One of the ways CPEHN participated in National Minority Health Month in April was by co-hosting a panel of experts with the Asian Pacific Islander Capital Association to discuss the status of health equity among the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. The experts highlighted various approaches we can all take to eliminate health disparities disproportionally affecting certain API communities.
What are the barriers keeping communities from achieving a healthy community?
“You can’t fix what you don’t know,” proclaimed Jonathan Tran from The California Endowment. He was referring to the lack of information and data available regarding South East Asian communities. Before funding and resources can be streamlined into building a healthier community, access to comprehensive data must exist. Since data regarding Asian Americans is characterized for as a whole, research studies are limited in their ability to accurately identify information about the issues affecting specific Asian American subgroups. When all communities are counted for and validated, the numbers can be used to implement change. The AHEAD Act — AB 1726 — addresses this necessary concern by requiring higher education institutions and public health agencies to disaggregate data for additional API groups.
"Screen at 23" is part of the ADA's 2015 Guidelines designed to specifically to address the disproportionately heavier disease burden of diabetes experienced by Asians. The initiative recognizes that diabetes occurs in many Asians with a body mass index (BMI) lower than 25. Instead of starting screening for diabetes in those with a BMI of 25 or more as was previously the standard, ADA now recommends a lower BMI of 23 to start screening for diabetes in Asians.
Our team at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) is excited for the upcoming VOICES conference. It’s our seventh conference bringing together more than 200 community activists, service providers, researchers, and health advocates to mobilize and create meaningful policy impacts for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities.
On September 14-15 in Washington, D.C., the VOICES conference will focus on health equity in AA and NHPI communities and tackle one of the greatest questions we face – the future of health and the health care system in our country. While the passage of the Affordable Care Act and its expansions of health insurance coverage have made tremendous differences for families across the country, many in our communities still face barriers to enrollment and are not covered by a health insurance plan. With the next open enrollment period beginning this fall, we are taking the opportunity to focus on improvements in prevention and care delivery to ensure greater access for our communities.
The movement toward health equity for all communities faces many challenges, and we are working to fully equip our leaders with the tools they need to spread the message. During the conference, we will use community organization and coalition building practices and explore opportunities to influence change on state and national levels. Conference participants will share their experiences in working to raise AA and NHPI voices in health advocacy conversations, and in collaboration with other advocates, provide recommendations and narratives to Congressional leaders about the significance of health equity for all.
In order for CPEHN and other health advocates to promote policies that effectively reduce disparities, we need as much information about our communities’ needs as we can get. Unfortunately, we often lack the data to really illustrate disparities within racial and ethnic groups, which is why collection of disaggregated data in the health care system is one of CPEHN’s policy priorities.
Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, especially, are extremely diverse and each population has different experiences and needs. To get an idea of how some of these API communities have fared since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, led by former CPEHN Board member and former President/CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum Ho Luong Tran, M.D., M.P.H., has issued a detailed report, The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Pakistani, & Vietnamese Americans. This report looks at both access to care and some key social determinants of health (including income and education) at the national level to get a better understanding of disparities within these ethnic subgroups. Since California has the largest population of most of these API subgroups, and roughly one-third of the nation’s total API population, the report also includes statewide data to help us promote health equity in our state.
As you can see from the chart, there are some dramatic variations in high blood pressure rates across the Asian ethnic subgroups. Japanese adults, for example, have the highest rate at 35.4%, which is higher than other populations, including Chinese (18.2%) and South Asian (8.2%) adults.
“Our results suggest that susceptible populations like the Filipino and Japanese subgroups may warrant early and aggressive intervention in blood pressure reduction to help decrease cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Powell Jose, Research Physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute. “Physicians should attempt to better understand cultural differences and barriers that may influence diet and health behaviors in Asian-American subgroups. Nutrition and lifestyle counseling must be offered to these higher risk populations to help control hypertension in addition to medical therapy, when indicated.”
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