The White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders has issued a summary of federal department and agency plans to achieve the Initiative’s goal, “to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased access to, and participation in, federal programs in which they may be underserved.”  The Initiative also seeks “to advance relevant evidence-based research, data collection, and analysis for Asian American and Pacific Islander populations and subpopulations.”   The report was presented by the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to President Barack Obama in March 2011.

The following are the priority program goals from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

Goal 1. Prevent, treat and control Hepatitis B Viral (HBV) infections in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI )communities.

An estimated 3.5-5.3 million persons are living with viral hepatitis in the United States. Most that are infected remain unaware of their infection and therefore, do not receive care and treatment. About 1.25 million Americans are chronically infected with HBV, and AAPIs represent nearly half of these chronic HBV-infected persons in the U.S. If not treated, 15%-40% of persons living with viral hepatitis will develop liver cirrhosis or experience other conditions that affect the liver, including liver cancer. HHS convened a Viral Hepatitis Interagency Working Group that developed “Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: HHS Action Plan for Prevention and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, 2011.” The action plan will improve national coordination and collaboration for treatment, prevention and control of viral hepatitis, particularly HBV infections.

Goal 2: Improve data collection in AAPI communities.

The 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data: Standardization for Health Care Quality Improvement,” recommends that in addition to the standard Office of Management and Budget classifications on race and ethnicity, more granular race/ethnicity information be collected to distinguish variations in health outcomes among different racial and ethnic subpopulation groups. Detailed data is a fundamental step in identifying which populations are most at risk and what specific interventions are most effective in attaining improved health care quality for specific populations.

Goal 3: Increase AAPI health care workforce.

The 2004 IOM report titled “In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce,” recommends the need to increase diversity in the health professions in the U.S. because of the rapid demographic changes with increase in non-white populations and those with limited English proficiency. The IOM reports that the new underrepresented minorities in the health professions include subpopulations of AAPIs. The 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges Diversity in Physician Workforce report indicates that 12.8% are Asian Americans and only 0.5% are American Indians/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN).  Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) physicians are included in the AI/AN category. Data from various studies document that AAPI patients confront cultural and linguistic barriers in health care, resulting in worsening clinical outcomes. HHS will support increasing the pipeline of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) health professionals.

Goal 4: Improve health conditions and access to health care services by Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI).

The NHPI health insurance coverage rate is lower than most other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. In 2008, one in four NHPIs under 65 years of age was uninsured. Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases hypertension and infant mortality are major health issues among NHPIs. NHPI adults and adolescents have disproportionately high levels of mental health problems. According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about a quarter of NHPI adolescents had attempted suicide. These health problems are compounded by obesity, lack of healthy lifestyles, lack of extended family support systems, and lack of culturally competent health professionals. The Plan addresses the main health issues that impact NHPIs.

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