CDC REACH Program Empowers AANHPIs and Other Minority Populations for Past 20 Years
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, one of the only racially and ethnically focused public health programs at the federal level.
Throughout its history, REACH has created a network of public and private partnerships with local government, universities and community based organizations, including a growing legacy of nearly twenty Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) serving organizations, to remove barriers to health caused by race or ethnicity, education, income, location, and among other social factors.
REACH and its grantees have demonstrated that locally-driven and culturally-tailored solutions can be effective in reversing the seemingly intractable gaps in health that diverse communities experience across America. For example, in 2012, to tackle and reduce health disparities for AANHPI communities, particularly those adversely affected by the obesity epidemic, the Asian & Pacific American Health Forum, in partnership with the New York University Center for the Study of Asian American Health created the STRIVE Project. The STRIVE Project established an infrastructure for an integrated and trusted AANHPI community network to: collect disaggregated data which otherwise did not exist; implement evidence- and practice-based strategies; and improve access to health foods for AANHPIs. The STRIVE Project concretely illustrated how culturally and linguistically adapted strategies can enhance the viability of reducing health disparities across the diversity of the AANHPI community.
In contrast to popular misperceptions that AANHPI communities are universally healthy, wealthy and well-educated, it is important to remember that AANHPI communities represent a diverse group of over 50 ethnic groups who speak over 100 different languages and dialects. When data for these diverse communities are grouped into broad categories (i.e. “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander”, the health disparities and other social determinants of health-related challenges experienced by particular subgroups (e.g. Samoan, Burmese, Vietnamese, etc.) are often masked, leading to the lack of inclusion, under-prioritization and under-resourcing of public health efforts.
Looking to the future, as AANHPI populations continue to rapidly grow and are projected to constitute one-tenth of the U.S. population by 2040, it is imperative to continue to bolster public-private partnerships across all levels of government with diverse community based organizations, always partnering with the most affected communities to prevent chronic disease, improve health, and strive towards eliminating racial and ethnic health.
As we commemorate the past twenty years of achievements of REACH, let us also specifically acknowledge and celebrate the impact of all the community organizations, including AANHPI-serving agencies, that have made life-saving contributions to reducing chronic disease disparities, particularly among racial and ethnic minority communities. We encourage public health programs at the national, state, and local levels to remember to ensure that there is meaningful inclusion of these communities in future public health programs, including and beyond the REACH program.