Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Supporting Health Equity

Support Health Equity for Asian Americans n Pacific Islander
Cross Country Healthcare
May 02, 2022 02:25 AM (GMT-04:00)

Focusing on the Health of AAPI Individuals

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the unique cultures, history and richness the AAPI community contributes to our nation. It’s also an important time to recognize the challenges AAPI individuals face. Here, we look at health disparities in the AAPI community and explore solutions to create a more equitable future for all Americans.

About the AAPI Community

More than 24 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders live in the United States today. It’s the fastest-growing racial group in the nation. By 2060, an expected 46 million AAPI individuals will call the U.S. home (Pew Research). The rich diversity within the AAPI community encompasses more than 50 ethnic groups who speak nearly 100 languages and originate from 20 different countries!

Labels Like “Other” – The Sticky Subject of Aggregating or Disaggregating by Race

Because each person has a unique and diverse heritage, grouping individuals by race or categorizing separate cultures as one larger racial group like “AAPI” or “other” has significant flaws. This practice can compress cultural differences and create issues with self-identity and racial bias.

On the other hand, examining data by racial groups can provide statistical insights and shed light on disparities. Many leaders within politics and the healthcare industry are pushing to collect detailed, thoughtful data and disaggregate existing data by race, ethnicity, language, etc. This move can help identify where solutions and services are needed most.

One example from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation cites the importance of disaggregating data by race:

“A National Nurses United report on COVID-19 deaths among health care workers found that 31.5 percent of the registered nurses who had died of COVID-19 and related complications were Filipino, even though Filipinos make up just 4 percent of registered nurses in the United States. Only by disaggregating the data was this shocking and tragic disparity revealed.”

AAPI Health Disparities

With that in mind, recent data on health within the AAPI community shows:

  • Only 23.3% of AAPI adults with mental illness sought treatment in 2019; AAPIs seek mental health help less often than any other racial/ethnic group (NAMI, SAMHSA)
  • 9.3% of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) had health insurance, compared with 6.8% for Asian American communities in 2018 (NAMI, KFF)
  • 10% of AAPI individuals have diabetes versus 8% of all U.S. individuals; disaggregating the data further shows 47% of American Samoans and 20% of native Hawaiians have diabetes (AMA)

Causes of AAPI Health Disparities

The statistics above are only a snapshot of the health disparities AAPI individuals face. The many gaps in health equity are due to several underlying factors, which also vary across groups within the AAPI community (AACAP, HHS, NAMI):

  • Cultural stigma surrounding mental health illness and treatment
  • Language barriers
  • Lack of culturally-relevant patient education
  • Cultural insensitivity and systemic racism
  • Lack of disaggregated data
  • Economic insecurity among some AAPI groups
  • Lack of healthcare insurance
  • Immigration status
  • Religious beliefs
  • Infrequent visits to western healthcare providers

Cultural Factors that Contribute to AAPI Health

It is important to note that many healthcare choices of American Asians and Pacific Islanders are rooted in culture, religion and traditional medicine. AAPI cultural factors, such as a strong sense of community, belonging, connections and family bonds, are considered protective of health (NAMI).


Further, AAPI traditions passed down for generations, like acupuncture, massage therapy and meditation, have added to the health and wellness of the United States and contributed to our nation’s evolving concept of preventive wellness and care.


How to Support Health Equity in the AAPI Community

To ensure all individuals, including those in the AAPI community, have a right to wellness and healthcare, we can:

  • Encourage state legislators to disaggregate health data by race, ethnicity, language, etc.
  • Partner with organizations and initiatives that work to advance health equity
  • Share resources and training with leadership, providers and staff to ensure cultural sensitivity
  • Provide translators or translation apps for patients who are speakers of other languages
  • Recognize that many patients may need their children nearby to translate for them
  • Revisit patient education materials, forms, directions, website, etc. to ensure accessibility
  • Research the contributions, customs, traditions and experiences of AAPI individuals
  • Remember our nation’s history of anti-Asian policies, including exclusion acts and internment camps
  • Understand the resurgence of violence and racism AAPI individuals have faced recently due to the COVID pandemic
  • Adopt diverse hiring practices
  • Learn about any specific AAPI cultures represented by your patients, providers and staff
  • Conduct surveys to learn about experiences, biases, needs and opportunities at your facility

AAPI Health Resources to Explore

To learn more about the AAPI community and health equity, visit:

CDC Statistics on the Health of Asian or Pacific Islander Population

AACAP Asian American and Pacific Islander Resource Library

MHA Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities And Mental Health

Those in the healthcare field have a unique opportunity to help ensure all patients, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have access to the care they deserve.

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