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7th Asian Health Conference

On Saturday, June 20th, we attended and tabled at the 7th Asian health Conference which took place at the Global Center for Health Innovation. The conference was put on by the Ohio Asian American Health Coalition whose president, Ms. Cora Munoz, said that it was a consortium of many community health agencies which had conducted this conference since 2002. The conference was sponsored by the Ohio Commission on Mental Health; Asian Services in Action, Inc.; RAISE (Healthy Children, Healthy Lives); and inhealth Ohio's Nonprofit Mutual Provider. The first presentation of the program, which was attended by 79 people, was a keynote address titled "Asian American Health Disparities: Research, Context and Action" by Dr. Simona Kwon, PhD, Director of the New York University Center for the Study of Asian American Health. This was followed by a panel discussion about the "Impact of Health Policies on the Asian Community" featuring Dr. Surendra Bir Adhikari, PhD, from the Ohio Dept. of Health and Addiction Services; Ms. Angela Dawson, Executive Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health; Mr. Richard Hodges, Director of the Ohio Department of Health which was moderated by Dr. Elaine Husni from the Cleveland Clinic. It seemed to us that one of the points most emphasized was that there are many different Asian cultures (14 subgroups in New York City alone) and "one size does not fit all" but unfortunately the media has perpetuated an "all Asians are quiz kids" stereotype. This is why it is very important that the data gatherers be as specific as possible as to the what is going on with each subgroup.

Prior to the beginning of the program, as we were setting up our table we conversed with Mr. Joseph Hau, chief business strategist with pacifiComm Associates, LLC. We told him that health care was not really our forte and he advised us to focus on immigration issues so we did.

During the keynote speech of Dr. Kwon she said that the focus of her work in in New York is the immigrant population so we asked her if our current immigration policy hindered the gathering of data. She said that even though there was no reference regarding immigration status on any of the forms that she uses, our immigration policy greatly affected her work because people were often too frightened to give out information. Thus, Dr.Kwon tries to work with community groups that are trusted by the foreign born.

After lunch, when Dr. DJ Ida, Executive Director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, talked about mental health issues we noted that she said that the security of one's immigration status was just as important to a person's mental health as proper housing, education, and a safe community. At the conclusion of her presentation, someone pointed out that an immigrant's mental health can be greatly affected by the culture change. He went on to talk about what he had witnessed in terms of young women being brought to the United States to marry older men and then being forced to take care of their new husband and his family as a virtual slave. Dr. Ida pointed out that their are new visas that would allow a person to get out of an abusive relationship without being deported and she believed that the key was to educate the immigrant community about what is acceptable behavior here and what isn't and what options are available.

When Ms. Kim Weis who is involved in the Cleveland Korea School; Ms. Karin Wishner, Executive Director of the International Services Center; Mr. Wayne A. Wong, Vice President of Administration of OCA Greater Cleveland; and Mr. Yumin Yin, Principal and Director of the Westlake Chinese Cultural Association took part in a panel concerning "Healthy Eating in AAPI Communities of Cleveland, Ohio" there was a spinoff discussion about the need for immigrant parents to find the right balance between teaching their U.S.-born children to appreciate and respect the customs and culture of the country from which they came and allowing their children to assimilate into mainstream U.S. society.

While the panel was talking about the need to maintain healthy diets, Mr. Wayne Wong mentioned that Ms. Margaret W. Wong had assisted OCA in launching its food safety certification program.

As the events of the day were winding down, Ms. Munoz said reiterated that the theme for this day was, "educating the community for stronger, healthier tomorrows" and she hoped that the information that we were given would help us all to assist our communities become educated and empowered. She then asked that everyone fill our the evaluations of the day that we were provided with, and she particularly wanted to hear from the college students who were in attendance because the were "the future of this community."

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