Interview with Asian Women for Health
By Rachel Oshiro
Asian Women for Health hopes to inspire Asian women to be engaged in health within their own community. To accomplish this goal, it focuses on education through classes, seminars, and community programs, focusing mainly on breast cancer which has abnormally high rates in the Asian American community.
I interviewed Chien-Chi Huang, the Founder and Executive Director of Asian Women for Health. Ms. Huang formed the group after noticing the inadequacy of healthcare of Asian Women in Boston, so she made this organization with the goal of empowering Asian Women to improve their own health. Their website is www.asianwomenforhealth.org.
Q: What inspired you to form this group?
As a breast cancer survivor in chemo, she was shocked to see that the rate for Asian Americans is going up. Culture and language are the main barriers stopping them from getting help.
She began with the Asian Breast Cancer Project in 2010, but she realized that peer support would only help a small number of people. They need to change the system and address the root cause.
Asian Americans are not taught to rock the boat or dirty the laundry, but they need to learn how to recognize that it is a serious issue. Although many of the members are healthy, there are people on the other spectrum who really need health.
Q: I see on your website that your organization exists for education, advocacy, and reciprocation. I was wondering if you could elaborate on what you do to accomplish this.
They encourage community members to educate. They want to train Asian Americans to be leaders giving peer education and support.
Depending on providers is hard. Sometimes it is hard because providers have a social bias. They want to give Asian women the information, so they provide information at cultural festivals, health fairs, and at language schools.
A small organization with only her as full time staff. Doing a campaign about mental health. Recently worked with Harvard.
Q: What specific challenges do you feel Asian American women face in health care?
The number one barrier is language and culture. Asian Americans have the lowest rate of use of medical care. The number one leading cause is cancer which is preventable if you catch early.
The most important thing is to look at your environment. Chinatown is right by the highway, and in the 1960s when the highway was built, it displaced a lot of families. There was no adequate resources at the time, so most of the residents were exposed to pollutions, lacked of green spaces, and could exercise at the YMCA.
Many Asian Americans were exposed to toxins. In Vietnamese nail salons, Korean dry-cleaning, restaurants, and domestic health, workers are exposed to a lot of chemicals. At the conference this year, they tried to engage with policymakers to look at the issues. They wanted to look at social determinant and use cross-sector approaches to look at these issues.
They also hold events and workshops for cancer survivors and caregivers to give social and emotional support. They look to inform them of different products which are made of natural ingredients.
Q: In your video you mention “culturally appropriate”, what do you mean by culturally appropriate health care? How do you feel this can be accomplished?
There is a unique way to get people the information. They can’t just say there is workshop on breast cancer and need to see breast health. You can’t say mental health need to see mental well-being. Its not sugar coating, its how to make it approachable.
In the main stream media, there are very few Asian Americans featured. Most people feel that Asian Americans are usually healthy and don’t need to help, perpetuating the stereotype that all Asian Americans are healthy, wealthy, and well-education; however, the Asian American community is a community of contrast with many poor and illiterate while others are wealthy and educated.
The US government does not collect data well which masks the severity of certain sub-groups. If you lump all Asians together, you can’t see specific sub-groups and they issues. You can’t advocate for resources without data.
Recently, they scheduled to work with the Asian American Caucus to support legislation to change the practice. The government only collects data in Spanish, English, and Portuguese over land line excluding many.
Q: What do you think students can do to help?
Asian Women for Health is currently looking for volunteers and interns to help with events
They want students to serve on committees and to initiate new program, and they are looking for students with social media skills to organize campus wide events and implement conferences
If you are interested in becoming involved, please visit www.asianwomenforhealth.org.
Ms. Huang can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 767-1071.
The author of this piece, Rachel Oshiro, is currently a sophomore at Harvard College. She is concentrating in Molecular and Cellular Biology and works in a lab studying axolotl in relation to limb regeneration.