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Reaching Asian-Americans through Innovative and Supportive Engagement

On August 26th, we attended the RAISE Summit at Corporate College East in Warrensville Heights. As the literature told us, RAISE stands for "Reaching Asian-Americans through Innovative and Supportive Engagement." Its goals are IMG_3965 to promote healthy eating and physical activity within the local Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities (AA/NHPI). To achieve these goals it "integrates existing partnerships" into a "cohesive organization."

These partner organizations include:

  1. Ethnic Voluntary/Social Groups such as the Federation of India Communities Association, Korean American Association of Greater Cleveland, OCA Cleveland, Philippine American Society of Ohio, and Salaam Cleveland.
  1. Cultural Language Schools such as Cleveland Chinese Contemporary Culture Association, Cleveland Korea School, Solon Hindu Heritage School, and Westlake Chinese Cultural Association.
  1. Refugee Resettlement Organizations such as the Cleveland Catholic Charities' Office of Migration Refugee Services, International Services Center, and U.S. Together.
  1. AsiaTown Neighborhood as represented by its constituents and the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation.
  1. Community Resources such as the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Among the attendees on this date were Ms.Cindy David from Raqs for Joy, Ms. Vera F. Boggs from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Ms. Shahnaz Khan from Salaam Cleveland, Mr. Liming Wang from Cleveland Contemporary Chinese Cultural Association, Mr. Qamar R. Khan from QRK Consulting, Mr. Steven Xiao from Westlake Chinese Cultural Organization, Ms. Carey Gibbons from the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, and Mr. Luke Suh and Ms. Muldoon Park from the Korean Association of Cleveland.

The program on this date was largely organized by Ms. Cathy Vue, Ms. Ashley Choi, and Ms. Stacey Ortman of Asian Services in Action. Mr. Michael Byun, its CEO, gave the opening remarks in which he said that evidence has shown that ethnic groups, the LGBT, and those on the lower end of the socio-economic framework tend to be disproportionally affected by health problems. He went on to discuss the need to break the stereotype that Asians have no particular health problems because they work hard and are very successful. The truth of the matter is that IMG_3967obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are very serious problems in the AA/NHPI community. It has been found that newly arrived refugees are at particular risk because they are often resettled in urban areas where they do not know where to go to find fresh, nutritious food. Without people to help them they tend to stay indoors and do not get the proper amount of exercise and fast food is a temptation.

During her keynote speech titled "Cultural Competency: Addressing Health Disparities in Public Health", Dr. Cora Munoz, Ph.D. and R.N. (among other achievements she founded the Philippine Nurses Association of Central Ohio) defined cultural competence as a "continuous learning process that builds knowledge, awareness, skills and capacity tIMG_4027o identify, understand and respect the unique beliefs, values, customs, languages, abilities and traditions of all Ohioans in order to provide effective programs and services."

She reinforced what Mr. Byun said about certain health disparities and offered examples such as "Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are 3-13 times more likely to die from liver cancer than Caucasians."

Dr. Munoz contended that the overall goal was "health equity" which is "achieving the highest level of health for all people. Health equity entails focused societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities by equalizing the conditions for health for all groups, especially for those who have experienced societal disadvantages or historical injustices."

Next, we attended a session in which Ms. Cathy Vue interviewed representatives from refugee resettlement agencies regarding what they were doing to encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst those they were trying to help get settled here in Cleveland. These representatives were Ms. Danielle Drake from US Together, Ms. Loveleen Sharma-Chopra from the International Services Center, and Ms. Eileen Wilson from Building Hope in the City. As we said earlier, one of the points that was made was that refugees (and immigrants too) are often reluctant to go places on their own due to the often overwhelming experience of being in a different culture and their limited knowledge of English. Therefore, people from the agencies that they represent and mentors can be of excellent value because it is a IMG_4029matter of "seeing what works and what works for them."

Among the things that have worked are breaks for structured walks during ESL classes, a summer school curriculum for youngsters that finds the right balance of classroom work and outdoor activity, and yoga classes because people of all ages can do yoga and one doesn't need to know English-just follow along. As far as healthy eating, classes are sometimes provided that present alternatives to using a lot of oil to prepare food.

Mr. Pedro Arista from the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Forum brought up the matter that lately immigrants and refugees have been confronted by an increasingly hostile political climate. At lunch we shared a table with Ms. Donna Korn from the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, Ms. Carol Kaschube and Ms. Wanda Ali-Matlock from Better Health Partnership, Ms. Yvonne Oliver from Uhcan Ohio, and Dr. Amy F. Lee from the Northeast Ohio Medical University and discussed this very topic. We were all troubled by the inflammatory rhetoric that has been prevalent as of late but we, ourselves, do believe that it has caused some diverse groups to come together in a positive way like the gatherings that we have attended wherein members of different religious faiths have shared their beliefs and we learned that we have more in common than what we initially thought.

The next session that we attended consisted of Ms. Lisa Wong from OCA of Greater Cleveland and Mr. James Amendola from St. Clair Superior Development Corporation being queried by Ms. Kim Sureemee from Asian Services in Action about recent positive developments in AsiaTown which is in close proximity to Margaret W. Wong and Associates. Probably the most constructive improvement has been restructuring Superior Avenue to make it more walker/biker friendly. As a result, autos do not speed as much and more walkers on the streets are an excellent deterrent to crime. What's more,  people have a new venue to walk safely which is particularly important in that area IMG_4020because older immigrants still enjoy their customary walk to the store each day for food. We learned that a lot of the food that they eat they still grow in their small but well utilized gardens. Exercise classes via "tai chi" are offered in several locations. Of course, the Asian Festival has proved to be a terrific success that attracts an ever-increasing crowd and the monthly "night markets" have been doing quite well.

We enjoyed the sessions that we attended very much but we wish that we could also have attended two sessions concerning the positive impact that "cultural language schools" and "ethnic voluntary social groups" have had on the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. We had to leave early so we also missed a session in which representatives from the YMCA, Sisters of Charity and Quantum LEAP discussed "tailoring interventions to address health disparities."

After we got home later that night we re-read the literature that we were given on RAISE and learned that "RAISE empowers community partners serving AA/NHPIs to utilize evidence-based strategies to address barriers to physical activity, nutrition and weight management with AA populations. RAISE assesses AA/NHPI community needs to define and prioritize areas of improvement...RAISE develops community health action plans and relationships with stakeholders to increase physical activity and/or improve nutrition within the AA/NHPI community. RAISE assures culturally and linguistically appropriate evidence-based resources and practices are available to AA/NHPI communities to combat chronic diseases. RAISE creates healthy choices for healthy lives."


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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