By Kathy Wai
Civic Engagement Manager
In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APANO is bringing our audience content all month-long, all centered on the theme of Building Power. Each week will see a different topic, all connected by our central theme. This week’s topic: Health Equity.
What comes to your mind when you think about health? How often do you think about your own health or your family’s? Is health access to a provider and getting regular check-ups, or is it more than that? Over the last decade, APANO has focused on improving health for API’s in our state. We know that health is not just limited to our physical bodies, but our interactions with each other, our cultural practices, and our experiences with institutions such as clinics, hospitals, and schools. It is complex and will require different approaches from grassroots community engagement to systems-level policy change. APANO has passed policies to disaggregate data within Asian and Pacific Islander groups and won stricter standards in cultural competency training and education for healthcare provides. Our victories at the policy level are made possible by our continuous grassroots engagement of speaking to members who are personally affected by these issues, collecting their stories, and training them up to effective spokespeople in front of decision makers, legislators, and their own peers. Our goal was to empower and engage with our members in every step towards winning concrete policies.
In early September 2016, we decided to take the next step in addressing the health needs of our communities. We knew that 383,000 Oregonians remained uninsured, despite the advancement of the Affordable Care Act. There were still gaps in coverage and access to insurance. About 1 in 8 Asian Americans are uninsured statewide; that number is significantly higher for Pacific Islanders from the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Micronesia who face a federal ban on healthcare under the COFA Compact. Our goal in 2016 was to win legislation that took us one step closer to increasing affordability and inclusion to more API communities.
Through “Our Families, Our Health,” campaign, we heard from members across the state their stories around barriers to healthcare, the realities of living on fixed or limited income which made buying insurance still too expensive, or struggles with providers still trying to fully understand their cultures and needs. In February of 2016, Oregon legislators passed COFA Healthcare Program (HB 4071) Media: Oregon Momentum for COFA Healthcare and a Basic Health “Blueprint” (HB 4017) for the state to adopt.
Our victories were made possible by continuous member engagement and empowering folks to take a stand for health equity and justice. Some of our highlights:
- Organizing three community townhalls in Salem, Eugene, and SE Portland which brought over 60 members to share their experiences and collect stories.
- Gathered over 200 pledges for Our Families, Our Health!
- Mobilized over 150 members to our Legislative Day of Action at the capitol building where we met directly with legislators.
- Organized a Health Justice Forum in partnership with the COFA Alliance National Network in April 2016 to explore health, justice, and gain advocacy skills.
For more information about Our Families, Our Health campaign, or to get involved, please contact [email protected].
APANO’s work includes health policy and advocacy to make sure our communities have the resources and autonomy to make decisions for their bodies and their health. To support this work, please consider donating to APANO so we can continue our health equity work. As if that was not a good enough reason, as awardees of the Coulter Foundation, all donations to APANO at $100 or more will be matched dollar for dollar- that means you can double your gift and extend its impact!
Want to see what others have created for AAPI Heritage Month? Find a list of our Heritage Month posts here!
Follow APANO during heritage month by using hashtags #APIsBuildingPower and #AAPIHM, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter: @APANONews.