Last week, I got the chance to attend the Asian American Health Conference, sponsored by Asian American Health Initiative. It was a great experience meeting public health advocates and experts (as well as allies, community members and more) and hearing about the relevant issues in the Asian American community. Asian American Health Initiative does great work in Montgomery County ensuring that Asian Americans enjoy equity and access to quality healthcare and the conference gave me the opportunity to learn more about their work, but also the work of other health-related organizations around the country.
AAHI conducted a needs assessment survey of Asian Americans in Montgomery County and one of the presentations at the conference was devoted to their process and findings. Montgomery County has the highest percentage of Asian Americans in Maryland making up nearly 14% of the population. The AAHI needs assessment utilized focus groups with major ethnic/national origin groups as well as a few of the smaller ethnic/national origin groups. Focus groups were made up of community members from all walks of life from professionals to retirees and seniors. Moreover, they also conducted a young adults focus group made up of mixed ethnic/national origin youths. Participants identified a number of stressors from struggling to fit in (young adults) to isolation and loneliness (seniors). In terms of obstacles to health care acces, the study identified financial, physical, communication and cultural barriers. Persistent gaps that I picked up during this presentation, and really, all the plenaries and breakout groups were the need for linguistic and cultural proficiency, the lack of disaggregated data about Asian American health outcomes and the lack of access to affordable health insurance. To read the whole report, visit AAHI <http://www.aahiinfo.org/english/programs/needsAssesment.php>
Another highlight from the event was the keynote speech from Arthur Chen, Chief Medical Officer of the Alameda Alliance for Health. Chen’s remarks gave a very contextual and complicated view of the factors contributing to the unequal access to quality healthcare for Asian Americans and other minorities. From civic engagement to holding legislators accountable to fiscal and monetary management, access to healthcare is deeply intertwined with the other issues we are experiencing as a nation. Moreover, to address gaps in healthcare adequately we must be ready to tackle other persistent inequalities in our country and around the world.
The theme of the whole conference was “A Time for Change: Transforming Opportunities into Action” and I think everyone was excited to see what we as a community can do to make a real, positive change for healthcare acess for all.