By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (December 17, 2010) – Minnesota Asian American Health Coalition (MA/AHC) released its “Minnesota Community Blueprint: To Asian/American & Pacific Islander Health Equity” in December at the Centre for Asian Pacific Islanders in Minneapolis.
Nancy Pomplun, executive director, explained the report, along with Interim MA/AHC Advisory Board chair Gilbert Achay, Board member Ekta Prakash, and Joseph Pham, a research assistant for ANSI and MA/AHC.
It was Pomplun’s last action as director of MA/AHC, who is now a Health Improvement Project Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. She said MA/AHC board members are looking at how to restructure the organization so that it will continue its vital community role and to be engaged in a mission for its members and partnering organizations.
“This Blueprint takes the past decade’s recommendations and issues identified by Minnesota’s Asian and Pacific Islander community at numerous community gatherings and research initiatives, and, with the leadership of the Blueprint Advisory Committee, the Blueprint identifies recommendations under four core health equity areas by which Minnesota can optimize the health of its AAPI community,” said Pomplin.
The report covers a diverse APIA community, with differing languages and cultural values, and well as respective social determinants that vary.
The first focus area was “Community Empowerment”, to include increased APIA representation in decision making, improved health literacy and investments in community service, and a more inclusive environment for traditional healing practitioners.
The second area, “Culturally Relevant Data and Research”, recommends improvements to establish best practices in data collection. The report says is would help with ensuring better evaluation of health policies for immigrant and refugees, and improve community partnerships in research.
The third area, “Professional Development”, calls for improvements that include increasing numbers of APIA health workers, improving the availability of health care language services, and building on assets to increase cultural competency in the workforce.
The four area, “Strengthening Health Access” call for support of mechanisms that enforce culturally and linguistically appropriate service standards. It also calls for recognition of enabling services, such as culturally competent patient navigators and translators, including outpatient settings, and for a more responsive and accepting system with regard to traditional healing practice billing reimbursement.
Joseph B. Pham, a University of Minnesota Law School student, and a graduate student in the MPH program where he is a research assistant with the Urban/Regional Affairs, Center in the office of Epidemiology, worked to identify these key indicators for the report.
Pham said choosing the right indicators makes it possible to follow through concrete methods and measurements that tell researchers where there is progress and challenges. It is important for smaller communities to have these studies because they are often left out of the overall priority population concerns of the state organizations.
“I am very impressed with the blueprint,” said Pham. “In speaking to community leaders, I think the blueprint really hits on notes that are very specific to the API community, and hopefully with more development indicators that we will be able to achieve these goals a lot quicker.”
Ekta Prakash, who works on the CAPI health staff, said the strategic committee for the report recognized that each organization shares many of the same health concerns, but each deals with special needs of their respective subpopulation group.
She said CAPI has expanded to serves many new groups but that its biggest population remains the Southeast Asian immigrants. The report, she added, was a thorough process that brought together key stakeholders to talk about the key health issues.
“It was about what each organization is doing within their own community, and what are they doing with data collections, and where does it go, and how is it reflected, and how it is used,” said Prakash. “It was very intense and we all had the same voice – that we had to be part of the decision making.”
Gilbert Achay, a staff member of Appeal for Health, a project of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, is also on the Board of Rainbow Health Initiative. He recalled a recent invitation for MA/ACH to take part as the APIA health authority at a Minnesota Department of Health community equity forum.
Achay said MDH had the participants speak with individual department staff, including cancer and diabetes and others that wanted to hear the issues from the community perspective as it pertained to the social determinants of health.
“They were definitely interested in seeing our Blueprint,” said Achay, adding that it was a good way to give them something that already had the information collected and published in a form they could rely upon for official use.
MA/ACH is a nonprofit organization with a mission of increasing the availability of disaggregated ethnic specific API community health data, provided a report overview and led a panel discussion. It advocates for better policies, more resources and better programming as the heart of its mission for a decade.
In July 2009, MA/ACH joined the State Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans in releasing its report, “Health Disparities: An Asian Pacific & Pacific Islander Community Response,”
The collaboration goals included creating, disaggregating and disseminating ethnic API health data, which they said is lumped together with government and institutional reports, and so cannot create an accurate community picture regarding health disparities.
This report is a compilation of oral and written testimonies from the community on the question: “What are health challenges and solutions?” It was organized in August 2008 by CAPM with the Hennepin County AAPI Leadership Initiative and the U.S. DHHS Office of Minority Health.
The report listed six recommendations based on input from the forum. They range from addressing disparities and developing good data sources, to increasing the number of AAPI healthcare professionals, to improving social and economic determinants of health issues, and moving towards universal healthcare to eliminate health disparities.
The recommendations also called for an emergency preparedness plan for limited English proficiency populations. It detailed needs in health awareness and prevention from diabetes, obesity and nutrition, to other areas that impact across community boundaries, to physiological differences among the various ethnic groups that need to be accounted in health outreach planning.
The report highlights perceptual differences that complicate physician-patient discussions, and cultural or spiritual values and life experiences that can create rifts in understanding diagnosis and following advice and medications.
Past MA/ACH Data Summits served to bring together API health workers with community partners and mainstream agencies to update on recently compiled data into reports. They goals of the data distribution are to increase health access and quality health care for Minnesota’s API community.
Their MA/ACH objectives are to increase awareness of API health advocacy efforts at the national and local levels and awareness of the unmet needs for community-driven research; promote partnerships with academia to expand research in API communities; build relationships with policy makers for API health advocacy; and increase dialogue about resources, research and advocacy needs to actively strengthen the health of API communities. http://maahc.org