May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! The term “Asian American and Pacific Islander” includes all Americans with descent from the Asian continent and/or the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. It began in 1978, after a joint congressional resolution established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week during the week of May 4th. This week was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the United States on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, where a majority of the workers were Chinese immigrants. In 1992, the week-long celebration was officially expanded into a month-long celebration, now known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This year’s theme is “Leadership, Diversity, Empowerment, and Beyond”. And really, one of the best ways to empower people is giving them control over their health through informed health decisions. In March 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a new action plan for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) health. The four main priorities of this plan are:
- Improve prevention, treatment and control of Hepatitis B (HBV) infections. AANHPI persons represent nearly half of the 1.25 million Americans with chronic HBV-infections.
- Improve reporting of data. The lack of group or ethnicity-specific data available on these heterogeneous populations hinders understanding of their health needs.
- Foster workforce diversity. Resolving the current shortage of AANHPI physicians in key health leadership roles would bring more attention to removing cultural and linguistic barriers in health care, resulting in better clinical outcomes.
- Address critical health issues that impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. Health problems for these populations are compounded by obesity, unhealthy lifestyles, lack of extended family support systems, and the lack of culturally competent health professionals with knowledge of Hawaiian or Pacific Islander culture.
Approximately 40% of the United States’ Asian/Pacific American population resides in the Pacific Southwest Region. California has the largest Asian/Pacific American population with over 5.3 million people, and Hawaii is the only Asian-majority state with nearly 1 million Asian/Pacific Americans (making up 60% of the state’s population). Simply put, NN/LM PSR network members will continue to play a large role in empowering the Asian/Pacific American communities. How? The best way is to familiarize yourself with quality health information resources so it can be disseminated to your patrons.
MedlinePlus is the most frequently visited government website for health information. MedlinePlus offers authoritative, up-to-date health information, without advertisements, and is available anytime, anywhere for free. The health topic page on Asian-American health is a great jumping off point for Asian/Pacific Americans. But beyond that, MedlinePlus has nearly 900 health topic pages on diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues. It also offers a medical encyclopedia, interactive health tutorials, drugs, supplements, and herbal information, current health news, and more!
However, it is difficult to provide any single resource for a population as diverse as Asian/Pacific Americans. Asia and the Pacific Islands contain 90 countries and territories, all with different backgrounds, cultures, languages, and values. Even here in the US, over 3.6 million people speak either Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean at home. Luckily, there are several multiple language health information resources available online.
The resources available on MedlinePlus are primarily in English and Spanish, but it contains a growing collection of health information in over 45 languages. The NLM SIS Asian American Health portal provides resources specifically for Asian Americans, including materials in Asian languages. SPIRAL: Selected Patient Information Resources in Asian Languages is a collection of links to Asian-language patient care documents that have been created by authoritative sources and are freely available on the internet. Lastly, RHIN, the Refugee Health Information Network, is a database of quality multilingual, public health resources for those providing care to resettled refugees and asylees.
The National Library of Medicine also has several online and traveling exhibitions celebrating Asian/Pacific heritage. One of the newest traveling exhibitions, A Voyage to Health, touches on the history of voyaging, Kaho’olawe and the Hawaiian Movement, and the legacy and revival of the voyaging tradition. It will be available in our region at the Kapi’olani Community College Library, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the University of Guam, and the University of California, San Diego Biomedical Library during 2011. There are also numerous online exhibitions focusing on historical Chinese posters, such as Consumptive Disease: Chinese Anti-Tuberculosis Posters, 1950 – 1980 and Chinese Anti-Malaria Posters.
So what is your library doing for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? Let us know by posting on our Facebook Page!