CT ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN COMMUNITY [HEALTHCARE, HOUSING, EMPLOYMENT] NEEDS ASSESSMENT SURVEY / Research Design, Data Collection and Analysis by Michael Ego (Prof. Human Development and Family Studies), Thomas Buckley (Assoc. Prof. Clinical Pharmacy), and Megan Berthold (Asst. Prof. School of Social Work)
In a unique collaboration among several UConn academic units including the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Pharmacy and the School of Social Work, and the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, the first Asian Pacific American (APA) community needs assessment in the state of Connecticut was conducted. Michael Ego (Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), Tom Buckley (Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy), and Megan Berthold (Assistant Professor of Social Work), contributed to the development, implementation, and data analysis for the needs assessment project.
This needs assessment focused on Southeast Asian Americans with ethnic roots in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The needs assessment final report discusses many well-known barriers, such as APAs’ limited access to essential services, housing, and employment.
Overall, even where data demonstrate no disparity, the challenges facing Southeast Asian and other APAs may deter or prevent them from utilizing services. Data collected from Connecticut Coalition for Mutual Assistance Association (CCMAA), Khmer Health Advocates (KHA), and Lao Association of Connecticut (LAC), highlight some less visible barriers to well-being.
Statistics concerning APA health coverage do not necessarily reflect the rate at which APAs access health services. According to US Census data, about 13% of APAs in Connecticut lack any type of health insurance. While this seems to place APAs in a better situation than the 15.4% of uninsured Americans nationwide, a closer examination of circumstances facing insured APAs reveals that health covera ge does not equate to health access. This disconnects between points of data and realities on the ground can obscure cultural challenges facing communities like Connecticut’s Southeast Asian populations.
Examining the health access section of APAAC’s needs assessment survey, 87% of Cambodian participants, 91% of Lao participants, and 81% of Vietnamese participants responded that they held some form of health coverage. This appears to signify a highly positive trend, particularly considering that many needs assessment participants came from low-income backgrounds. However, 42% of Cambodian participants, 14% of Lao participants, and 31% of Vietnamese participants indicated ‘often or always’ facing language barrier with medical doctors.
Among APAs who reported requiring a qualified or certified medical interpreter for doctor visits, 57% of Cambodian participants, 43% of Lao participants, and 36% of Vietnamese participants indicated that a medical interpreters was never or rarely available. Confronted with these systemic shortcomings and cultural challenges, APAs report neglecting medical checkups and other measures that can prevent health issues ranging from short-lived bugs to chronic illness. Furthermore, the mental health of APAs with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) or other severe conditions, which many survivors of war and genocide experience, may continue to deteriorate without access to necessary and culturally appropriate support systems.
In response to cultural barriers in the healthcare, 14% of Vietnamese needs assessment participants indicated that they have not visited a doctor in five or more years. This does not illustrate the picture of an equally accessible health system. This figure does, however, suggest that more APAs, or at least APAs who have undergone similar experiences, would access medical services that understand and accommodate the needs of the community. Considering the significant impact of linguistic and cultural barriers on health access, greater resources and funding must be made available to established and upcoming community services, as well as more mainstream providers, to address the needs of the APA community.
These shortcomings precisely demonstrate how the Model Minority myth that is perceived by the general public about APA groups, where the populations are stereotyped as having no health or social problems, allows the formal support care systems (that include government and public/not-profit organizations), to ignore or provide limited services to the APA groups. Also, the disparities that linguistic and cultural barriers reinforce, compounded with a near dearth of appropriate resources for providers and community members, contribute to the underserving of APA populations in the Southeast Asian communities.
These challenges raise opportunities for the APA community, providers, advocates, and other stakeholders to converge and act collectively in diminishing inequity in life-quality. Building greater awareness, information, resources, and relationships, in conjunction with strong community leadership, represent essential steps to overcome challenges in the APA community.