For previous Thought Leadership articles, click here.
Karen Kim MD
Board President, Asian Health Coalition
As we move into the New Year, we take a look back at the top 3 accomplishments for our agency in 2013 and we're sounding the alarm with a preview of what we see as the top 3 public health challenges in 2014 for the underserved Asian American communities in Illinois.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2013
Advancing community-engaged participatory research for Asian American communities: AHC and the University of Chicago received a federal R24 research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) to conduct the first pan-Asian study in the Midwest and build an evidence-based practice (EBP) dissemination infrastructure that will investigate and evaluate approaches that have the potential to improve communication of EBP to underserved pan-Asian communities around cancer.
Using Data to Inform: We released a report highlighting the "Impact of the Affordable Care Act for uninsured Asians in Illinois". Our findings showed that nearly 70% of the current 92,000 Asians without health coverage will be able to benefit from the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicaid Expansion programs. These findings have set into place the need for race and language concordant education and outreach to the limited-English speaking consumers in the Asian communities.
Speaking Out Against the Silent Killer for Asian Americans: We helped in securing $500,000 in the FY14 State budget for viral Hepatitis B awareness in the Asian and African immigrant and refugee communities working in partnership with legislators from the Illinois State Asian American Caucus, members from Advancing Justice-Chicago Pan-Asian Voter Empowerment (PAVE), and United African Organization.
CHALLENGES FOR 2014
Strengthening the position of Community Health Workers (CHWs): CHWs assist in addressing many health issues using a community-centric approach. However, their presence in the Illinois healthcare sector is fragmented, and their potential contributions are poorly understood. Comprehensive policy and practice changes are needed at all levels to strengthen the position these frontline members of the public health workforce who are uniquely positioned to address issues of health care access, quality, cost, and disparities.
HPV Vaccinations: For both boys and girls, HPV vaccination rates continue to be well below the Healthy People goals for 2020, leaving an entire generation susceptible to HPV-related cancers. This is particularly significant as Asian Americans are the only race and ethnic group in the United States to experience cancer as a leading cause of death.
Oral Health and the Lack of Dental Coverage: The links between oral and overall health are undeniable. Those with diabetes and heart conditions can have their problems exacerbated by untreated oral conditions. However while dental health care for children in Illinois is available, the lack of coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act for adults and seniors remains a glaring gap. Because adult oral care is not defined as an essential health benefit, the government won't subsidize it.
The rise in chronic diseases is relentless. Public expectations for health care are rising. At the same time, budgets are shrinking and social inequalities are worsening. As we move forward it is important to keep in mind the challenges facing communities of color including Asian Americans are becoming increasingly complex and inter-connected.