RAISE Blog #RAISEWellness

Talking Tobacco and Minority Health During #KickButtsChat

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By Dr. Joann Lee

Tobacco is the single-greatest, preventable source of death and disease among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. Tobacco companies continue to target communities of color and, in particular, youth with menthol and other flavor additives. Let’s chat about that, shall we?

Kick Butts Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up, and seize control against Big Tobacco. This Kick Butts Day on March 16, 2016, 1-2 p.m. (Pac) APPEAL is gathering groups dedicated to fighting the effects of tobacco for a Twitter chat (#KickButtsChat) aimed at bringing the key goals of Kick Butts Day to our diverse communities of color:

  • Raise awareness of the problem of tobacco use in our communities;
  • Encourage youth to reject the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing and stay tobacco-free; and
  • Urge elected officials to take action to protect kids from tobacco.

We hope you’ll join us and some of the key networks working toward the health of communities of color for #KickButtsChat on Twitter, March 16, 12 p.m. (Pac).

Some of the questions we’ll ask are:

1) How does tobacco use affect our communities? Youth prevalence? (Stats, disease prevalence, etc.)
2) Do menthol and other flavorings pose a threat to youth in the general population and youth in our communities in particular and, if so how?
3) What are the most commonplace and/or events where tobacco product marketing occur to reach youth/teens frequently in your city, town, or community and are incentives associated with tobacco use?
4) What are some of the most relevant spokespersons, celebrities, or figures (e.g. relatives, peers) who use some form of tobacco that youth/teens identify with or influenced by?
5) Can you suggest effective resources for cessation?
6) Are there any upcoming tobacco control events that you’d like to promote?

We’re hoping that responses will be specific to each community and really draw out resources and strategies that are culturally/linguistically appropriate for particular communities of color.

Featured participates for the chat include:
@KeepItSacred – National Native Network
@nationalcouncil – National Council for Behavioral Health
@SelfMadeHealth – Self Made Health Network
@AAHC_HOPEClinic – HOPE Clinic, Houston
@Health4Americas – Nuestras Voices Network – National Alliance for Hispanic Health
@LGBTHealthLink – LGBT Health Link, a program of Center Link
@NAATPN – NAATPN, Inc.
@GeoHealthAlliance – Geographic Health Equity Alliance
@tobaccofreekids – Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


 

#APIWorldCancerDay Twitter Chat To Focus On API Disparities

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By Dr. Joann Lee

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) are the first ethnic group to experience cancer as the #1 cause of death. It’s clearly not a distinction to celebrate, but it’s certainly a distinction to discuss.

Cancer, of course, affects millions from every ethnicity. World Cancer Day, coming up on February 4, is a day to raise awareness and get as many people as possible talking about this terrible killer and changer of lives. But, as AANHPI communities are so heavily impacted by cancer, the members of the RAISE Network will focus the discussion toward our vulnerable communities through a Twitter chat under the hashtag #APIWorldCancerDay from 1-2 p.m., Pacific Time.

RAISE is a network of national and local organizations working together to prevent and reduce tobacco use and other cancer-related health disparities in the diverse AANHPI communities. The partners that comprise the network use evidence-based public health models and strategies that are culturally competent and population specific.

The #APIWorldCancerDay Twitter chat will feature RAISE Partners answering key questions around the issue of cancer in AANHPI communities and sharing proven strategies that have demonstrated success in the fight against cancer in our communities.

Featured partners will include HOPE Clinic, a leader in providing health care and cancer screenings in an incredible array of languages to diverse communities in Houston, Texas. HOPE brings years of direct experience in fighting health disparities and driving critical screening through programs, like its breast cancer-fighting Phoenix Project and its cervical cancer-focused screening campaign Papapalooza.

We’re also looking forward to hearing from national partners, including the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), which is one of the key players in our communities’ fight against hepatitis B.

The goal of the #APIWorldCancerDay chat is to raise the visibility of the impacts that cancer has on the AANHPI communities and offer specific strategies and resources as a starting point from which community health activists can take action.

So, please join us for #APIWorldCancerDay, Feb. 4, 1-2 p.m., Pacific Time, as the RAISE Network chats about cancer and how to #RAISEWellness.

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


Top Time for Tips to Quit

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By Dr. Joann Lee

Smoking is a brutal villain; it’s highly addictive and takes from a person money, health, and even life itself. Smoking remains the #1 preventable cause of death and disease among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Quitting smoking is very hard to do, but quitting literally can save lives… the smokers, as well as the lives of those exposed to secondhand smoke.

Often just getting started is hardest part for smokers who may feel overwhelmed. So, to jump start the quit effort, Asian Smokers Quitline has come out with their Top 10 Tips to Quit Smoking.

ASQ_Top10_2014 (Click to download)

ASQ is a free, nationwide Asian-language quit smoking service for individuals who speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese languages. We’re proud to have them as part of the RAISE Network and to have featured ASQ previously in this blog. (insert link to previous post)

It’s always a good time to quit smoking, but with the season of New Year’s Resolutions just around the corner, ASQ’s 10 Tips offer a good start to a great new year. And remember, there’s plenty of help to go along with those tips because ASQ offers bilingual/bicultural counselors to:

Help with quitting smoking
Provide informational materials
Refer to other resources
Provide a free two-week starter kit of nicotine patches

The Asian Smokers’ Quitline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., Pacific Time.

Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin): 1-800-838-8917
Korean: 1-800-556-5564
Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440

For more information about the Asian Smokers’ Quitline, please visit: www.asiansmokersquitline.org.

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


Great Asian American Smokeout and Lung Cancer Awareness Month

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By Dr. Joann Lee

There are some very good reasons why I don’t usually look forward to sequels: “Speed 2,” “Blues Brothers 2000,” and any of the “Star Wars” sequels/prequels. But this month, I’m truly looking forward to the sequel of 2014’s Great Asian American Smokeout, which I will refer to in this blog as, “The Great Asian American Smokeout 2: Why are you still smoking? (Nov. 19)”

If you were out the country, or busy binge watching “Game of Thrones,” and missed last November, the Great Asian American Smokeout was the inaugural effort by APPEAL’s RAISE Network to promote tobacco cessation in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities (many of which are disproportionately impacted by tobacco use and related diseases) alongside the mainstream Great American Smokeout as part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through November.

The idea behind the Great Asian American Smokeout is to draw attention to the impact that lung cancer and smoking (the leading, preventable cause of lung cancer) have on communities of color and, in particular, on AANHPI communities.

It’s important to remember that while AANHPIs have a low smoking rate as a group, a number of subgroups are very hard hit by smoking. National data show that AANHPI men as a group have a smoking rate of 16.9%, but community-based studies conducted in Asian languages show considerably higher smoking rates among Cambodian (58%), Chinese (36%), Korean (37%), Lao (32%), and Vietnamese (41%) men.

Dr. Moon Chen of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training (AANCART) has pointed out that AANHPIs are the first ethnic group in the United States to count cancer as the #1 killer of its members and lung cancer is a particularly active killer in AANHPI communities. In fact, Chinese and Vietnamese have the highest mortality rates for lung and bronchial cancer among all Asian subgroups. Lung cancer rates among Southeast Asians are 18% higher than among White Americans. And, studies have found a higher density of tobacco billboards and store displays in Asian neighborhoods of many U.S. cities.

The Great Asian American Smokeout is a great way to raise awareness about the impact that smoking and its related diseases have on our communities and point to resources designed specifically to help AANHPIs stop smoking, like the RAISE AANHPI Quit Kit.

Much work still needs to be done on tobacco cessation to reduce lung cancer rates among AANHPI communities. So, join us leading up to November 19 by jumping into the mainstream #GreatAmericanSmokeout and #GreatAsianAmericanSmokeout feeds on Twitter and Facebook to help us #RAISEWellness!

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


Launching “Plum Blossoms,” An Artistic Bog for Asian American Women Living with Breast Cancer

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By Elizabeth R. OuYang

I was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage one) in 2009 and my mother died of breast cancer in 1991 at age sixty-two. I was American-born and a feisty civil rights lawyer and my mother was a naturalized immigrant and a housewife. However, we both faced fear of disclosure, isolation, and lack of a safe space for expressing our deepest emotions. I want to make this journey a little easier for Asian American women who will be and are living with breast cancer, including myself.

I’m starting Plum Blossoms, an artistic blog for Asian American women living with breast cancer and their families. Through stories, poems, and illustrations, they can disclose their experiences, fears, and inhibitions, and seek psychosocial support. And, with the choice to submit art and comments anonymously, it’s a safe space for women to express themselves without fear of stigmatization or jeopardizing family harmony. Collectively, it can empower Asian-American women to be “players at the table” in the ongoing fight for a cure.

It is my hope that those who view and/or contribute to the blog will find strength, release, laughter, comfort, and healing. And, most importantly, that they will walk away stronger and with belief in themselves to conquer challenges ahead in all areas of life. Cancer does not define us, it’s the life we lead that does.

Plum Blossoms will launch in October to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I chose Plum Blossoms for the blog title because this Asian flower, which can survive the winter, symbolizes beauty, courage, and hope. The word “Blossoms” in the title can be read as both a noun and verb, to represent the number of Asian-American women affected AND their will to live full and productive lives.

Countless individuals and organizations have helped to make this project a reality. While they will be acknowledged on my blog, I’d like to mention a sampling of them: New York University Asian/Pacific/American Institute is the fiscal sponsor for Plum Blossoms; Henry Jiang, is a cyber security professional volunteering to design my blog (his sister-in-law was recently diagnosed with breast cancer); Elaine Song, a Korean American editor of a law journal, is volunteering her time to edit stories; and Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum led me to Mai Tran, a Vietnamese refugee whose story will help launch Plum Blossoms.

The blog will be up by October 18th. Please go to www.plumblossoms.me and help spread the word of its existence by posting a link to Plum Blossoms on your websites, facebook page, and list serves! Together, we can empower Asian American women living with breast cancer who want to break their silence!

Elizabeth R. OuYang has been a civil rights attorney for nearly thirty years and an adjunct professor at Columbia University and New York University for fifteen years.  She is the immediate past president of OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates- New York Chapter. In 2000, she was appointed by President Clinton to serve as a special assistant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Her cases and advocacy work have been widely covered by mainstream media and ethnic press.  For more information, please go to www.elizabethouyang.org.


Video Storytelling: Using the Brain’s Default Setting

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By Dr. Joann Lee

When you read a book, I bet your brain turns the words into something like a movie that runs on an imaginary screen in your mind. Close your eyes and think of something, anything, and I bet you see a similar movie. The default setting for the human brain is moving images, which is why we decided to heavily feature videos in the new RAISE Story Bank.

The story bank, in general, and the videos, in particular, are designed to spread the word about issues that affect AANHPI communities and organizations working to raise the health of those communities. RAISE is a network that links organizations and communities together to fight a top killer of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders – cancer. A key part of that mission is to leverage existing programs and expertise (things that are already working well in one community) and make those ideas, approaches, and relationships available to individuals and organizations in other communities.

Fighting health disparities is hard enough without each community having to reinvent the wheel or working in a silo. We want to make sure that every community in need is connected, so everyone can share ideas and approaches that have been proven effective. The organizations that make up the RAISE Network are full of experienced, passionate, and smart people; the more experienced, passionate, and smart people working to improve the health of our communities the better.

Some examples of the videos banked already include:

The importance of cultural competence in providing services to Native Hawaiians, featuring Na Pu’uwai, on Molokai, and Hui No Ke Ola Pono, on Maui

Dr. Moon Chen of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training, explaining the unusual, unique, and unnecessary cancer burden faced by AANHPIs.

The incredible job that HOPE Clinic in Houston has done providing the services of a Federally-Qualified Health Center in more than a dozen languages.

So, take a look, click around, and let us know what you think and if you have any ideas for stories that will help #RAISEWellness in our communities. And, don’t forget to check back occasionally, because we plan on adding more stories as we go.

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


The Importance of a Cultural Connection to Good Health (August 2015)

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By Joseph Gonsalves

Pretty much everyone is familiar enough with Hawaiian culture to bid a friend “aloha” or offer a well-timed “mahalo” while on vacation, but few truly appreciate the depth of the Native Hawaiian culture and its importance to the people who live here. Adding a dose of culture to a trip is always fun and taking the time to learn and appreciate someone else’s culture can add a great deal to the experience. However, in the work we do at Hui No Ke Ola Pono, a nonprofit, health enhancement and health care center on Maui, the Native Hawaiian culture is critical to our ongoing effort to improve the patient experience and raise the level of our community’s health.

Understanding a patient’s culture is key to creating an environment that facilitates all aspects of health; it puts patients at ease and allows for the free flow of information, without which effective treatment is impossible. But for some of our patients, a culturally tuned approach is essential to getting them to even visit a healthcare professional for preventive and sometimes acute care. Many find the Western approach to healthcare so offputting that they won’t seek treatment when they need it.

Hui No Ke Ola Pono aims to create a culturally familiar and inviting setting in which to provide programs on nutrition and health management, as well as health care referrals for the community of Maui. Programs, like Lomi Lomi massage, a Native Hawaiian form of holistic massage therapy, put culture at the center of health. Our staff understand the importance of culture as they interact with members of our community, particularly our elders (or kupuna), who often use medicinal plants and other traditional forms of medicine. Our onsite restaurant, Simply Healthy Cafe, serves healthy, delicious, and affordable meals that are familiar to local tastes.

However, by far the most important thing that we offer at the Hui is a place of respectful understanding in which the culture and concerns of our patients are embraced in a way that creates a high degree of comfort and trust. As we continue to reach out to the Native Hawaiian community, it is imperative that this type of culturally competent work continues to break down and eliminate culturally-based barriers to good health. We love our community, we are proud of the work we do on behalf of our community, and we are honored by the trust shown to us by our patients.

And, we’re very excited about the chance to partner with the other members of the RAISE Network to carry forward our mission of culturally-competent care and the opportunities to share insight and strategies. Together we’re all working to #RAISEWellness.

Mahalo Nui Loa!

Joseph Gonsalves is Executive Director of Hui No Ke Ola Pono, the Native Hawaiian Healthcare partner on the island of Maui.


Asian Smokers’ Quitline Offers Nation-Wide, In-Language Cessation Help (July 2015)

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By Dr. Shu-Hong Zhu

Tobacco is the #1 preventable cause of disease, disability, and death among Asian Americans, but we continue to struggle with high rates of tobacco use. Vietnamese men face smoking rates of 30.7%, almost double those of all men in California, according to the 2009 California Health Interview Survey. Korean men studied in California had a shockingly high smoking-attributable cancer burden, with 71% of their cancer death rate linked to tobacco smoke exposure.

The truly tragic thing about those numbers is that, according to information gathered by the US Surgeon General, more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit. There are treatments proven to help people quit and those with access to telephone quitlines are even more likely to succeed. Sadly none of that does any good if smokers don’t have access to cessation resources that they can understand.

In 1993, my team set out to make those resources more accessible to our communities by providing telephone-based cessation counseling in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, through the California Smokers’ Helpline, based at UC San Diego. Counseling was delivered by bilingual counselors fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese. Other states followed suit, but in many cases those quitlines used third-party translation services that often made the interaction between smoker and counselors cumbersome.

In spite of our helpline’s documented success, skeptics still doubted whether Asian Americans would use the service because of discomfort with behavioral therapy. Others doubted the feasibility of the program. In response, a study of data from the first 15 years of our quitline’s operation showed that callers did, in fact, choose counseling. And after a separate two-year study that explored the use of the California Smokers’ Helpline in six other states, the protocol was successfully translated into a multistate service, branded as the Asian Smokers’ Quitline (ASQ).

The helpline’s mounting success encouraged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund the ASQ in 2012. Since then, we’ve been taking calls from Asian-language-speaking smokers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We’re very excited about the program’s expansion, as well as its success in reaching a wider pool of smokers. Resent research showed that Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese speakers across the county took advantage of the free service, which provided counseling and, in many cases, nicotine replacement therapy through patches.

A handful of state quitlines have now pledged to warm-transfer Asian language callers to ASQ. They are opting to directly connect their residents with Asian language speaking counselors rather than to offer counseling with an English speaking counselor through a third-party translator.

The Asian Smokers’ Quitline is a free, nationwide, Asian-language smoking cessation service for individuals, who speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese languages. Callers can speak with a bilingual/bicultural counselor to receive:

• Help with quitting smoking
• Informational materials
• Referrals to other resources
• Free two-week starter kit of nicotine patches

The Asian Smokers’ Quitline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
• Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin): 1-800-838-8917
• Korean: 1-800-556-5564
• Vietnamese: 1-800-778-8440

Shu-Hong Zhu, Ph.D., is a Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health and the Director of the Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control (CRITC) at the University of California, San Diego.  He has been the Principal Investigator for the California Smokers’ Helpline/Asian Smokers’ Quitline since its inception in 1992.


Partner Visits Leave Us Excited, Inspired, and Well-Tanned (June 2015)

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By Dr. Joann Lee

Travel is always exciting: the chance to view new skylines, exploring the local nuances that make each of the world’s cities unique, and, of course, the occasional trip to the longest white-sand beach in the State of Hawaii. But our recent travels, have raised even that level of excitement.

Several members of the APPEAL staff recently completed a round of site visits to a number of RAISE Network partners, in California, Ohio, Texas, and Hawaii, aimed at gathering firsthand knowledge about the work they do, the challenges they face, and potential areas for cross collaboration. The individual trips provided us with a clear picture of the work underway in each location, but all of the visits left us with a single unifying feeling of admiration for the impressive work that the organizations are doing and excitement over the potential to connect such capable professionals with each other to leverage their experience.

We were able to clearly see and better understand the importance of culture and language in improving access and quality of health care. We saw partners, like Na Pu’uwai, on the island of Molokai’I, and Hui No Ke Ola Pono, on Maui, use their understanding of culture to build the trust needed provide a critical link to Native Hawaiians that might not otherwise seek preventative or even acute treatment. We saw the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training (AANCART), in Sacramento, leverage community ties and language to broaden the reach of their important research into the health of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities and disseminate strategies to lessen the burdens of cancer on those communities.

A particularly exciting aspect of our travels was the potential we saw for our communities to learn from each other and cross-pollinate similar services blossoming in different areas. HOPE Clinic, in Houston, is a well-established Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with authoritative knowledge of what it takes to start a clinic and decades of experience running one. In spite of HOPE’s incredible growth, it staff is still working on broadening the direct outreach to the surrounding community and building preventative/educational programs in the face of Houston’s car-centric sprawl.

Asian Services In Action (ASIA, Inc.), in Cleveland and Akron, has decades of experience providing educational and other services in its own car-centric sprawl, but has only recently opened a FQHC. ASIA is working through challenges related to the clinic’s opening, as well as its tremendous growth.

HOPE and ASIA are now in the process of connecting in order to share experience-tested knowledge that each possess in different areas that will bring real benefits to both communities, even though they’re separated by five states.

A key goal of these trips was to gather the stories behind the work our partners do and share them as part of APPEAL’s new story library. We want to share those stories, along with the excitement and inspiration they capture, with the widest audience possible to flesh out the narrative behind the need for culturally and linguistically-competent organizations, as well as the need to connect them through networks, like RAISE. We’ve posted a number of stories already and there are more coming, so feel free to see for yourself the fantastic work the RAISE partners are doing in our communities.

And, of course, all of us here at APPEAL want to thank everyone who welcomed us so warmly and provided such powerful insight and inspiration.

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 

 


Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May 2015)

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By Dr. Moon Chen

Asian Pacific Heritage Month….what a great time to reflect on being an Asian Pacific American and reflect on the opportunities and obligations it provides, particularly with respect to our unique, unusual, but unnecessary cancer burden!

First, opportunities: Each of us needs to realize we are special….there is no one else in the world like us (nor will there ever be)….For example, in terms of diversity, whether it is in terms of 100s of languages or dialects spoken and our rich cultures or the fact that the U.S. Census considers us to originate from Asia where more than half of the world lives or from Pacific Islands whose expanse exceeds the North American continent by many-fold….no one is as diverse as us! Think of the number of time zones and even a different day (International Date Line) that circumscribe where we live. Through our diversity, we can offer the potential of many pathways to health and healthful living.

With respect to opportunities, the Reaching Asian American Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network represents perhaps the only vehicle that can connect the focus on tobacco control and cancer prevention among us. So, as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, we invite you to join RAISE! Join RAISE to raise your voice and raise your vision of the horizon that there is more when we work together than when we work apart. Please use this link to join:  www.RAISEWellness.org. Plugging into the RAISE Network connects you and your organization to an experienced collection of local and national organizations developing innovative methods for addressing the disparities faced by Asian Pacific American communities and sharing them with others individuals and organizations across the U.S. and Pacific Islands.

Obligations follow opportunities. With respect to tobacco and cancer prevention, here are the obligations translated to cancer burden as tobacco use is the most important preventable cause of cancer.

The cancer burden affecting Asian Pacific Americans is: unique, unusual, and unnecessary.

The cancer burden is unique in that Asian Americans were the first U.S. racial population to experience cancer as the leading cause of death; for most other American racial/ethnic groups, the leading cause of death is heart disease, although recently cancer became the leading cause of death for Hispanics as well. Being historically first means that we also have the obligation to lead the way so that cancer is no longer the burden it is for us and other Americans.

The cancer burden affecting Asian Pacific Americans is unusual in that the cancers that disproportionately affect Asian Americans are more likely to be infectious—such as Human Papilloma virally-linked cervical cancer (particularly in Vietnamese American women), Hepatitis B virally-linked liver cancer, and H. pylori-linked stomach cancer—rather than attributable to chronic factors. The good news about cervical cancer and liver cancer (if we can consider the news to be good) is that death from these two virally-linked cancers are avoidable if detected early and prevention may be possible through vaccination. (Oh, how we wish more cancers could be vaccine-preventable!) And so, let us use our familiarity with our respective cultural heritage to share the preventability of those cancers.

Applying what we know of our culture is also what we must do if we are to address the cultural reluctance to be screened for chronic forms of cancer such as cancers of the breast, colon, etc. A major test is whether we can persuade our parents to be screened for the chronic forms of cancer. If we are successful in doing so, we need to share and leverage that experience with others. According to some reports, Asian Pacific Americans are the least likely of all U.S. groups to see a physician in the last 12 months and the least likely to be screened for cancer. The absence of health insurance is not a barrier in both instances. Cultural and linguistic factors may be. So please consider applying your cultural familiarity to overcome barriers to screening.

Last but not least, the cancer burden affecting Asian Americans is unnecessary because tobacco use, the single most important cause of cancer deaths, is unnecessary. (Check out the APPEAL Asian Pacific American Quit Kit for culturally and linguistically-appropriate quit help) The aspect of cancer disparities among Asian Americans that concerns me the most is the relative neglect of mainstream media and sometimes minority health commemorations to recognize that Asian Americans are disproportionately affected by cancer. There appears to be the continued myth that we are the “model minority” with minimal health needs. That position is difficult to justify with our being the first U.S. racial population to experience and continue experiencing cancer as our leading cause of death. Bottom line: will you join me and others in RAISE to lift the unique, unusual, and unnecessary cancer burden for Asian Pacific Americans?

Dr. Moon Chen has been the Principal Investigator for the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness Research and Training (AANCART) since its initial founding in April 2000. Dr. Chen is also a member of faculty in the Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, and Co-Leader of the Cancer Etiology, Prevention, and Control Program at the UC Davis Cancer Center in Sacramento.

 


April is National Minority Health Month (April 2015)

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By Dr. Joann Lee

If you are a member of a minority group in the United States, the odds are stacked against you being as healthy as your non-minority neighbor. Recent medical research shows that racial and ethnic minority patients tend to receive a lower quality of care than non-minorities, even when they have the same types of health insurance. African Americans face higher rates of chronic illnesses, like diabetes and a number of different cancers, and those disparities in chronic illnesses persist across income levels and after adjusting for age. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities, in particular, face health-related disparities that include disproportionately high rates of liver and cervical cancers, as well as diseases and death related to tobacco use and obesity.

April is National Minority Health Month and the RAISE Partners are collaborating to highlight the importance of minority health and cross-promote events across the U.S. and the Pacific Islands which are aimed at raising the wellness of AANHPI communities. Events range from Houston to the Northern Mariana Islands and offer communities services that include educational outreach on preventable health hazards, like tobacco use, to free screenings for health concerns, like hepatitis B and cervical and cancer, that hit our communities the hardest. The benefit from having a network like RAISE is the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and recognize that AANHPI communities across the U.S. and the Pacific Islands face similar issues.

We hope you’ll join one of our scheduled events or reach out for information about how to bring similar events to your community. Most of all, we hope that all of our communities of color celebrate good health this April.

For a list of events scheduled for the month, or for information about how to bring similar events to your community, please visit www.appealforhealth.org/raise/national-minority-health-month.

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 

 


Time to Kick Butts! (March 2015)

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By Dr. Joann Lee

It’s time to kick butts and make sure that every breath is a breath of fresh air!  Despite years of work and many successes along the way, tobacco use still remains the #1 preventable cause of disease, disability, and death among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) and is associated with the top three killers of AANHPIs – heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Many AANHPI subgroups (Chinese, Filipino, Cambodian, Korean, Lao, Vietnamese, and others) face disproportionate rates of tobacco use and its associated health consequences.

That’s why APPEAL and our partners in the RAISE Network are excited about Kick Butts Day, which is coming up on March 18.  We’re seizing the opportunity to both raise the visibility of the continued threat of tobacco and to roll out new initiatives for dissemination through the RAISE Network in support of communities as they work to create healthier environments.

A new AANHPI-focused tobacco quit kit is now available on the APPEAL website to provide communities with quit resources that are culturally appropriate and in-language. The goal is to distill APPEAL’s two decades of tobacco cessation work into a single toolkit that can be shared through our RAISE Network partners. We’re also introducing a new initiative designed to remove tobacco products and tobacco’s influence (including funding and promotion) from the events held in our communities by working with event organizers to certify their event as tobacco-free. Event organizers will now be able to show their commitment to the health of their community by banning both the use and promotion of tobacco, as well as funding from the tobacco industry, by having their event “Certified Tobacco Free” and be listed among APPEAL’s Tobacco-Free Community Champions.

Such initiatives are critically needed in many AANHPI communities that continue to face disproportionately high rates of tobacco use.  While Asian Americans as a whole have the lowest prevalence rate of tobacco use (9.6%) compared to whites (19.4%)1, it is often assumed that AAs and NHPIs may not experience as much of the burden of tobacco use that impacts the rest of the general population. However, the prevalence rate for AANHPIs does not take into account the differences in tobacco use that are unique to specific ethnicities within the AA and NHPI communities, which can have some of the highest smoking prevalences in the US. For example, smoking prevalence among certain ethnicities in California has been measured to be as high as 24.4% among Cambodian males,2 24.4% to 50.8% among Vietnamese males,3 and 27.9% in Korean males.4 Additionally, Korean American males in California had the highest smoking-attributable cancer burden of any of the AANHPI groups studied, with 71% of their cancer death rate linked to tobacco smoke exposure.5

It is estimated that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year (or 1 in 5 deaths) among the general population in the US. In light of the high smoking prevalence in some AANHPI communities, smoking prevention and cessation efforts are critical in order to reduce the burden of death and disease. However, many AANHPI communities lack resources that are culturally tailored to address the health consequence of smoking and provide evidence-based strategies and resources for smoking cessation.

APPEAL and our RAISE Network partners are working to change that and we hope you’ll join us kicking butts!

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 

References:

  1. Jamal, A., Agaku, I.T., O’Connor, E., King, B.A., Kenemer, J.B., & Neff, L. (2014). Current cigarette smoking among adults — United States, 2005-2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, 63(47), 1108-12.
  2. Friis, R.H. (2012). Socioepidemiology of cigarette smoking among Cambodian Americans in Long Beach, California. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 14, 272-80.
  3. Tong, E.K., Gildengorin, G., Nguyen, T., Tsoh, J., Modayil, M., Wong, C., & McPhee, S. (2010). Smoking prevalence and factors associated with smoking status among Vietnamese in California. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 12, 613-21.
  4. Carr, K., Beers, M., Kassebaum, T., & Chen, M.S., Jr. (2005). California Korean American Tobacco Use Survey, 2004. California Department of Health Services: Sacramento, California.
  5. Leistikow, B.N., Chen, M., & Tsodikov, A. (2006). Tobacco smoke overload and ethnic, state, gender, and temporal cancer mortality disparities in Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander-Americans. Preventive Medicine, 42(6), 430-4

Hafa Adai! (February 2015)

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Hafa Adai and hello RAISE friends! I hope that the New Year has been treating you all well! I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a little background on PPTFI. First off, I thought it would be fun to give you all a quick language lesson. Here are six ways to say Hello! in the Pacific:

Marshall Islands: Yokwe
Chuuk: Ran Annim
Pohnpe: Kaselehlia
Amean Samoaric: Talofa
Palau: Alii
Yap: Mogethin
Kosrae: Tuo
Guam and CNMI: Hafa Adai

The Pacific Partners for Tobacco Free Islands (PPTFI) is composed of six U.S. affiliated Pacific Islands in the Micronesia sub region. The six islands are: American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Guam, and Northern Marianas. We are composed of members who have vested interests in reducing tobacco use within our respective region. Our members come from government, private, faith-based and non-profit organizations. As a coalition we aim to support our Pacific Islanders’ fight against tobacco. We share valuable resources among islands to reduce tobacco use. These resources can range from success stories of policy, system, and environmental changes, photo voices depicting the problems within the community, trainings to build tobacco cessation capacity, and so forth. This type of weaving together of resources is why the sennit is an important symbol proudly displayed on our logo. A sennit is an intricate weaving of dried fibers and grass that are used to bind architectures together to build homes and canoes. Just like the sennit, PPTFI aims to bridge Pacific Island Jurisdictions together to build a central force against tobacco use within our region.

We face many problems as a region. Reducing tobacco use among our Pacific Islanders has proven to be very difficult. As a region we struggle to get consistent data on tobacco use across all islands. For the islands who are able to collect data on tobacco use, our rates are much higher than the U.S. average. Take Guam for example, in 2013, Guam reported a smoking rate at 26.5% while the national average is 19%. Additionally, consistent and reliable funding is also a problem. While all jurisdictions are eligible to apply for U.S. government aid, the funding is short term. Also, most jurisdictions lack local funding sources that would offer program sustainability.
We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the RAISE Network. PPTFI sees this opportunity as a way to not only strengthen our sennit, but also expand its reach and include all RAISE partners to build a more effective tobacco control program in the Pacific region.

Christopher Surla is a health educator with the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program of Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services, Bureau of Community Health Services.


Looking Forward, Looking Back (January 2015)

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By Dr. Joann Lee

I’ve always felt a little sorry for my non-Asian friends around this time of year. Once January 2nd came around their holiday season was over, while my family was still looking forward to celebrating the Lunar New Year. And while not every community in the AANHPI fold celebrates both, I’ve always treasured the double dose of new. As the program manager of the RAISE Network, I find the New Year (whether Julian or Lunar) a time of both inspiration and anticipation as we look back at the progress made by our team and partners and look forward to the positive impact that our next year of collaboration will bring to AANHPI communities facing tobacco and cancer disparities.

2014 was the inaugural year of the RAISE Network and I am both awed and humbled by the caliber of national and local partners that have come together under the RAISE umbrella to share and leverage forward their formidable sets of skills and experience. Highlights from our start-up year include:

  • In August, we met with fellow CDC-funded National Networks in Atlanta to discuss collaboration and partnerships as network siblings. We were given the opportunity to be introduced to national, state, and local comprehensive cancer control programs.
  • In September, we hosted a national conference addressing the core RAISE health topics of tobacco and cancer control.
  • In November, the National Networks were invited to a meeting in Atlanta for National Partners in tobacco control. We were able to discuss tobacco control efforts and how the National Networks can help/collaborate with partners’ efforts, particularly in promoting smoke-free air laws.
  • In December, we welcomed two new partners from Hawaii – Na Pu’uwai Native Hawaiian Health Care System on the island of Molokai, and Hui No Ke Ola Pono on Maui.

With all that incredible groundwork laid, RAISE looks to 2015 with great anticipation toward refining our focus and developing replicable techniques for linking AANHPI communities to the tools they need for better health and wellness. Some key goals for next year include:

  • We’re aiming to launch a RAISE-related webinar series with the first webinar slated for the end of January.
  • We’re going to develop the infrastructure of the RAISE network to link the resources and expertise wielded by network members with the AANHPI communities still facing cancer disparities.
  • We’ll ramp up all levels of engagement with partners and communities through story sharing and social media outreach.
  • And, we plan to identify and develop signature events and tools to promote the work of the RAISE Network and its partners.

I sincerely thank all of the RAISE partners and team members who’ve worked so hard to launch our Network and can’t wait to see what the next year holds for all us working for greater AANHPI health.

As always, we would be happy to have you join us in our journey. You can find information, a calendar of events, track Tweets to #RAISEwellness, follow this blog as it features the diverse voices of our partners, and join our network at www.raisewellness.org, or through the main APPEAL webpage at www.appealforhealth.org.

Looking Forward!

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES, is the Program Manager for Reaching Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control and Cancer Prevention (RAISE) Network Project. Joann comes to APPEAL with over a decade of experience in tobacco control research and has completed fellowships at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF and at the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. 


Welcome to Our New RAISE Partners (December 2014)

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By Nicole Robello

Aloha RAISE family,

All of us at the Na Pu`uwai Native Hawaiian Health Care System are blessed to be a part of APPEAL and the RAISE program.

The Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems were created to address the health disparities facing the Native Hawaiian community. Na Pu`uwai Native Hawaiian Health Care System took on that responsibility in 1985 for the islands of Moloka`i and Lanai. Similar to other minority communities, Native Hawaiians have a higher rate of chronic diseases, cancers, tobacco use, and mental health concerns. It is the mission here at Na Pu`uwai (as well as all of the other Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems) to decrease the health disparities and build on the many strengths that our communities have.

At Na Pu`uwai, our services include outreach, health education, disease prevention, health promotion, behavioral health, and traditional healing. With regards to cancer prevention, our amazing clinical team holds cancer screenings throughout the year and health education in the schools and community.

With regard to tobacco cessation, Na Pu`uwai was awarded a tobacco cessation grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation in 2013 to implement a program aimed at decreasing tobacco use on Moloka`i and Lanai. One-on-one counseling and financial assistance for nicotine replacement therapies and oral medications are provided. To date, we have served over 200 patients for tobacco cessation. It has been helpful to partner with other local organizations such as I Ola Lahui, Molokai Community Health Center, Tobacco Prevention and Education Program and the Coalition For A Tobacco Free Hawaii to increase the efficacy of our program, capacity building, and advocacy.

As a partner in the RAISE program, we hope to be able to network with other communities in and across the Pacific and seek added support for our current efforts toward cancer prevention and tobacco cessation, as well as share our strategies for success. Working in rural and underserved areas, one barrier for providers and organizations is the difficulty in reaching out to other communities. It is such a gift that RAISE can bring us together to increase capacity, resources, and support to do the great work that we all do and serve our community to the best of our abilities.

It has always been important for me to remember the mentors who have provided wisdom and guidance in my life. My mentor during graduate school shared with me this saying in Hawaiian, “‘A ohe hana nui ke alu‘ia.” Translated, it means, “No work is too large when done by all.” These words of wisdom inspire me in everything I do and reflect the spirit of APPEAL and the RAISE program. If we have the platform to communicate and utilize all of our strengths for a common goal, we can accomplish anything.

Mahalo for allowing us to be a part of such an amazing organization and we are looking forward to meeting everyone in some capacity in the near future.

 

Dr. Nicole Robello is a licensed clinical psychologist and director of the behavior health program at Na Pu`uwai Native Hawaiian Health Care System on the island of Molokai. She can be reached at Nrobello@napuuwai.com


The Great Asian American Smokeout (November 2014)

rod blog photo

By Rod Lew

Smoking nearly took everything from Rico Foz. Years of smoking left him with cancer of the esophagus. The protracted struggle with the disease left him jobless, which led to the loss of his house, and any sense of financial and emotional security. But, Rico’s story has a happy ending. He survived, rebuilt his life, and now volunteers with nonprofit organizations focused on smoking cessation.

As a Filipino American, Rico had the odds stacked against him when it came to smoking. Tobacco is the #1 preventable cause of disease, disability, and death among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) and is associated with the top three killers of AANHPIs – heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Even as the nation as a whole prepares for the Great American Smokeout coming up on November 20, many AAPI subgroups face disproportionate rates of tobacco use and associated health impacts.

National data show that AANHPI men as a group have a smoking rate of 16.9%, but community-based studies conducted in Asian languages show considerably higher smoking rates among Cambodian (58%), Chinese (36%), Korean (37%), Lao (32%), and Vietnamese (41%) men.

There is also clear indication that, even in states that have been highly successful in decreasing smoking prevalence, tobacco disparities continue to exist. The California Health Interview Survey has shown that between 2001 and 2009, smoking prevalence among Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese men has been consistently and disproportionately high, as compared to the general California population. This all shows the need for more focused, culturally-tailored education about tobacco in AAPI communities.

The Great American Smokeout is about encouraging smokers to quit and reduce their risk of deadly cancers. We at Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership, a national, non-profit organization working to achieve parity and empowerment for AAPIs, would like to amend this day to be the Great Asian American Smokeout to highlight the fact that many AAPI communities continue to be disproportionately affected by smoking.

Please join APPEAL in working toward reducing the devastating impacts that tobacco has on our loved ones in the API communities by showing how you feel about tobacco use. Snap a photo of yourself making the face that best shows your feelings and post it to #RAISEwellness and #GreatAmericanSmokeout on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Creating awareness of disparities and the need for culturally-tailored anti-tobacco efforts will put all our communities on the path to equity and health.

Thank you,

Rod Lew

 

Rod Lew is executive director of APPEAL and a key contributor of research that has provided important data illuminating this issue. He has spent 20 years at the helm of the nationwide effort to reduce and eliminate tobacco-related health disparities among AANHPI communities.

 


Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October 2014)

hope logo and cathy pic

By Cathy Phan

October is Breast Cancer Prevention Month and, at the HOPE Clinic in Houston, this month is especially meaningful, because our recent $1.5 million grant from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) allows us to provide cancer screenings and preventative care to thousands of low-income and medically underserved individuals in the Greater Houston area.

For a relatively young clinic, the grant is another major step forward from our 2002 beginnings as a four-hours-a-month volunteer-run service. HOPE Clinic was born out of the dream of four Asian American women, who wanted to help others navigate the complex American healthcare system. In 2005, we were thrust into action by Hurricane Katrina and we served 1 out of every 5 Vietnamese American evacuees from Louisiana. Today, HOPE Clinic has grown into a full time Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with 13,000 patient visits per year and the ability to provide our services in 14 different languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Burmese, Hindi, Arabic and Spanish.

All this would not have been possible without the local leadership and hard work of the members of the Asian American Health Coalition, our parent organization. In addition, the HOPE Clinic has long been supported by our colleagues nationwide. Last month, we had the opportunity to connect with so many fellow health advocates in the fight against cancer at the Pathways of Change conference hosted by APPEAL.

Over the course of three days in sunny and non-humid [we are from Houston after all] San Francisco, we shared, listened, challenged, broke bread, and celebrated with practitioners and advocates from across the country and as far away as Palau. As a group, we moved from a Day of Community to a Day of Strategy, and then to the Day of Equity.

As a local member of APPEAL’s RAISE program, having partners far and wide in the battle to prevent cancer is so meaningful. We learn from each other the best practices for issues like tobacco control and ACA implementation. We are encouraged to share our experiences and take back new tools. Perhaps, most importantly, the RAISE program and convenings like Pathways of Change give staffers like us a chance to rejuvenate and reaffirm.

A dozen years ago, four women had a dream to help others navigate their way to a healthier life for themselves, their families and their communities. As members of the inaugural RAISE program cohort, the HOPE Clinic wants our collective journey to be just as impactful.

 

Cathy Phan is the Affordable Care Act Program Coordinator, Asian American Health Coalition (AAHC) at Hope Clinic. HOPE Clinic, a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center founded in 2002, provides affordable health services to patients of all ages and promotes preventative care, encourages a healthy lifestyle, and advocates for health equity for all.

 


Jade Ribbon Campaign (September 2014)

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By Michael Byun

Hello RAISE Friends!

It is exciting for me to be the inaugural guest blogger on the Reaching Asian Americans Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control, and Cancer Prevention blog. That is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Let’s just agree to call it the RAISE Blog!

RAISE is special to me, because I got my start in the public health arena doing tobacco control work in Ohio. Life has a way of coming full circle like this and I’m especially pleased that RAISE weaves together the decades-long campaigns for tobacco control and cancer prevention for our community.

In fact, my amazing colleagues here at Asia Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA)¬–we are now a FQHC by the way!–recently worked on raising awareness around Hepatitis B and liver cancer. On World Hepatitis B Day (July 28), our Community Health Promotion Department hosted a Hep B Awareness Workshop in collaboration with the Case Western University Asian Pacific American Medical Association. The workshop was a great hit with our community members! In addition, ASIA introduced the Jade Ribbon campaign during the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, Ohio. In case you don’t know much about the Jade Ribbon Campaign, here are some highlights:  Launched by the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University in May 2001, the Jade Ribbon Campaign seeks to eradicate Hepatitis B (HBV) worldwide and reduce the incidence and mortality associated with liver disease.

cropped ribon

As many as 1 out of 10 Asian Americans have chronic Hepatitis B, and most do not know that they are infected. Sadly, 1 out of every 4 Hepatitis B carrier will eventually die of liver cancer and liver failure.

Considered to be the essence of heaven an earth, Jade is believed in Asian cultures to bring luck and longevity while deflecting negativity. Folded like the Chinese character [ren] meaning “person or people,” the Jade Ribbon also symbolizes the effort of the people in an unprecedented nationwide health campaign of Asians helping Asians.

Want more information about the Campaign? Please contact Cathy Vue at cvue@asiaohio.org.

As you can see, here at ASIA, we take the best ideas and practices from across the country (and the world) and make them available to our neighbors in Northeast Ohio. Working with our partners in RAISE, we hope to continue this healthy exchange of ideas, so that all AAPIs can live healthy productive lives.

I’d like to end by giving a shout-out to our very own Cathy Vue, who was named a White House “Champions of Change” for Affordable Care Act Outreach to the AAPI Community early this year. Cathy is my partner in crime with RAISE and manages public health programs for ASIA. Congrats Cathy!

 

Michael Byun is the Executive Director of Asian Services in Action, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) serving the Northeast Ohio region. Michael is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Ohio Asian American and Pacific Islander Advisory Council. With over 15 years experience in health disparities, social justice, and immigrant and refugee issues, Michael is a frequent speaker on AAPI public policy issues. Michael received his Masters of Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

 


Introducing the RAISE Network (August 2014)

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By Joann Lee

Growing up in LA’s Koreatown, some of my favorite childhood memories were the trips my family would take away from our city apartment to visit my aunt and the time we would spend in the large garden she lovingly tended out in the suburbs of sunny Southern California. I remember the feelings of peace and health from being surrounded by so many well cared for living things. The vivid radiance of the blossoming flowers, in particular, lingers in my memory along with my aunt teaching me that the health of a flower reflects the health of not only the single plant, but the entire garden.

It is no accident that the image of a flower is featured in the logo of APPEAL’s new initiative, Reaching Asian Americans Pacific Islanders through Innovative Strategies to Achieve Equity in Tobacco Control, and Cancer Prevention (RAISE). Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities continue to face health disparities related to tobacco-use and cancer, but RAISE brings an innovative approach to combating those disparities and provides tools to tend the gardens that are our communities and move them to greater health. And, after a number of busy months, there’s much progress to report on this groundbreaking project.

Working with our national partners—the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Pacific Partners for Tobacco-Free Islands (PPTFI), Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), and HOPE Clinic and Asian Services In Action (ASIA, Inc.) —we have already begun to create a network of national and local-based organizations that will work to prevent and reduce tobacco use and other cancer-related health disparities in AANHPI communities. It is the power of the partnerships enabled by the RAISE network that holds such promise for our communities. Each partner is represented by a petal on the RAISE flower, as they reflect the budding health of our communities through our coordinated efforts.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for AANHPIs. Data reveals that specific AANHPI subgroups, when compared to the general population, are at a higher risk and face increased mortality rates for cancer. For example, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death among all Asian men with the exception of South Asians, and the most common cause of cancer-related death for Chinese, Korean, Lao and Vietnamese women. Since tobacco use among Asian groups is typically higher than other ethnicities, these statistics are not surprising but strongly emphasize why initiatives like RAISE are so important.

Using evidence-based, public-health models and strategies that are community competent and population specific, RAISE aims to reduce death and disability of AANHPIs due to commercial tobacco use, unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyles, hepatitis B, cervical cancer, and other cancers.

By Aug. 31, 2018, RAISE is set to accomplish the following:

1) Strengthened capacity and infrastructure of the RAISE Network by expanding membership and amplifying the interaction between network members.

2) Educate and build capacity of AANHPI communities and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on effective environmental approaches to tobacco and cancer prevention.

3) Increased collaboration across key health systems stakeholders to ensure increased effectiveness of health systems’ approaches to implementing tobacco-free environments, reimbursing for tobacco cessation treatment, promoting Pap testing and increasing the use of Hepatitis B vaccine among AANHPIs.

4) Strengthened public health practice strategies that lead togreater and more efficient promotion of tobacco-free living, tobacco cessation, chronic disease self-management, and cancer survivorship planning in the AANHPI communities.

5) Increased dissemination and diffusion of actionable data on tobacco and cancer disparities that is culturally competent and allows greater accessibility of public health data collection systems, analyses, and interpretation of AANHPI tobacco, and cancer health disparities on all levels.

6) Increased dissemination of proven and promising practices and technical assistance provided on tobacco-related and cancer health disparities to the AANHPI communities to achieve decreased tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke and incidence and mortality from liver cancer (resulting from Hepatitis B) and cervical cancer.

Initiatives like RAISE continue APPEAL’s mission to achieve health equity for our communities and as the RAISE flower blossoms into a strong and radiant flower through the hard work of our network partners, it will reflect the existing beauty and improving health of the diverse AANHPI communities it serves.

We would be happy to have you join us in our journey. You can find information, a calendar of events, track Tweets to #RAISEwellness, follow this blog as it features the diverse voices of our partners, and join our network at www.raisewellness.org, or through the main APPEAL webpage at www.appealforhealth.org.