BACKGROUND: The Vietnamese population in California is large and growing. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, about 600,000 Vietnamese came to United States as war refugees. The 1990 Census reported that in California alone, there are more than 280,000 Vietnamese. Continuing arrivals from Southeast Asia, secondary migration from other states, and high fertility rate, have made the Vietnamese population the fastest growing Asian Pacific minority in the state. Vietnamese mean per capita income is only $9032 and 27.5% of Vietnamese live below the poverty level, which is twice the rate of the entire nation (Census, 1990).
Traditionally, most Vietnamese women breastfeed their children for a prolonged period in their native country (WHO, 1991). However, statistics show a significant reduction in breastfeeding among Vietnamese women after immigration to Western countries (Rossiter, 1992). Dr. Eunice Romero-Gwynn, Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist at the University of California, Davis, was the first to document the abandonment of breastfeeding by Indochina immigrants. The WIC staff in California is concerned about the declining rate of breastfeeding. According to the CALIFORNIA Breastfeeding Promotion Committee Report in 1996, the rate of breastfeeding among Southeast Asians is the lowest of any ethnic group in California. Surveys conducted by the Vietnamese Community Health Promotion Project at University of California, San Francisco, show that most Vietnamese visit Vietnamese physicians (Jenkins, 1990).