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Tackling AAPI Health Disparities Through Language Access

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Health disparities among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the United States have been a longstanding issue that has gained increased attention in recent years.

While the AAPI community is diverse and includes many different ethnic groups, certain commonalities contribute to health disparities, including language barriers and lack of access to culturally competent healthcare. In this blog post, we will explore the issue of health disparities among AAPIs and discuss how language access and cultural awareness can make a difference.

The Health Disparities of the Fastest Growing Ethnic Group in the U.S.

Nearly one-third of Asian Americans have limited-English proficiency. This can make it difficult for them to communicate effectively with healthcare providers, understand their diagnoses and treatment plans, and access necessary healthcare services. Without adequate language support, AAPIs are less likely to receive preventive care, timely diagnoses, and appropriate treatment for chronic conditions.

Research shows that AAPI individuals face undue risks when it comes to their health. Key findings include:

  • 19.4% of Asians don't have a reliable healthcare source or personal doctor 
  • Asian Americans are far less likely to receive critical health monitoring, such as pap smears and blood pressure monitoring 
  • AAPI women face one of the fastest-growing risks of breast cancer 
  • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders face higher risks of infant mortality and lacking prenatal care 
  • AAPI individuals are twice as likely to die from liver or stomach cancer than non-Hispanic white people 
  • Korean American children are four times more likely to have no medical insurance coverage 

Asian Americans also face high prevalences of certain conditions, including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), HIV/AIDS, liver disease, and hepatitis B. 

What's Behind the Problem with AAPI Health Equity?  

The AAPI population consists of individuals that have ties to dozens of countries. Therefore, many unique languages and cultures are represented by this large group of the population. 

Unfortunately, meaningful differences among the different groups of AAPI people tend to get downplayed or overlooked altogether. Specific concerns of some communities are lost when numbers are averaged. For example, Korean Americans are diagnosed with stomach cancer twice as much as Japanese Americans. However, without looking at the specific group, the instances of stomach cancer across all AAPI people could easily appear to be no more than in other ethnic groups. 

Another significant issue is the lack of representation in clinical health research for AAPI individuals. Between 1992 and 2018, lower than 1% of the research budget in place by the National Institutes of Health went to funding AAPI or Native Hawaiian individuals. 

Other factors potentially contributing to AAPI health disparities include: 

  • Stereotyping AAPI individuals as healthy and not at risk 
  • Insufficient or lack of healthcare insurance 
  • Lack of language support for a group of people that speaks many unique languages 
  • Lack of cultural awareness among healthcare providers regarding the unique subgroups 

Language Access and Cultural Competence Can Make a Difference 

In addition to language barriers, there are also cultural differences that can impact healthcare outcomes. For example, some AAPIs may have different beliefs about health and illness than mainstream Western medicine. They may prefer traditional medicine or herbal remedies, or may be hesitant to seek medical treatment until their symptoms are severe. These cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication between AAPIs and healthcare providers, which can negatively impact health outcomes.

Healthcare providers must strive to implement practice methodologies to ensure all AAPI communities receive equal care. Implementing strong language access plans to cater to these individuals in a language they understand is vital. However, it is also important for providers to strive to be more culturally competent by understanding the unique needs of different nationalities within the larger group. Investing in provider education and staff training is essential so every patient receives quality care and sensitive interactions. 

Providing language access services ensures every AAPI individual, regardless of ethnicity or language, can effectively communicate with medical providers. A well-rounded language access plan includes: 

A well-designed system of language support options will ensure all individuals have access to health information regarding disease or illness awareness and prevention, aftercare, and disease management. 

Make a Change to Meet the Needs of All AAPI Individuals 

Health disparities among AAPIs in the United States are a complex issue requiring a multifaceted approach. One key component of this approach is improving language access in healthcare. By providing in-language, culturally competent care,  we can bridge the language and cultural barriers that can negatively impact health outcomes for AAPIs. If you are ready to build a solid language access plan for all patients from all backgrounds, schedule a demo with GLOBO to find out how we can help. 

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