ORANGE COUNTY, California—More Americans are decreasing their amount of health care as a better economy has been promised to come.
Though, some communities have been experiencing decreased health care, even before mainstream media began reporting nationally declining statistics.
On 1 October 2011, the Viễn Đông reported on health disparities in the Orange County (OC) Vietnamese American community when compared to other OC ethnic communities. Such disparities suggest roadblocks the OC Vietnamese American community faces in obtaining sufficient health care.
Some roadblocks are likely similar to what mainstream media is now reporting Americans are generally
Consumer Reports (CR) released a poll last week, reflecting that Americans are sometimes making “risky tradeoffs” to pay their health care bills.
According to the poll, 48 percent of Americans currently taking prescription medicine put off a doctor’s visit or medical procedure, decline medical testing, order less expensive drugs from outside the United States, or lessen health care costs in some other way.
Further, 28 percent of Americans taking medication resorted to possibly dangerous methods of saving money, like skipping a prescription, taking expired medication, or skipping a dosage without asking a doctor or pharmacist.
And doctors haven’t necessarily been helping either.
“When you walk into your doctor’s office, you are a patient, first and foremost, but you are also a consumer, and your doctor should be tuned into this, especially during these tough times,” Dr. John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CR Health Ratings Center was quoted in a CR press release. “Some doctors are still taking money from industry and they may be lagging when it comes to suggesting alternatives to drug therapy, prescribing less expensive generics, and talking to their patients about cost issues.”
What roadblocks does the OC Vietnamese American community face in obtaining health care?
Some OC Vietnamese American health care trends
According to an OC Health Needs Assessment (OCHNA) report, about 24 percent OC Vietnamese Americans do not have a particular health clinic, doctor’s office, or health center they usually go to for health care or advice.
The report is called “A Look at Health in Orange County’s Vietnamese Community” and uses information gathered from a 2007 survey, mainly comparing the OC Vietnamese American community’s health with that of the most populous ethnic groups within OC.
Most of the OC Vietnamese Americans lacking a consistent location for health care or advice, felt they seldom, if at all, became sick. Other reasons were: not knowing where to go for care, the cost of medical care, not having insurance or having lost their insurance, and not being able to find a provider who spoke Vietnamese.
According to key informants interviewed for the OCHNA, good health in the Vietnamese culture is having the absence of physical pain or discomfort. This leads to challenges in convincing Vietnamese Americans to participate in health screenings or routine check-ups.
“The reason why many Vietnamese may not take responsibility for their own health is because they place family needs above their own and self-care is viewed as selfish,” Dr. Thuy-Anh Nguyễn said in the report, suggesting another reason behind a lack of check-ups among OC Vietnamese Americans.
When compared to OC Whites, Latinos, and other Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), OC Vietnamese Americans were less likely to get routine check-ups.
Of the OC Vietnamese Americans surveyed, about 11 percent reported never having a routine check-up, compared to about 2 percent Whites, 6 percent Latino, and 4 percent other AAPIs surveyed in OC.
OC Vietnamese Americans also reported higher rates of not taking prescription drug medication and difficulty in communicating with their doctors than any other ethnic group in OC.
According to Vietnamese Community of Orange County (VNCOC) Operations Manager Ms. Kathy Kieu-Diem Nguyễn , there are times when Vietnamese American patients wait until the last minute to refill prescriptions so they often miss doses.
Other patients save medication to send to Vietnam, also missing out on doses for themselves. While other patients feel the medication could be too harsh on their bodies so they limit doses.
Still, there are patients who do not completely comprehend the directions.
Key informants interviewed for the OCHNA report expressed that Vietnamese Americans hold doctors in high regard and may be reluctant to disclose health issues in attempts to not disappoint their doctors.
Such lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of communication and understanding between doctors and patients, limiting comprehension surrounding generic drugs, instructions, and costs.
Thoughts to consider
Though, the OCHNA report showed Vietnamese Americans lack traditional preventative health care, they do tend to improve their well-being with “alternative medicine” like Tai Chi exercise, having a balanced diet, and using herbal medication.
However, Western lifestyles make such practices more difficult to do regularly.
Should the Vietnamese American community further conform to Western lifestyles and medicine that could lead to higher costs in health care?
Should other ethnic and mainstream communities consider lessening Western lifestyles and incorporating more alternative medicine into their daily activities as a possible way to decrease health care costs?
Are there other suggestions for how the communities can improve their health while keeping costs low?