March 28, 2023
Quyen Dinh, executive director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.
Quyen Dinh, executive director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

Sacramento, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2016) — On Jan. 28, California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced Assembly Bill 1726 (AB 1726), the Accounting for Health and Education in Asian Pacific Islander Demographics Act (AHEAD Act), a bill that will provide public disaggregated data on the status of Asian Pacific Islander (API) subgroups with respect to health outcomes and higher educational achievement.

California is home to the nation’s largest Asian American and second largest Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) populations. The Census Bureau calculates that each population grew by 34 percent and 29 percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2010.

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center states that the “model minority myth” is a myth, a misconception that all Asian Americans excel and face no obstacles, Southeast Asian American community members have endured devastating education and health disparities in the absence of critical information about the challenges they face. U.S. Census data reveal that two in three Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian adults over the age of 25 have no college education, compared with only one in three Asian American adults overall. However, this Census data is collected too late for higher education systems, like community colleges, to intervene and prevent these disparities from growing.

Southeast Asian Americans (SEAA) face compounded health care barriers and disparities in physical and mental health due to language access, historical trauma, provider shortages, and high chronic illness burdens. For example, a 2008 survey of 60,000 California primary care providers showed that among them there were only 30 Lao/Hmong doctors for 94,234 Hmong and 74,731 Laotians in California, and 40 Cambodian doctors for 116,043 Cambodians. With language access disproportionately hindering SEAAs’ ability to find and access culturally competent services, this creates additional barriers to care for the 55% of Vietnamese, 38% of Lao, 39% of Hmong, and 42% of Cambodians in California that speak English less than well. In mental health, one study found that 62% of older Cambodian Americans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 50% from depression. In physical health, Vietnamese Americans are 13 times more likely to die from liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B than Caucasians, and Southeast Asian communities have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country. In California, diabetes rates for Cambodian and Hmong Americans are 24% compared to 7% for Whites, 8% for Asians, 12% for Blacks, and 13% for Latinos. Furthermore, Laotian Americans have the highest teen pregnancy rate at 19%, compared to Blacks at 18%.

“AB 1726 provides the opportunity to bring to light the diverse communities served by California’s higher education and public health systems, allowing policy makers to allocate resources where needed, and giving communities the knowledge and tools to advocate for their specific needs and demands,” notes Quyen Dinh, SEARAC Executive Director.

AB 1726 is a crucial step towards ensuring policy makers recognize and understand distinct differences across California’s diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The bill requires the California Community Colleges, California State University, the University of California, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Health Care Services to collect and release demographic data for the following additional populations: Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Fijian, and Tongan Americans. The data collected will include rates of admission, enrollment, completion, and graduation in the education field, and disease rates, health insurance coverage, and birth and death rates for the health field.

In 2015, Assemblymember Bonta authored a similar bill to unveil health and education data for API subgroups. Unfortunately, Governor Brown vetoed that bill. “We were very disappointed by the Governor’s veto of Assemblymember Bonta’s initial data disaggregation bill,” states Ron P. Muriera, SEARAC California Director of Policy. “Mr. Bonta’s introduction of AB 1726 demonstrates his continued commitment towards ensuring that Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and other Asian Americans who have been rendered invisible by rigid demographic categories are recognized, and their disparities in health and education brought to light.”

For more information about nationwide efforts to advocate for disaggregated data within the AAPI communities, check out the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders website at

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society. Find out more at

5 thoughts on “California bill would address APIA disparities in education and health

  1. To whom it may concern,

    Please support repealing the AB 1726 bill.

    I am a Chinese-American high school student from a high school in California who has just completed 11th grade 6 days ago. I value education and hard work, because I have been taught that if you worked hard, were passionate about your education, and believed in the American dream of opportunity, you can at least open more doors of opportunity for myself (in this case, one of my stepping stones to success is to be accepted by a good college/university). At school, my teachers had taught me that if I worked hard academically and maintained a balanced and well-rounded lifestyle, I would improve my chances of getting into a good college. After all, the teachers were at least fair in the sense that if you studied hard for your test, you’d reap the reward of scoring higher on your tests on most occasions. Indeed, it made sense to me that since America’s Olympic game’s basketball team (composed of not a single Asian) didn’t pull a good portion of the current players from the team out, on the basis of racial diversity in representation, to be replaced by a non-NHPI Asian-American players in order to strengthen non-NHPI Asian-American’s foundation in the area of sports, it didn’t occur to me that a different rule based on race would need to be applied to the educational field. However, I was never told by my teachers that I would have to score much higher on my SAT and have a much higher GPA than my non-Asian and NHPI classmates sitting right next to me in class, because I was born into the “wrong” race (in terms of college entrance): the Asian race. This year, I witnessed some of my Asian classmates who were just as qualified or more qualified (from both the high school I had transferred from and the high school I currently am in) be rejected, rejected, and rejected by all of the IVY league schools. Many of these Asian-American students were well rounded and excelled in school. In the end, I learned that NONE of these non-NHPI Asian-American students from both high schools had been accepted by the IVY league schools. Who got in to the IVY leagues schools from both schools? The answer is, students from non-Asian decent did…because of the need for “diversity”.

    Some people, seem to value the need of diversity over how much time, energy, effort, and sacrifices I have put into my education. They seem to think that because of the need to help other races have a leg up in education, it’s ok to take advantage of the non-NHPI Asian-American students through Affirmative Action laws, such as AB 1726, by giving away their rightfully earned spots into their dream university to another equally qualified, but of non-Asian and NHPI decent, applicant. They seem to think that it’s ok to plant the idea into thousands of non-NHPI Asian students’ minds that no matter how hard they work, they will have to sacrifice more and suffer through more of the pain in conquering more obstacles in life in their academic field, because they were born as an non-NHPI Asian-American. In this sense, they seem to think that it’s ok to hurt thousands of dedicated non -NHPI Asian-American students’ motivations, ambitions, dreams, and innocence in believing in equality.

    As a high school student, fresh out of 11th grade, I can testify that it is extremely discouraging to have to fill in the bubble on my answer sheet of being from an Chinese-Asian decent on my SAT bubble answer sheet, my 15 AP test bubble answer sheet, my ACT bubble sheet, and my college application-related bubble answer sheets. Why? Because I know that I will be categorized by my race and judged for that by the colleges that I have worked so hard to get into. I know that the moment the college admission officers see a dark bubble next to the word “Asian”, they will expect a much higher SAT/ACT score, a much higher GPA, and an amazing extracurricular profile. In essence, they will be asking me to be a nearly perfect student in the eyes of many to get into an IVY league school.

    Assemblyman Bonta and SEARAC, how would you feel if you were in my shoes? How would you feel if your possible future children and grandchildren went through what I have to go through right now? How would you feel if your brothers and sisters had to go through this?

    1. Dear Kitty,

      The Senator Education Committee will vote on this bill on June 22 this Wednesday. The meeting will be held in Capitol Building at Sacramento. Would you like to speak out in front of the Committee? I believe it will be held at 9:00 am in teh morning.

    2. Kitty, would you like to speak out in front of the Senator Education Committee at 9:00 am on June 22 this Wednesday? The Committee will vote on this issue this Wednesday. The meeting will be held in Capitol Building at Sacramento. Thanks.

      1. Hi Sue,

        I am so sorry that I haven’t replied to your reply. I had been away from home for the past weeks, because I had been visiting colleges, and my computer was locked away for almost two weeks. I would have definitely wanted to speak up for this cause. If there is any other way for me to help, please let me know through the svca email group chat at: [email protected]. If you ever do chose to comment through the group chat AND refer to me as “Kitty” (in bold or some way that can catch my attention), I will reply to your email and send you my contact information directly to your email. In addition, for the future, feel free to use my essay that you had responded to for any of this political purpose (including reading it out to the politicians). I would greatly appreciate it if you used it to spread the word out. Thanks Sue!

  2. Stop AB 1726 from passing. It discriminates against Asian American. Latino (Mexican, Cuban, Brazilian, etc) and White Americans (English, French, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Jews?? etc) are as diverse as Asians. How about mixed race? The proposal is unjust and unscientific. The sole purpose is for targeted discrimination. BTW, why is it called “ data disaggregation bill” where the intent is clearly to segregate the Asian community. So please sign the petition at

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