Abstract: Asian American Health, Context, Progress, and Challenges to Achieving Health Equity

Asian Americans currently comprise 5.6% of the population and are the fastest growing minority population in the United States. By 2050, it is estimated that the Asian American population will double in size, increasing to 43.2 million Asian Americans and representing 10% of the US population. Asian Americans are an extremely diverse population, representing more than 40 languages, dialects, and countries. During the last few decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the proportion of Asian immigrants to the US; Asian immigrants accounted for 9% of all U.S. immigrants in 1960, but have grown to approximately 40% of the immigrant population today. There are also profound differences across Asian ethnic groups with respect to immigrant status, migration histories, access to resources, language access, and socioeconomic status. Asian Americans are widely dispersed across the US, but highly concentrated in urban and suburban regions of the West (49%) and the Northeast (21%).

A large segment of Asian Americans face linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers to health care. Factors contributing to health disparities for this group include traditional access barriers, such as insurance status and low socioeconomic status, and barriers unique to largely immigrant groups, such as language and acculturative stress. Health disparities are particularly evident when looking at differences across racial and ethnic groups and within Asian American subgroups. In the last two decades, there have been substantial milestones: national recognition of Asian Americans as populations experiencing health disparities and the contextual factors that places Asian American individuals and communities at risk for poor health and mental well-being, support to address key health disparity issues, expanded disaggregated data collection in national surveys and studies, and growth in funding to support Asian American health research and programs. However, many challenges remain in ultimately eliminating health disparities and promoting a health equity agenda for Asian American populations.

This presentation discusses Asian American health disparities, challenges related to health access and health equity, and the progress that has been made to reduce health disparities in Asian American populations. Key recommendations for achieving health equity for Asian American populations include: 1) Continued and expanded focus on social determinants; 2) Dispelling the model minority myth; 3) Empowering communities by leveraging community assets for health promotion and disease intervention; 4) Building human and community capital to strengthen health research and service delivery infrastructure; and 5) Continued and expanded collection of disaggregated health data on Asian Americans and other racial and ethnic minority populations.