Officials at Merced-based Healthy House will soon begin a project geared toward improving the health of Hmong people suffering from diabetes.
The organization was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation to work on a project providing diabetes outreach, screening, education and case management for the Hmong communities in Merced and Sacramento.
The nonprofit will work in collaboration with Hmong Health Collaborative, a group of about nine organizations in the Central Valley that serve the Hmong population.
Diabetes is a big issue among Hmong people. Case in point, two out of five Hmong are estimated to have type 2 diabetes, said Palee Moua, director of cultural services at the Healthy House Within a MATCH Coalition in Merced.
Moua said the misconceptions about the disease are many. “The big challenge is that Hmong do not understand diabetes,” Moua said. “They think it’s a disease that will go away with medication.”
Moua, who has performed some diabetes work in Merced’s Hmong community on another project, said the three major issues for Hmong dealing with diabetes are: medication, food and exercise. For example, Moua said, they often don’t take medication as prescribed by a doctor, and they don’t understand diabetes is a disease that’s associated with lifestyle.
The project aims to better educate Hmong about the facts surrounding the disease, in addition to clearing up misconceptions.
Healthy House will work with Merced Lao Family to set up events in the community. In Sacramento, the organization will partner with the Hmong Women’s Heritage Association for the same purpose.
Candice Adam-Medefind, executive director for Healthy House, said the groups hope to screen at least 750 people in Merced and Sacramento as part of the project. A community nurse with Healthy House will do intensive case management, following up with patients at least every two weeks, Adam-Medefind said.
Healthy House also will try to refer patients to agencies, programs and providers that can offer health care and coverage, Adam-Medefind said.
In addition, Healthy House staff will help develop a lifestyle plan for Hmong patients, she said, targeting people 18 and older.
The groups also hope to work with patients’ families. “We would like to educate the youth also about what is the process for them to take measures before (diabetes) happens,” said Naina Kaloowalla, a nurse with Healthy House.
There are an estimated 80,000 Hmong in the Central Valley, with 10 percent in Merced County, Adam-Medefind said. Californiahas the largest Hmong population nationwide, she added.
“Hopefully this program is a success for the Hmong community,” Kaloowalla said.
Darrel Ng, spokesman with the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, said the goal of the foundation is to help people get and stay healthy.
“We awarded this grant because we wanted to help the Hmong community in our state gain healthy habits so they can live longer, healthier lives,” he said.
If this project is successful, Healthy House might expand it to Fresno and Stockton, Adam-Medefind said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or