanism prompts new patient care guidelines

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL--In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Minnesota, Creative Theatre Unlimited and UCare Minnesota (UCare) have found that Hmong cultural attitudes and behaviors influence how, why and with whom Hmong Americans access health care in Minnesota. As a result, researchers hope to put in place a new set of guidelines that will enhance cross-cultural medical competence and improve care of Hmong patients in Minnesota.

Gregory Plotnikoff, M.D., M.T.S., medical director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing; Charles Numrich, executive director of Creative Theatre Unlimited, St. Paul; Deu Yang, L.P.N., case manager at UCare; and two other local Hmong health care providers have completed a two-year study of 32 Hmong patients and 11 shamans, or traditional healers. Researchers wanted to increase understanding of Hmong healing traditions and how they impact health care choices in Western medical settings, including primary and emergency care.

The study was funded by UCare, a health maintenance organization serving more than 100,000 members enrolled in state public health programs and Medicare, and implemented by Creative Theatre Unlimited.

"Practitioners who work with Hmong patients need to recognize the power of religious and cultural beliefs that either cause or heal illness, and the contemporary role of shamanic healing," said Plotnikoff. "Our study offers clinicians a practical guide to working with this community and suggests that practitioners consider referring Hmong patients to shamans just as they would to clergy."

As a result of the research, a new set of patient interview questions was drawn up to improve the medical community's understanding of Hmong culture and traditions. Study results and suggested patient questions are published in the June issue of Minnesota Medicine, a clinical journal for physicians. UCare, which insures nearly 13 percent of the s

Contact: Deane Morrison
University of Minnesota

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