Improving Health Care for Cambodian-Americans

Scarred by years of torture and abuse under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian refugees in the United States have been found to have significantly higher physical and mental health problems compared to the general population.

Helping them address their health issues and receive sustained, adequate health care hasn’t been easy. Many of the refugees view Western medicine as complementary to traditional Cambodian healing practices – which may include Buddhist healers, herbalists, and acupuncture – and only visit a primary care physician infrequently. Language barriers, social isolation, lack of access to transportation, and limited financial resources create further impediments to receiving quality care.

In response to the problem, two UConn professors are working to improve the health outcomes of Cambodian refugees through community outreach, medication therapy management, innovative telemedicine and technology services, research, and policy changes.

Thomas Buckley, an assistant clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy and an expert on health disparities and access to care, has been working with a Connecticut nonprofit advocacy group for the past seven years to make sure older Cambodian-Americans in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California are taking the medications they need. In addition to serving as a clinical consultant for Khmer Health Advocates (KHA) of West Hartford – the only Cambodian-American health care organization in the U.S. – he is preceptor of a clinical rotation for UConn pharmacy students involving Cambodian refugees.

Megan Berthold, assistant professor of social work, meets with Theanvy Kuoch, executive director, right, Sengly Kong, co-investigator, left, and Gabriel Babalola, financial manager, at Khmer Health Advocates in West Hartford on Dec. 18, 2012. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

On another front, S. Megan Berthold, assistant professor of social work and an expert on the physical and mental health consequences of trauma in refugee groups, has spent the past 12 years working with a team of researchers to identify Cambodian refugee physical and mental health problems through an NIMH-funded initiative undertaken in collaboration with the RAND Corp. The project is led by Grant Marshall of RAND Corp.

Berthold also recently started working with the KHA, where she oversees a UConn-funded community-based participatory research study for Cambodian-Americans that uses computer tablet technology and native language software to assess the health needs of Cambodian-American communities in six cities around the U.S. Read complete article

Courtesy of: UConn Today
By: Colin Poitras
January 24, 2013