This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. The REACH program remains one of the only racially and ethnically focused public health programs at the federal level and is currently the only CDC program empowering community based organizations to tackle chronic diseases.
While there are broad misconceptions about the health, income, and education levels of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs), it is important to remember that AANHPI communities represent a diverse group of over 50 ethnic groups who speak over 100 different languages and dialects. When data for these communities are considered in a broad “AANHPI” data category, the health disparities and other social determinant of health-related challenges experienced by particular subgroups are often masked. This can lead to the lack of inclusion, under-prioritization, and under-resourcing of public health efforts focused on AANHPI communities.
Thus, it is significant to acknowledge and celebrate the impact that AANHPI-serving organizations have contributed to nearly every round of REACH programming. Nearly 20 AANHPI-serving organizations have been directly funded by CDC to reduce chronic disease and promote health. Many more have been involved in REACH-funded partnerships at the national, state, or local levels.
These organizations include (but are not limited to): Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum; Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL); Asian Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA); Asian Media Access; Boat People SOS-CA; Eastern Michigan University’s Center for Health Disparities Innovations and Studies; Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV); New York University School of Medicine’s Center for the Study of Asian American Health; Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA); Samahan Health Centers (formerly Operation Samahan); Special Service for Groups, Inc.; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Hawaii; Vietnamese Reach for Health Coalition; and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.
From bringing healthy food to low income communities to increasing exercise among their clients, these organizations have implemented programs and strategies that have been tailored for AANHPI cultural, linguistic, and contextual considerations. Without these efforts, it’s likely that public health messages and efforts would not have reached AANHPI communities or would have been less effective.
As AANHPI populations continue to rapidly grow and are projected to constitute one-tenth of the U.S. population by 2040, it will be imperative for CDC, state health departments, and local health departments to continue to identify strategies and opportunities to reach all racial and ethnic communities, including AANHPI communities, that continue to experience health disparities.