California Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2011) – The Asian Pacific American Legal Center, a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, is pleased to co-sponsor a bill that would break down state-collected data to help identify the unique needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
The Bill (AB 1088), presented by Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) Tuesday as part of his 2011 legislative package, would ensure that state-collected health, social services, labor and civil rights data is disaggregated into AAPI ethnic groups and also made publicly accessible.
“Ethnic-specific data is extremely important to all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders because our communities are so diverse and our needs are so varied,” said Karin Wang, APALC vice president of programs and communications. “Disaggregated data helps us create effective responses for each community and ensures that unique needs – such as the high poverty rates in the Hmong community – are not masked by other ethnic groups that are doing better.”
APALC has a history of working to ensure accurate data on AAPI communities, including leading statewide AAPI Census outreach campaigns in 2010 and 2000. In 2010, APALC coordinated a network of over 70 organizations in California to educate AAPI communities about the importance of participating in the federal Census, which collects race and ethnicity information every 10 years.
“Our communities are extremely diverse,” said An Le, APALC statewide network manager. “Although Census data is very helpful, some of the most important data affecting our communities is collected every day by the state of California. For that reason, we applaud Assemblymember Eng for introducing AB 1088 and we encourage the AAPI community to support the bill and the state legislature to pass it into law.”
The Asian/American Health Coalition (MA/AHC) has worked on this issue for several years. In fact, it’s the primary mission of the all –volunteer health professional network to work in bringing together disparate data into reports for use in research and policymaking.
MA/AHC and its member organizations have been educating decision-makers in Minnesota about this issue for over a decade. Its five AAPI Data Summits since 2004 have been dedicated to educating both community and decision makers on the need and benefits of collecting more granular data that includes ethnicity.
According to MA/AHC, with Board Chair Gilbert Achay, the collection of this data gives visibility to the diversity of Minnesota’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities, documents potential disparities in accessing health programs and services which may contribute to the health inequities experienced by our communities, and allows us identify health trends in our specific communities.
During the 2010 Legislative session, MA/AHC has joined forces with other immigrant communities to form the Alliance for Racial and Cultural Health Equity (ARCHé). It resulted in a bill passed that session that now requires the Departments of Health and Human Services to document how race, ethnicity and primary language were collected across all health-related datasets.
Additionally the bill required the commissioners of the two departments to convene communities and stakeholders affected by such data collection to develop a report for the Legislature with recommendations on how to improve the data collection and reporting of race, ethnicity, and primary language by January 2011.
“The potential passage of the California bill is a big step not only for California but Asian communities across the nation,” said a MA/AHC statement. “However passage is only the first step, and communities must stay engaged to influence how the data is collected, offer best practices in how this information is requested from the client, and define ‘publicly accessible’ to ensure it is truly accessible for the intended community consumer.”
Sunny Sinh Chanthanouvong, executive director, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, has been active in MA/AHC issues. He said the Lao community has experienced unemployment at high levels, first with the loss of manufacturing in the state, with pocket communities of Lao all over greater Minnesota suffering even more without community resources; and second by the recession.
Chanthanouvong said there is no data to document whether Lao have been affected disproportionately than other communities. This is an example of how ethnicity data within labor and civil rights data is just as important as health and social services data.
Founded in 1983, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for civil rights, providing legal services and education, and building coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Pacific Americans and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. APALC is a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, which also includes Asian American Institute in Chicago, Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C., and Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.