By Stephanie Shen
When discussing racial equity issues, it is well known that overt racism, like hate speech and hate crimes, directly negatively impacts the well-being of the racial diaspora that is targeted. However, what is often less discussed are the many implicit and insidious ways that continuous exposure to racism influence long-term negative outcomes. For example, Asian Americans are 60% less likely than non-Hispanic whites (1) to receive mental health treatment. Vietnamese Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians are nearly three times less likely than white Americans (2) to reach out to mental health services when they need it. Southeast Asians are forced to independently pave their own way (3) to solving mental health issues due to their inability to find culturally informed healthcare providers. The barrier to accessing mental health care permeates into physical health as well. Moreover, the National Library of Medicine found that 57% of women from Cambodia (4) reported challenges in finding suitable medical care in the U.S. due to a lack of interpreters.
To address these staggering statistics and many other health and social issues within the AAPI community, The College of New Jersey Launched the AAPI Advocacy Campaign, a grassroots advocacy initiative led by Dr. Yifeng Hu and her students. The primary goal of The College of New Jersey's 2022 AAPI Advocacy Campaign was to address overt and implicit racism. Along with commemorating the victims of several hate crimes, the campaign shed light on the harms of widely normalized Asian stereotypes that are prominent in mainstream media and society, such as the Model Minority Myth. The lack of Asian American and Pacific Islanders' history courses and materials in U.S. classrooms and how this affects the perception and treatment of AAPI were other topics highlighted by the campaign. The Campaign was developed by Dr. Yifeng Hu alongside eight passionate students from the School of Arts and Communication to raise awareness of the acts of racism, discrimination, and hate crimes against the AAPI community. As participants and creators, we sought to bridge this knowledge gap by showcasing notable AAPI figures and contributions via social media and a pop-up exhibit. Watch the AAPI Advocacy Campaign mini documentary here.
This kind of work is essential to preserving health equity among AAPI. In fact, it's often phenomena like the erasure of AAPI history in public schools and reducing the Asian diaspora to the Model Minority Myth that contributes to lifelong mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety (5). Shedding light on the AAPI community and its struggles is also essential to disrupt the mental health stigma among so many AAPI communities and families. Debunking harmful stereotypes also shows the non-AAPI community that we are not a monolith. Proving the true diversity of a group that has been long marginalized will help mitigate the shame some feel about reaching out for mental health help. Finally, this may also inspire future healthcare workers to embrace cultural humility.
The campaign is continuing in 2023 under the leadership of Dr. Hu and her students who have designed an AAPI student interview series, an AAPI Film Festival (here and here), and an Interactive Museum Exhibit. It's only with persistent and continuous efforts that we hope to close the health equity gap for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Renata Schiavo, PhD, MA, CCL
Alka Mansukhani, PhD, MS
Radhika Ramesh, MA
Guest posts are by invitation only.