Blog: National Partnership for Action
Taking Action to Achieve Health Equity in the Pacific Islands
Posted on 5/28/2014 by J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, CDR Samuel Wu
Introduction by J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE
Staff from OMH and the OMH Resource Center recently participated in the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Regional Summit in Guam in April 2014. The Summit provided an opportunity to enhance our understanding of the health needs and challenges in the Pacific and to highlight OMH engagement in the Pacific through the OMH Resource Center. Specifically, the OMH Resource Center has worked in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands over the past 10 years, providing technical assistance and capacity building to improve the capacity of local providers and community leaders to develop and implement effective solutions for disease prevention, health disparities reduction, and health equity advancement. In 2006, the OMH Resource Center created a Pacific Resource and Training Center and in 2009, OMH and the OMH Resource Center provided support for the establishment of the first-ever Guam Office of Minority Health.
It is my pleasure to introduce CDR Samuel Wu, public health advisor and AANHPI health policy lead in the Office of Minority Health. Sam participated in the WHIAAPI Regional Summit in Guam. Sam’s reflection on the Summit is a noteworthy summation of this historic event and collaborative efforts to transform knowledge and experience into successful programs and policies that respond to the health needs of people throughout the Pacific region.---------------------------------------------------------------
This is Sam’s message:
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in partnership with Payu-ta, Inc., hosted a regional summit in Guam April 3-4, 2014. This was the first convening of a group of federal officials, representing 10 federal agencies, and national community leaders in the Pacific region for a meaningful and productive meeting with local governmental officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss and address the unique conditions that Pacific Islanders in Micronesia face in their quest for good health, quality health care, affordable housing and employment and training opportunities.
I had the distinct privilege of representing the Office of Minority Health and attending the conference with colleagues from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care and the HHS Region IX Office of Pacific Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, as well as colleagues from the OMH Resource Center. With an open heart and an open mind, we learned first-hand from local NGOs the challenges facing Pacific Islanders. Some persistent health and social issues affecting the population include non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes heart disease, obesity, mental illness, and substance abuse. Other challenges include teen pregnancy, youth homelessness (especially among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth), HIV, and sexually transmitted infections. Working with limited resources and often facing difficult circumstances, these NGOs demonstrated innovative practices to provide services to their clients.
The conference included workshops for federal and community representatives to highlight resources that are available to help address health issues. The health equity workshop included a discussion on resources and grants that address Pacific Islander health disparities and the need for technical assistance to support NGOs in the Pacific.
During a visit to the office of WestCare Pacific Islands, Guam Alternative Lifestyle Association (GALA); Sanctuary, Incorporated; Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS); and WestCare presented their 2014-2018 comprehensive NCD strategic plan, which outlined a collaborative, long-range approach in combating and reducing chronic diseases in Guam. This plan was an example of government and NGOs working together to develop goals, objectives, strategies, and interventions to improve the health and well-being of the community. In celebration of National Minority Health Month, WestCare, GALA, and Sanctuary also provided an informative presentation on the HIV/AIDS social marketing materials that they have produced over the years.
Comments by staff of the Guam DPHSS and NGOs, who regularly cited the positive impact of the technical assistance provided by OMH through the OMH Resource Center, are evidence that our work in the Pacific is making a difference. And our work continues. This year, through the OMH Resource Center, we are expanding the portfolio to include NCD reduction and prevention activities. This is another example of OMH’s commitment to reducing health disparities and advancing health equity in the Pacific Islands.
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The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
About the Author
Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Minority Health is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.
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