July 22, 2021

Breaking Down Barriers to Care in AAPI Communities

Providence is committed to ensuring health and social needs are continually addressed across the region, and recognizes that no two communities are the same. This is especially true in Orange County, where one in four residents identifies as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI).

During the pandemic and beyond, Providence recognizes and is working to eliminate racial disparities permeating the delivery of health care. This work includes breaking down the barriers to care that prevent so many from getting the care they need. Here are five proven ways Providence is increasing care access in AAPI communities:

  1. Establish community-based care options

    One common barrier to health care access is location: according to Pew Research, approximately 42% of Americans live at least five miles away from their nearest hospital. For those without access to a car or reliable mass transportation, this distance can prove insurmountable. During a global health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more vital to ensure that community-based care options, such as mobile and pop-up vaccine clinics, are accessible. Recently, Providence worked with its valued partners, including Korean Community Services, to increase vaccine access in Orange County’s AAPI communities by opening a vaccine clinic at the Buena Park Community Center, which serves an area that is more than one third AAPI.

  2. Work with trusted community partners

    Partnerships play an important role in increasing care access even beyond vaccine clinics. With so many people being economically impacted by the pandemic, food insecurity has dramatically increased and continues to persist in Orange County. Last summer, as COVID-19 case rates escalated across Southern California, Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange gathered with its community partners and local non-profit leaders to form a partnership called LOVE— “Love Our Vulnerable and Elderly.” Together with organizations like Vietcare and the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, LOVE provided vulnerable populations, including those experiencing homelessness and those who are disabled or immunocompromised, with access to nutritious foods and basic necessities.

    With funding from a Providence health equity grant, Providence was also able to expand a program established by the Orange County Health Care Agency to provide community health workers (CHWs) for multilingual outreach and engagement in the communities at highest risk for COVID-19. These efforts were conducted in partnership with the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Taskforce, a coalition of organizations including Pacific Islander Health Partnership, South Asian Network and the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center.

  3. Translate care information

    Language discordance, which occurs when patients and providers speak different languages, has been shown to lead to worse chronic disease management, longer hospital stays and increased hospital readmission rates. The AAPI communities in Orange County are very diverse, speaking 15 to 20 different languages. One way Providence prioritizes various language needs is by translating its health care information into the languages spoken by residents and ensuring this messaging comes from trusted sources, such as its partner organizations already embedded in AAPI communities.

    This past February, as the region emerged from the high case surge of the winter months, Providence St. Joseph also partnered with the Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation to host a multilingual webinar on the state of the pandemic and its effects on the Asian American communities in Orange County in order to increase education and awareness.

  4. Dedicate funding for health equity

    From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that the virus was having a disproportionate effect on communities of color with deadly results—In California, Asian Americans experienced a three times higher case fatality rate (CFR) than that of the overall population in the state. To help reduce these health disparities, Providence made an initial investment of $1.4 million in Southern California to expand outreach and education, increase the COVID-19 testing and vaccination supply and promote access to care and ensure equitable distribution of treatment.

  5. Listen to the needs of communities

    Compared to other racial groups, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are least likely to report having a personal doctor, and Pacific Islanders report having poorer quality care. In order to best understand the needs of AAPI communities, it’s important that providers listen to residents themselves. One example of this is Providence St. Joseph Hospital’s convening of a group of local AAPI organizations to advise the hospital on the ever-changing needs of their communities. In addition, St. Joseph has appointed a liaison to the AAPI community to ensure their voices are always heard.

Providence is rooted in recognizing the inherent dignity of every person. Achieving its vision of health for a better world means that no community is left behind. There is much work to be done in order to eliminate health inequities, and Providence is committed to doing its part in order the raise the health of the communities it serves.