The Hmong community was hit hard by COVID-19. Even as Minnesota emerges from the pandemic, the worry and grief of the last year will linger for many in the tight-knit community.
Beloved elders who survived the refugee experience and the start of a new life in Minnesota were lost to the virus. Community leaders battled misinformation. And, the strong tradition of Hmong communal life — including extended family activities and big funerals — came into direct conflict with the need to socially distance to be safe from the virus.
The Minnesota Department of Health tracks COVID-19 cases by broad racial groups, not specific ethnic categories, so it is hard to measure the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on Hmong people. One recent report found that Hmong people accounted for half of the deaths in Minnesota among Asians who died of COVID-19 in 2020.
Host Angela Davis explored some of the cultural and economic reasons the virus took such a toll in the Hmong community and recent efforts to encourage vaccinations.
Chao Yang is a senior health educator for St. Paul Ramsey Public Health, founder of the Hmong Public Health Association and a student in the Executive Public Health Administration and Policy program at the University of Minnesota. Her research resulted in the report A Race to Close the Disproportionate COVID-19 Death Rate in Minnesota’s Asian Community.
Dr. David Thao is chair of the Hmong Medical Association and a plastic surgeon in Woodbury, Minn. who has been extensively involved in COVID-19 education and outreach in local and national Hmong communities.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.
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