Differences in Health Care Illustrated in Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Powerful Essays
What would it be like to come to a country and not understand anything about its health care system? To many this would be a very daunting task. Unfortunately, this is the scenario that the Lee family has to deal with in the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. The Lee family, and the other thousands of Hmong immigrants, try to understand and navigate the complex and sometimes confusing health care system of the United States. As the book points out, the values and ideals of the Hmong culture and the United States health care system are not always the same and sometimes come into great conflict with each other. Lia Lee was unfortunately the person stuck in the middle of this great conflict.

The two Hmong cultural values that were demonstrated by the Lee family are portrayed by their belief and view about the cause and method of cure for an illness. The Lee family comes from a culture that believes in holistic healing. They have an animalistic view about health and medicine. For instance an epileptic is seen as someone who has been chosen to be a healer. Most Hmong epileptic are shamans, therefore even though the Lee’s wish that their daughter’s illness will be cured, they also have a mixture of pride because “although shamanism is an arduous calling that require years of training with a master in order to learn the ritual techniques and chants, it confers an enormous amount of social status in the community and publicly marks the triv neeh as a person of high moral character since a healing spirit will never choose a no account host” (Fadiman,1997, p.21). It is not surprising that their view about health is reflected mostly in their traditional belief in the causes and the cure of an illness. For i...

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..., p.261) With this knowledge of the culture that one works in, the health care worker can better see the differences with the cultures of the patients that they are taking care of. Hopefully this understanding will lead to less conflict and better healing.

In this book Anne Fadiman portrayed the ethnocentricity of the American culture, in which people of other cultures are judged based on the standard of American customs and tradition. This means that people are very skeptical about the things that they do not understand. A lot can be learned from the interactions that took place between the Western United States health care system and the more traditional Hmong culture. This book proved that in the end neither way of thinking was completely wrong or completely right. Compromise and understanding is the key to both cultures getting the outcome that they desire.
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