Data from the California Health Interview Survey and the American Community Survey highlight diversity and needs of California’s fastest growing population groups.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. and LOS ANGELES, Calif.,
June 23, 2022

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) are among the fastest growing racial groups in California and nationwide. In response to a wave of attacks on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs), California passed the API Equity Budget in 2021 that included a 3-year investment of over $166 million to better serve communities experiencing hate and barriers to various government services. Part of that historic investment was a $10 million award to AAPI Data, to conduct demographic and policy research to better serve AANHPI communities.

Today, AAPI Data, in partnership with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, released a groundbreaking study that highlights disparities in the access and utilization of health, mental health and social services by Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. The report also benefited from the input of the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs, various other state agencies, and several nonprofit organizations serving AANHPI communities including AAPI Equity Alliance, CAA, Center for Empowered Politics, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Khmer Girls in Action, SEARAC, and the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition.

This health, mental health, and social service needs report uses currently available data to benchmark the current health, mental health and social service needs for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California. The report uses pooled data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s 2019 and 2020 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and the Census Bureau’s 2016–2020 American Community Survey (ACS).

Key findings of the report include:

  • Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were slightly less likely to be enrolled in public programs such as CalFresh, Medicare and Medi-Cal compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Enrollment among detailed Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups showed wider variation, including much larger gaps among groups such as Indians, Japanese and Taiwanese.
  • Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were less likely than whites to have a usual source of care, have visited a doctor in the last 12 months, and be able to schedule a doctor’s appointment in a timely manner.
  • While Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities reported the lowest rates of suicide ideation overall, disaggregated data reveal Japanese, Korean and U.S.-born Asians are more likely to have said they had ever thought of committing suicide.
  • Among those who reported needing help for emotional, mental or addiction problems in the past year, Asians, along with Blacks and Hispanics, were significantly less likely to receive needed mental, emotional or addiction treatment than whites. Disaggregated data for Asians show similar challenges in accessing mental health services, especially for Vietnamese.
  • Asian, Black and Hispanic women were less likely than white women to use birth control. Asian teens were significantly less likely to have received counseling about birth control in the past year.
  • While Asians, in general, were less likely to report non-consensual sex or sexual assault in the survey, Japanese and Koreans were more likely to report it than Asians in general, with Japanese reporting at the highest rate among the groups surveyed.
  • With Universal Pre-K set as a goal for the 2025–2026 school year in California, a snapshot of ACS data shows which communities have existing gaps in preschool enrollment. Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander children were among the least likely of all Californian children to be enrolled in Pre-K. Disaggregated Asian data also show that less than half of Laotian, Filipino, Pakistani, Cambodian and Hmong preschool-aged children were enrolled in a pre-K program.
  • While Asians in general were less likely to provide care to family or friends with a disability or serious illness than members of other major racial and ethnic groups, Japanese, Filipinos and Vietnamese were much more likely to be caregivers.
  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander caregivers were more likely to cite financial stress from caregiving.
  • While Asians in general reported relatively low levels of physical and mental health problems due to caregiving, Koreans and South Asians were significantly more likely to report those problems compared to all Asians.

“California has established a strong commitment to ensuring racial equity in the provision of public services, and this report is an important first step in improving public understanding of the needs, barriers, and challenges that Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities face,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy at UC Riverside and founder of AAPI Data. “We hope that policy makers as well as those in charge of policy implementation will use the findings and recommendations in this report to better serve AANHPI communities in California.”

“High-quality data is the first step and the foundation to achieving health equity. We are proud to partner with AAPI Data on this report that highlights the unique health challenges and needs of Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, who for so long have been grouped together,” said Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, principal investigator of CHIS, and senior researcher at AAPI Data. “As you can see in this comprehensive report, the more we break down the data by subgroups, the more apparent the differences and vulnerabilities become. We hope this report can help inform better decision-making and policies.”

The report also outlines several recommendations for action to address equity in health and social services for Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. The recommendations include:

  • Investing in centralized sharing of limited culturally competent mental health resources and expanding capacity.
  • Supporting families and caregivers with in-language support to address financial, physical and mental hardships associated with caregiving.
  •  Improve awareness and access to public and government programs to address underutilization.
  • Invest in increasing language access capacity by creating job opportunities for multilingual immigrants to become certified interpreters.
  • Increase opportunities for government partnerships with community-based organizations to leverage their trusted voices to get the word out about new initiatives or public health information.
  • Implement and expand data disaggregation efforts to create more timely and accurate data on Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities to better implement new policies and programs.

The health, mental health, and social service needs report drew praise from a variety of champions of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

“Good, disaggregated data is essential to ensure that state and local government agencies understand and address the needs of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities,” noted California State Senator Richard Pan, M.D., Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. “We look forward to more actionable reports from AAPI Data and the California Health Interview Survey, with fresh data collections that shed light on AANHPI mental health needs and experiences with discrimination in various forms.”

“When we passed the API Equity Budget in 2021, we knew our communities were under-researched and under-prioritized. This report confirms that,” said California Assemblymember Phil Ting, Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “Now, there’s a solid foundation of data and recommendations that sets a path toward improving service delivery and outreach. We hope state agencies will take notice and continue partnering with frontline organizations and researchers to better address our community needs.”

“The Health, Mental Health, and Social Services Needs of Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California report uncovers the diverse and complex health disparities of Asian American and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI),” noted Nkauj Iab Yang, executive director of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. “We at the Commission look forward to continuing partnerships with the State of California and AANHPI Californians to transform public policies and advance health equity for all AANHPI communities.”

“As California’s Civil Rights Agency, DFEH takes seriously its obligation to enforce civil rights laws in our state,” noted Becky Ryan, Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. “As we launch the CA vs. Hate Resource Line and Network later this year, we will offer in-language and culturally competent support to all people targeted for hate. We look forward to working with AA and NHPI communities to build a trauma-informed and community centered approach to more effectively preventing and responding to hate.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing levels of anti-Asian hate have further exacerbated the inequities in health, mental health, and social service capacity and access,” noted Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the AAPI Equity Alliance. “Detailed data on our communities is vital to reflect the unique and varied needs of our AAPI communities. This report represents an invaluable resource that will provide advocates with the data they need to advance racial equity.”

“This new report reveals many disparities in the delivery and allocation of social services and points to the need for the AA and NHPI communities to be an active part of the political decision-making process,” noted Alex Tom, executive director of Center for Empowered Politics. “This report gives civic engagement organizations vital disaggregated data that will strengthen our capacity to articulate the issues and challenges that the AA and NHPI electorates face.”

“The statistics don’t lie: language access remains a critical component to achieving health and social service equity and community safety for AA and NHPI communities,” stated Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “We call on state and local governments to go beyond translating materials and bilingual staff for the most commonly spoken non-English languages, but to look for innovative solutions to address the needs of all non-English language speakers in California.”

The report, along with supportive commentary from government and community partners, is available on June 23, 2022, at aapidata.com/reports.