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In NC's Hmong communities, aging immigrants face a health care hurdle: too few interpreters

A graphic depicting a Hmong American person (center) translating for their elderly parent (right) at a doctor's appointment.
Layna Hong
Translating in a healthcare setting is difficult for many adult children of Hmong immigrants due to cultural barriers and differences in both the English and Hmong languages.

Children of immigrants are often asked to interpret for their parents, a task that can get particularly complicated in health care settings. For members of North Carolina’s Hmong community, there may be additional complications.

As WUNC’s Eli Chen and WFAE’s Layna Hong write in their recent report about aging Hmong immigrants seeking health care in North Carolina, “[m]any English terms don’t exist in Hmong, such as diabetes and cancer.”

Eli and Layna join co-host Jeff Tiberii to talk about the story they co-reported called "As Hmong immigrants in NC get older, their adult children shoulder the labor of interpretation."

They are also joined by Sendra Yang, who has interpreted for her father at many of his doctors appointments. Sendra also helped start an organization called North Carolina Hmong Women Association, Inc.


Eli Chen, Digital News Producer, WUNC

Layna Hong, Digital Producer, WFAE

Sendra Yang, President, North Carolina Hmong Women Association, Inc.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
Rachel McCarthy is a producer for "Due South." She previously worked at WUNC as a producer for "The Story with Dick Gordon." More recently, Rachel was podcast managing editor at Capitol Broadcasting Company where she developed narrative series and edited a daily podcast. She also worked at "The Double Shift" podcast as supervising producer. Rachel learned about audio storytelling at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Prior to working in audio journalism, she was a research assistant at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.
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