By Dr. Howard Koh
White House Media Affairs Office
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued its plan for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) health. The plan outlines the department’s top priorities and strategies for improved health by focusing on critical improvements in the areas of data collection, workforce development, treatment, and prevention.
The plan was developed as part of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, with a mission of improving the quality of life and opportunities for AANHPI participation in federal programs.
The plan has four priorities and more than 40 strategies, including:
Improve prevention, treatment, and control of Hepatitis B (HBV) infections. AANHPI persons represent nearly half of the 1.25 million Americans with chronic HBV-infection. The department intends to develop a national education campaign that will be aired in metro areas, where affected populations live. Campaigns will be translated into Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean to increase awareness of HBV and its risk factors and to encourage testing.
Improve reporting of data. Detailed data are critical for identifying which populations are most at risk, and what specific interventions are most effective in attaining improved health care quality for specific populations.
Foster workforce diversity. The department hopes to transform health care by building on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to expanded insurance coverage and increased access to care. The plan calls for more opportunities for underrepresented populations to enter the health professions. It also offers provisions to train more people in medical interpretation to help serve patients with a limited command of the English language, and to train more community workers to help patients navigate the system.
Address critical health issues (including access to care) that impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and infant mortality are major health issues among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. These health disparities are compounded by the lack of culturally competent health professionals with knowledge of Hawaiian or Pacific Islander culture.
Additionally, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) has a long history of working with AANHPI organizations and works closely with Guam and other Pacific jurisdictions on prevention and testing for HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and other co-morbidities. ♦
Howard Koh, MD, MPH, is the assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.