HomeAsian AmericansDisaggregated Data Reveals Hidden Health Disparities among Asian Americans

Disaggregated Data Reveals Hidden Health Disparities among Asian Americans

A new study, “Health Conditions, Outcomes, and Service Access Among Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Adults in California, 2011–2017,” published in the American Journal of Public Health has revealed that appearances don’t always match the data. It found that Asian Americans tend to have worse health indicators than whites, especially amongst Vietnamese, Japanese and Koreans. Filipinos had the worst health among all Asian Americans.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Brown University divulged the importance of disaggregated data. They found that when Asian Americans are treated as as a monolithic group, it masks the real health concerns of ethnic subgoups. 

“What we’re just trying to call out here is that the more we choose to treat data aggregation as the standard and then disaggregation as a novelty and nice to have, the more we choose to be blind to the health issues faced by the community,” said Alexander Adia, one of the study’s authors.

The authors found that Filipino Americans appeared to be in the worst health of all Asian subgroups in the study. Filipinos were found to have a greater prevalence of high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease and delayed medication usage compared to Asians overall. Filipinos also had higher levels in the first three health outcomes compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

The irony is that “Filipino Americans are disproportionately involved in the provision of health care, but it seems the data practices that we currently employed aren’t great at identifying their needs,” Adia said.

On the other hand, Chinese Californians appear to be the healthiest subgroup with the fewest negative disparities compared with non-Hispanic white adults.

Chinese adults ranked highest in the category of no doctors visits in the past year, and the Japanese subgroup topped high blood pressure at the same rate as Filipino adults.

The study also found that Vietnamese adults had the highest rates of fair or poor health and disability while Korean adults suffered from the highest rates of serious distress. Additionally, Korean adults ranked highest in no usual source of care and delayed care in terms of health service access.

Researchers analyzed data from the California Health Interview Survey, a web and telephone survey that provides data on the state’s health and health care needs. They specifically looked at data from about 13,000 Asians from 2011 to 2017, said Adia. One of the flaws of the study is that the data is self-reported and the respondents were only from California.

The findings, the researchers said, proves that further studies of the health needs of different subgroups through the use of disaggregated data is needed.

They explained that the idea of Asian Americans as a “model minority” has been debunked in other areas such as educational attainment, employment and income. The idea of the model minority myth doesn’t apply in health, either, they learned.

Second study author Jennifer Nazareno said, “When we think of model minority, a lot of the academic research focuses on identity politics and the difference between social classes. But in terms of health disparities and health inequities, that is severely under-researched.”

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