Finding community in data is focus of APIA Health Summit


Minnesota Asian/American Health Coalition held its 5th Asian Health Data Summit in June at Lao Family Community of Minnesota. The event, “Finding Community in Data”, was designed to continue building on a long term effort to make health data more accurate to specific ethnic groups and to be user friendly for both the researcher and the consumer. 

As health data and information becomes widely accessible to the general public, the U.S. health care system relies on its consumers to be informed about their health needs, health choices, and most common or urgent health topics. However, “Finding Community in Data” suggests that health data is not being reported or shared in an equally meaningful and relevant way for all communities.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan welcomed over 80 attendees to the 5th Minnesota Asian Health Data Summit. Dr. Magnan assured attendees that the MDH is working to help the Asian American and Pacific Islander community find itself within the MDH health data.

She said the MDH is looking at how it collects and measures health disparities with the intention of improving how communities are identified and getting the data out to the community in a meaningful and effective way.

The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Winston Wong of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California – a $40 billion health organization. He discussed how Kaiser Permanente has tracked health equity and found that health outcomes for disparate communities has improved – but relative to the healthier outcomes for mainstream communities. Therefore, he concluded that the disparity gap continues to be an issue.

Dr. Wong challenged the group to think about ways the AAPI community can insert our issues as relevant and pertinent to the larger community. While the AAPI community continues to be reported as one homogenous “Asian” community, the data of AAPI communities reflecting the “model minority” myth will be used to misrepresent all AAPI communities, allowing the struggles of our AAPI family and neighbors to be dismissed as anomalies. Therefore, our AAPI community must insert itself into health discussions and explain the data, rather than giving mainstream institutions and reporters unopposed dismiss what our AAPI data is telling us.

“Claim our stake. Harness our strength and influence,” Dr. Wong offered in his conclusion. “Bring our experience and ideas. We are America!

“We must own our American identity and ensure our experiences, strengths, and participation are recognized as essential to American society,” he added.

A panel discussion include Xiaoying Chen of MDH Office of Minority and Multicultural Health; Eileen Harwood, University of Minnesota Clinical Translational Sciences Institute; and Nathan Hunkins of Minnesota Community Measurement.


Community Panel (Ekta Prakash (CAPI), Bao Vang (HAP), Diane Galatowitsh (KOM), Sara Chute (MDH))

The panel, moderated by strategic consultant, Pakou Hang, discussed the ways health care entities are all engaged in improving how race, ethnicity, and primary language data are collected, and how that data is disseminated for greater benefit to community.

An afternoon community panel talked about the data and case studies work over several years that the AAPI community done on its own behalf to better document the health issues, trends and special needs of communities. The panelists noted that the dissemination of that data often remained with the organization collecting the data.

The panel included Ekta Prakash, Center for Asian Pacific Islanders; Bao Vang, Hmong American Partnership; and Diane Galatowitsch, Karen Organization of Minnesota and was

moderated by Sara Chute of Minnesota Department of Health Refugee Programs

The panel discussed how organizational data can contribute to the bigger picture of our communities to promote systemic change.

The final panel of the discussed opportunities to ensure AAPI communities are found in data and reflected in health care reform. This panel included Senator Patricia Torres Ray, April Shaw of Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s Office, Bethany Snyder of Senator Franken’s Office, and Gabriela Vasquez-Benitez of Alliance for Racial and Cultural Health Equity (ARCHé) and was moderated by Nhia Lee of American Cancer Society.

Senator Torres Ray shared your enthusiasm for the need to improve data collection and reporting in Minnesota, and encouraged people to look at SF3009, a bill she championed that requires the Minnesota Departments of Health and Human Services to review how they collect race and ethnicity data, engage stakeholders on best ways to measure and report on health disparities, and submit recommendations to improve health disparities data collection and reporting to the State Legislature in January 2011.

Ms. Shaw and Ms. Snyder expressed the support of Congresswoman McCollum and Senator Franken of the Asian American community, and asked attendees to share with them implementation concerns and recommendations of federal health care reform.

Ms. Vazquez-Benitez discussed the power of allied communities coming together to advocate for a single issue like improved health data.

The outcome of the 5th Minnesota Asian Health Data Summit demonstrated many opportunities for AAPI communities to harness better data. As Dr. Wong stated, it is incumbent upon us to “claim our stake” With each Data Summit the AAPI community takes greater ownership of its data and claiming a greater stake in overcoming the health disparities in our communities.