By CARLOS GALLEGO
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (May 18, 2013) — Over 100 attended Building Bridges – Live and Learn Community Forum, an event designed to educate and inform the community around cancer in the Hmong community.
The audience was comprised of a diverse mix; college-age female sitting together, groups of high school and college young men, elders, and mothers with young children, couples and families. Learn and Live is visibly supported as Hmong American Partnership’s leadership including board members and community leaders were present to endorse the importance of the Learn and Live Hmong Breast and Cervical Health Education program.
Bao Vang, President and CEO of HAP opened the program, welcoming guests and reviewing the purpose of today’s event and goals of the Live and Learn Campaign.
The Learn and Live’s primary goals are:
• Increase awareness of breast and cervical health for Hmong 16-65 yr. old females.
• Increase the participation rate of breast exams and pap tests for Hmong women.
• Increase the Hmong communities of breast and cervical health so to better advocate for screenings.
Recently the decision of actress Angelina Jolie to undergo a preventive double mastectomy was a huge story for the mainstream, however, this information did not create the same buzz within the Hmong community and particularly less so for Hmong women who are at an age where mammography are most advised.
Actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to do have her breasts removed was based on her being diagnosed as a carrier of a gene mutation called BRCA1 and told she had an 87 percent chance of contracting breast cancer, her decision to have the surgery reduced her risk to 5 percent. Although, these type of high-profile decisions heighten awareness and interest within the mainstream, they bring no culturally relevant message thus in many communities the message is lost.
Mai Vang Vang, Live and Learn Coordinator aside from sharing the program overview, provided the results of their Hmong Community Cancer Survey. The data presented was personalized as their survey results focused on the Hmong community. Usually, cancer presentations geared toward local Southeast Asian communities tend to present aggregate national data on all Asians. (http://iccnetwork.org/cancerfacts). This data has its place such as among groups of health professionals or individuals who have greater awareness of cancer issues, however, with community members, the use of localized information is generally more effective.
While the data set of today’s presentation is smaller than is usually analyzed, it proved much more effective as the community audiences more easily related to local data. Their survey sought to understand the attitudes and beliefs of the Hmong community around cancer.
The survey results established a much needed baseline about knowledge, attitudes and opinions in the Hmong community regarding cancer. The results were based on 161 surveys. They proportionately focused on those where it was necessary to collect the greatest information.
Of those surveyed 63 percent has less than a high school education, 44 percent were over 3 years of age, 78 percent had a household income of less than $35,000,74 percent were uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid/Medicare.54 percent were unemployed or under employed, 80 percent were Hmong Animist.
Programs such as Live and Learn affirm the need to increase the amount of information provided to the Hmong, and Southeast Asian communities as well as the more recent newcomer populations as the Karen and Bhutanese. Furthermore, it reiterated the necessity for culturally responsive messaging, screenings and treatments to be provided in order to have an optimal impact on the Southeast Asian and recent Minnesota newcomer populations.
Some of the community survey’s eye-opening findings included:
71 percent of the interviewees had never had a cancer screening or felt they had not had enough screenings.
32 percent indicated they planned to be screened for cancer, yet 46 percent stated they were not interested in being screened.
More than 44 percent indicated they planned to be screened at least once a year for cancer, further affirming the need for more information on not only the types of cancers but also the correct frequency of screenings for the various cancers.
In an interesting question that bridged traditions with the mainstream, 67 percent indicated they would agree to a test if recommended by a physician, 57 percent would take an test if requested by a family member and 39 percent if recommended by a shaman.
54 percent felt the best treatment for cancer was one which combined Western and Hmong medicine, yet, interestingly nearly 20 percent felt that no medical treatment was appropriate for treatment of cancer.
• 20 percent indicated no knowledge around breast cancer.
This is comparable with 79 percent of the general population who indicated they had knowledge around breast cancer, according to a 2003 Eur Urol survey on prostate cancer awareness.
• 29 percent also indicated no knowledge around cervical cancer
• 53 percent indicated no knowledge around prostate cancer
• 39 percent of the general population who indicated they had knowledge around prostate cancer, according to the Eur Urol study.
Thus much of the survey data collected by HAP is consistent with that of the mainstream.
Currently 35 percent of the program participants are uninsured. Of the participants 30 percent have household incomes of less than $20,000 (writer’s note: These participants are eligible for screening through the Medic-Aid Program) and 20 percent are from household of $20,000 – $40,000 (writer’s note: Many of these women may be eligible for screenings through the Minnesota Department of Health’s SAGE program). 62 percent of the program participants are 30 years or older and 60 percent had limited English proficiency. Of Learn and Live’s program participants, 53 percent are Hmong, 13 percent Lao, 7 percent Cambodian and 7 percent Vietnamese.
By far the most moving and powerful component of today’s program was a moving testimonial by a Hmong cancer patient who talked about how her life was going well as all her goals and plans were moving right along but then all of a sudden she was hit by Cancer and her life turned upside down.
Project next steps include:
Sharing their findings at forums that reach mainstream providers working with the Hmong. This information will better enable the health provider community to more effectively serve the Hmong community.
Continuing to conduct cohort trainings that will train families on how to provide outreach to other Hmong families with information on breast and cervical cancer.
Holding additional forums targeting leaders and community members so the importance of the issue is brought to the forefront.
To date HAP’s Live and Learn campaign has provided education to over 700 via workshops as well as screening more than 50 women.
For more information on Learn and Live please contact: Mai Vang Vang at [email protected] or 651-496-1589.