A call for health equity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders

It’s important to keep working to decrease health disparities among the nation’s 21 million Asian Americans and 1.5 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, according to Howard Koh and John Park of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a February 8, 2017 opinion piece in the JAMA Forum, Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, and Park, MPH candidate and research assistant, listed a number of health-related areas in which Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs)—who comprise the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the U.S.—are faring worse than other groups. Areas of concern include the rate of health insurance coverage; rates of diseases such as cancer, hepatitis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity; mental health; and tuberculosis and HIV rates.

Noting that many studies have treated AANHPIs as an aggregated group, Koh and Park said it’s crucial to assess disparities both overall and by subgroup because there are sometimes stark differences among them. For instance, the rate of tobacco use among the total AANHPI population is lower than among the general U.S. population (11% vs. 15%), but higher among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (28%). Another example: The incidence rate of stomach cancer among Korean Americans is five times that of non-Hispanic whites.

“As these populations grow and contribute further to the fabric of American life, efforts to better understand their health disparities—and the biologic and social determinants that drive them—should continue,” Koh and Park wrote.

Read the JAMA Forum article: Health Equity Matters for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders