The Asian American Health Initiative sponsored its first Asian American
Health Conference on May 5th, 2006. The Asian American Health Initiative is part of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Minority and Multicultural Health. It was established to help eliminate health disparities that exist between Asian Americans and their non-Asian counterparts. Our purpose is to develop appropriate health programs that meet the needs of a diverse group of Asian Americans within Montgomery County.

The main purpose of the conference was to gather health care professionals, community based organizational leaders, and health care policy makers to discuss the various health disparities that affect the Asian American community. Over 250 national, state, and local health organizational leaders convened to present research and other information on a broad spectrum of topics ranging from mental health to domestic violence in the Asian American community. It also was intended as an opportunity for to network with others involved in Asian American health. Thusly titled, “Commitment to Change: Exploring Health Disparities in the Asian American Community”, the conference addressed the many challenges and barriers that the Asian American community faces to obtain quality health care.

The conference opened with a three standing drum dance and welcoming remarks from officials involved in the health of Montgomery County residents. National issues affecting Asian American health including immigration, lack of data, and refining data for assessing health needs were addressed.

There were three panels set to address the issues of healthcare access for Asian Americans. The first panel discussed the barriers that Asian Americans face in obtaining quality health care. A wide variety of health topics were covered to include the roles of limited English proficiency, cultural competency, and cultural challenges. The second panel addressed ways to overcome these barriers to health care. Among the successful programs that were presented, cancer and tobacco, hepatitis B, mental health, diabetes, and domestic violence were addressed. National and local public health leadership and policy was the topic of the third panel. The Office of Minority Health under the Department of Health and Human Services and the Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities explained about existing programs and policies that have furthered progress in dispelling health disparities. 

At the luncheon, steering committee members were recognized for their hard work and dedication to AAHI. The conference closed with a ‘Call to Action’ on the part of health care professionals and public health officials to help Asian Americans navigate around the obstacles to obtaining health care access and develop more programs that provide measurable improvement in the health of Asian American communities.

For links to the full speaker presentations please visit conference summary.