Prioritizing Health While Honoring Culture And Tradition

By Shira Kantor



Given that most of Minnesota’s Hmong population resides in the metro area, having a strong healthcare system that understands Hmong culture is critical.

North Memorial Health (NMH) is a healthcare system comprised of two hospitals (North Memorial Health Hospital, which is located in Robbinsdale, and Maple Grove Hospital) and 25 clinics in the northwest metro area. As a healthcare system, NMH has a sharpened sense of responsibility to be an inclusive organization where each person – team members, providers, and customers – feel valued and respected. Its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion continues to grow through access, engagement, transparency, and continuous learning.

Ploua Khang, whose family is originally from Thailand, has been an interpreter at NMH for 3 years. She speaks, reads, and writes in both the green and white dialects of Hmong. She’s based at Maple Grove Hospital, but usually works at clinics or does home visits.

Khang became an interpreter because she wanted to give back to her community. “The highest compliment I can get is to be thanked for my interpreting and translation work,” she said.

As Khang noted, coming into a clinic or hospital setting for care can be stressful enough as it is, so she’s grateful that North Memorial Health makes it a priority to be sensitive to the cultural and language barriers some members of the Hmong community may face.

For example, after Hmong women give birth at North Memorial Health Hospital or Maple Grove Hospital, they can request to be served a traditional postpartum diet of chicken with steamed white rice, chicken soup with herbs, and hot tea. Hospital team members are mindful of everyone’s dietary needs and they’re careful to ensure that they honor the Hmong tradition of this healing meal to produce good health for the mother and the baby.

After giving birth, women are also offered the placenta to take home if desired, so the family can choose to bury it in the correct location. “It’s a very kind gesture,” Khang said.

Khang also recalled a recent home visit she made to assist with interpretation for someone in hospice care. She said she was impressed that the hospital staff were able to quickly arrange transportation to the hospital so that a death wouldn’t occur in the household, which could offend the clan. “It was kind of hard, but everyone wanted to honor the last wishes for the patient,” Khang said.

Along with other Hmong interpreters at North Memorial Health, Khang also provides translation services for health-related documents such as visit summaries, aftercare instructions and anything else that might require translation. All of the interpretation and translation services are free, and they’re available to everyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A top priority at North Memorial Health is providing unmatched customer service for all communities. Ensuring that everyone is able to understand their diagnoses and treatment options is very important: The medical terms can be confusing, and even just figuring out where to go and who to talk to can be difficult sometimes. But as Khang noted, the medical team and the interpreters at NMH are always happy to help. They want people to feel comfortable and at ease knowing that they care about all cultural traditions and their health needs.

More information about North Memorial Health:

North Memorial has provided more than 50 years of service to communities in the northwest metro and currently has more than 5,000 employees. North Memorial includes North Memorial Medical Center, a Level I Trauma Center and tertiary care center. In addition to being recognized for its outstanding emergency and trauma services, North Memorial is recognized for its oncology services, heart and stroke care, women and children services, and numerous primary care and specialty clinics throughout the northwestern Twin Cities. For more information, visit

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