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County steps up health efforts for diverse Asian American/Pacific Islander communities

“We can do more with federal help”

SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted recently to allocate $1.6 million in federal and County funding to Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) for the expansion of the Asian/Pacific Islander Community Health Worker (CHW) pilot program. The funds will allow AACI to hire community health workers and contract with local nonprofits to improve health outcomes for seven distinct Asian American communities.

The federal government’s support was essential to the full expansion of the program to all seven targeted API communities and would not have been possible without Representative Ro Khanna’s advocacy. Rep. Khanna was successful in securing the inclusion of the County’s $1 million funding request in a federal spending bill passed in July 2021 by the House of Representatives.

“This program is a concerted effort by our County, community-based organizations, and our congressional representatives,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who initially proposed the program. “We are grateful for Congressman Khanna’s support of our County’s efforts to improve the health, wellness, and resilience of Santa Clara County’s diverse communities. I know we can do more with federal help.”

The CHW program is an outgrowth of the County’s 2017 Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Health Assessment and Implementation Plan, which Simitian initiated. The program was designed to improve health outcomes by removing barriers to accessing care and providing essential linkages between clinical, behavioral health, and community services for seven API subgroups. AACI’s robust organizational infrastructure and experience working with Asian and Pacific Islander populations qualified it as the best candidate to serve as the lead agency.

“API communities across America have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s essential that we deliver care to those who need it most,” said Khanna. “I’m proud to have played a part in securing this funding, which will support culturally appropriate medical care for Santa Clara County’s API communities.”

In 2020, the Board of Supervisors approved a three-year pilot program to deliver culturally tailored health education around COVID-19, domestic violence prevention, and chronic disease prevention to the County’s diverse API community. The program initially focused on the Vietnamese, Filipino, and South Asian communities, and was expanded in 2022 to include the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Pacific Islander communities.

“My goal has always been to make sure that our Asian American and Pacific Islander residents can quickly access the healthcare they need in a way that’s culturally appropriate, and in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable,” said Simitian. “That’s how we address the long-standing healthcare disparities facing these communities — and improve health outcomes for the entire community.”

AACI’s Community Health Worker program will maintain a cadre of community health workers from the API community. Already, 13 community health workers from API communities have been trained to deliver services on a variety of health-related topics, including healthcare insurance navigation, blood pressure management, food security, culturally specific violence prevention, healthy aging, and mental health first aid. Community Health Workers are also trained to provide service navigation, referrals, health screenings, basic motivational counseling, and outreach and education. 

To carry out activities related to the CHW program, AACI partners with other API-serving organizations who have specialized relationships with the various communities, including Sewa International Bay Area, Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation (VIVO), LEAD Filipino, Vietnamese American Roundtable (VAR), Korean American Community Services (KACS), Yu Ai Kai, the Regional Pacific Islander Task Force, and Avenidas Chinese Community Center. To date, the CHW program has hosted dozens of outreach and educational events and connected with hundreds of residents.

In June 2021, AACI partnered with the City of San José to host a vaccination event where the organization distributed health information as part of the CHW program. In October 2021, AACI partnered with Silicon Valley YMCA and East Valley Family YMCA at a Health and Resource Fair to provide information and resources, including a pop-up vaccination clinic, blood pressure and glucose monitoring, linkages to housing services, and COVID-19 education.

And for the past two years, AACI has partnered with LEAD Filipino to participate in FAHM Jam (a festival celebrating Filipino American Heritage Month) where AACI had a booth and provided outreach information, including COVID-19 education, to the Filipino community. At these events, LEAD Filipino also provided a bystander intervention training for combating anti-Asian hate, along with listening circles to provide support to victims of anti-Asian hate.

"In its first year, the Asian Pacific Islander Community Health Worker program made great strides improving health outcomes for Santa Clara County's largest demographic group,” said Rhonda McClinton-Brown, Deputy Director of Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department. “We anticipate that its second year will boost community outreach and expand services to tackle everything from food insecurity to healthcare insurance navigation. Ultimately, it's not just about what can be done now, but doing what we can now to ensure this effort is built to last and offers long-term health solutions.”

“AACI is proud to continue our partnership with the County of Santa Clara to further expand our local outreach efforts and provide health education to more communities than ever before. We are also grateful to the County for recognizing API diversity in the region by disaggregating data collection in the 2017 Asian and Pacific Islander Health Assessment, allowing us to tailor our services and better address the unique needs of individual ethnic groups within the API community,” said Sarita Kohli, President and CEO of AACI. “AACI is excited to continue this work and look forward to helping make Santa Clara County a healthier place to live, work, and play.”