Health Concerns for Merced's Hmong Community

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Merced, Ca

Merced, California (Luiza Leite/Flickr)

My name is Changvang Her. I was born in Laos and came to this country in 1980 as refugee. Being a refugee, my family came here without knowing which state we would settle in. We first came to Portland, Oregon and lived there for two years, then moved to Merced, California and have lived here ever since.

Our family moved to Merced because there is a large Hmong community here, mostly refugees like myself. I started school and finished school here. I worked as an auto mechanic for 15 years and was involved in the Hmong community as a wedding mediator (called Txiv Tuam Mej Koob). I am on the advisory board for many organizations and recently became a clan leader for the Her Clan in Merced.

Since 2000, I transitioned from being an auto mechanic to a healthcare interpreter. During the 11 years I have worked as an interpreter, I have learned that there are many chronic health issues such as hepatitis, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, and mental health illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression that the Hmong community in Merced, and other city throughout the U.S., are facing. As an interpreter, I see that there are many challenges to understanding disease in the Hmong community because of language barriers, lack of patient education and lack of health insurance.

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About Changvang Her

Mr. Changvang Her is a clan leader for the local Her clan. Over the past 30 years, Mr. Her has been actively involved in the Hmong community as a Txiv Tuam Mej Koob, or wedding mediator, for different Hmong clans. He has also been involved with Merced Lao Family and Hmong Her Association as an advisory board member. He is also vice-president for Lao Family Refugee Unification Project, which provides mediation for Hmong families in Merced County. Mr. Her also has been a Community Outreach Liaison for Healthy House’s Partners in Healing Project. He has successfully recruited Hmong shamans to participate in the Western Medical orientation program. Mr. Her facilitates home visits for providers to observe traditional ceremonies and shares information about shaman tools, altars and the cultural meanings of traditional practices. Mr. Her was the first Hmong interpreter and cultural mediator at the Family Practice Residency Program and Golden Valley Health Centers back in 2000. He was the founder of the Hmong support group. Among the many activities he does, Mr. Her is currently a Director of Language Services for Healthy House’s Language Bank and a healthcare interpreter and cultural mediator at the Mercy Medical Center.

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