The VOICES 2017 conference, hosted by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, emphasized health equity.- Photo: Courtesy APIAHF

As racial and ethnic categories, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders represent more than 50 distinct groups with varied and diverse health needs. Health equity, however, is a cause we can all unite around and advocate for together.

The VOICES 2017 conference hosted by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) in September drew participants from 40 states and jurisdictions to Washington, D.C., to deepen connections and identify areas where collaborative, grassroots networks can be most effective at driving change.

Dr. Kealoha Fox, Ka Pou Kākoʻo and a featured speaker at event, said health equity – including continuing healthcare coverage and access to services and prevention programs – is already one of OHA’s strategic priorities. OHA isn’t alone in its concern over threats to the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and can join in APIAHF’s advocacy efforts. “We have the data that supports why we wanted to jump onto these issues with unified voices,” she said.

Participants left the conference with ideas of how to activate their communities. APIAHF President & CEO Kathy Ko Chin reflected, “There were many memorable takeaways from VOICES 2017. One emphasizes that this is the time to empower and build our communities to achieve health justice for all. Through collaboration, we can foster a healthier future for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.”

The APIAHF conference looked at ways to expand networks and grow collective power, but it also recognized that federal race and ethnicity categories need to be more equitable. In April, OHA supported revisions to the standards for maintaining, collecting and presenting federal data on race and ethnicity, advocating that Native Hawaiians are a distinct indigenous people, Fox said, but the results have yet to be posted.

Ka Pouhana, Dr. Kamanaʻopono Crabbe confirms, “We must stay focused on the Health Equity Agenda by following developments around key administrative and legislative actions, such as the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) and Affordable Care Act open enrollment.”

APIAHF is leading the Health Equity Working Group advising the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, a member of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, on the policies within HEAA.