posted by AHIP
on August 4, 2021
Juliet K. Choi, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), joins us on the The Next Big Thing in Health podcast to discuss the her organization’s work to advance health equity; provide culturally relevant resources and information on COVID-19; and improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Juliet K. Choi: So, here we are, July 2021. If I try to imagine where we were in March, April, May of 2020—we were all curious, what is COVID? The information and guidance was changing week to week. And we wanted to do what we could, not just as health care advocates, but from the simple standpoint of taking care of our families, neighborhoods, and communities.
I ask the audience to think about the diversity of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities in the United States. A significant portion of our communities are immigrant families. So, what that translates into is, when we’re thinking about the scientific information about COVID and public health guidance, that’s really tough information to explain in lay terms in English, so doing it in a culturally relevant way in multiple languages is especially difficult.
So, as a result, we’ve been working for the past 15, 16, 17 months to grow a network of community partners to take the federal scientific information, make that bite-sized and digestible, and share it in a culturally relevant way in the language of their communities.
Juliet K. Choi: The short answer is all of the above. This isn’t unique to the AA and HPI communities, but also for communities of color and particularly immigrant communities, social media is highly impactful. The biggest thing is making sure that any information and messaging is delivered through trusted messengers and partners. So, people who look like you, people with whom you can relate to like your family physician, faith leader, a family member, or maybe a local elected official. On social media, it is important to make that information available through translated message copy and also interpreted channels.
Juliet K. Choi: Gosh, if I had the perfect answer to that, we would be working on a whole lot of different things. I like to think about a framework, if I can put it that way, where we take our public health data, our public health data system, and really democratize it. For me, I think a critical question is what type of data do we need to collect and why do we want to collect it? That way we can envision and commit to reforms going forward.
We need more classic data elements. I want to see more sub-ethnic disaggregated data. I live in D.C. now, but if I lived in the state of Florida, for example, or in many other states I would show up as “other” on a health form. I’d like to believe that, myself and my community, we count a little bit more than just “other.”
If we think about democratizing our data for to improve our wellbeing and create a more holistic society, that invites us to think about how we counter the notion that your zip code, for example, is a big predictor of how well and healthy you are or are not. If we think about data holistically, we could think about housing and education and employment and health care and put that together toward a vision of leveraging a public health data system that drives us toward a healthier society.