APAAC Medical Workshop designed for APA staff at Foxwoods Resort Casino

pic2On Saturday, August 23, APAAC, in partnership with the University of Connecticut Urban Service Track (UConn UST), United Auto Workers Local 2121 (UAW), and Foxwoods Resort Casino (Foxwoods), organized its second medical workshop for the Asian Pacific American (APA) community!

Though not very highly attended, the workshop gave APA Foxwoods staff, as well as the general public, an opportunity to engage UConn UST pharmacy students on various health issues. The students set up interactive informational booths that informed the community about diabetes, hypertension, the flu, asthma, and smoking cessation.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes represents one of the 10 leading causes of death among Asian Americans. In engaging the community on diabetes, the UConn UST students presented a board featuring facts about the disease and effective means of controlling it. While traditional Asian cooking utilizes fresh vegetables and other low-fat foods, these ingredients may not be so easily available for APAs living in urban areas, which lie in food deserts. Unable to afford fresh foods, many lower income APA families resort to canned or processed foods, which typically contain higher fat content, sodium, and other risky traits. UConn UST suggests numerous healthy lifestyle choices to prevent and control diabetes, such as some form of exercise on a consistent basis, portion-controlled meals, and cooking with as many fresh ingredients as possible.

Tobacco smoking among APAs, like many life quality aspects, varies greatly among different ethnic groups. The American Lung Association (ALA) reports that Southeast Asian immigrants who have lived for longer periods United States, as well as higher levels of English proficiency, less likely to smoke tobacco. Furthermore, according to the CDC, APAs in the aggregate have lower rates of tobacco smoking than other ethnic minorities. However, the ALA also observes that tobacco smoke among Chinese men increases the longer they live in the United States. Despite relatively low rates of tobacco use among APAs, the DCD also identifies Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a prominent consequence of tobacco use, as one of Asian Americans' leading causes of death. Ultimately, as with all health equity or awareness initiatives, smoking cessation programs targeting the APA community must accommodate the multiple differences in behaviors and symptoms of each ethnic group.

The Commission expresses great appreciation for UConn UST, UAW Local 2121, Foxwoods, our community volunteers, and all who made our medical workshop work! We look forward to further collaboraiton with our gracious partners, and bringing critical information and services to the APA community all across Connecticut. All APAAC activities are open to the general public. We hope to see you at the next APA Medical Workshop!



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APAAC partners with UConn Urban Service Track for its 2nd Medical Workshop, this weekend!


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Understanding the Law V connects the Commission to Ansonia’s Buddhist Community

UTL5ansoniaOn Saturday, August 10, the Commission partnered with the United States Attorney's Office (USACT), the Law Offices of Nandita Ruchandani, the South Asian American Bar Association of Connecticut (SABAC-CT), and Connecticut Coalition for Mutual Assistance Association (CCMAA) to deliver our fifth legal education workshop at the Phuoc Long Buddhist Temple in Ansonia.

The workshop coincided with a temple festival that drew hundreds of the Vietnamese and other APA Buddhists from the area. Many people enjoying the celebrations and praying at the temple took some time to hear important information regarding civil liberties, immigration, and domestic issues. Quy Tran of CCMAA interpreted for members of the Vietnamese community with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

The program began with opening remarks from APAAC Executive Director Mui Mui Hin-McCormick, expressing our deep appreciation of the community's time, space, and consideration. It is truly the privilege of the Commission to engage our peoples in the places where they continue pursuing their values and culture.

Ndidi Moses, Esq. continued the day with a presentation on civil rights law. She discussed points at which the USACT may engage civil rights issues, such as direct discrimination or facially neutral policies that disparately impact particular demographics. As with all minority groups, ethnic and otherwise, APAs continue to face individual and systematic instances of racism, as well as other forms of prejudice. Many APAs may not even be aware of the widespread oppression occurring as a result of discriminatory policies or actions. We greatly appreciate Ndidi's presentation to raise awareness around civil rights issues, and how community members may utilize the legal system to address grievances on multiple levels. Our Commission remains deeply concerned with APA language access to services, and works to facilitate APA access to judicial and legal systems.

Attorney Nandita Ruchandani, Esq. followed up with a presentation on immigration law. Though APAs represent only about 11% of the undocumented population, immigration issues such as family reunification and internal enforcement concern the communities. Ruchandani discussed Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants temporary relief from enforcement for individuals who meet a particular criteria, as well as the various classes of VISAs and immigration status. Putting the importance of immigration to the local APA communities in perspective, nearly 70% of all Connecticut APAs are foreign-born. Immigration also represents one of the most significant factors in the growth of the APA population nationwide, manifested in a 65% population increase of the Connecticut APA population between 2000 and 2010.

APAAC Commissioner Officer Thomas Nguyen-Phuoc, serving at Yale University, presented the community a series of slides on interactions with law enforcement. Commissioner Nguyen-Phuoc explained the different levels of law enforcement in Connecticut, as well as the necessary documents for properly authorized motor vehicle operation. He also gave a primer on the best ways to interact with police officers when pulled over or otherwise interacting with a law authorities. This lesson is particularly practical, as our actions before policy officers send various signals, whether or not we are aware, that inform their own responses. Commissioner Nugyen-Phuoc concluded with a few points of drunk driving and the severe consequences it can entail.

APAAC Commissioner Sheila Charmoy, Esq, who also represents SABAC-CT, presented a piece on domestic violence and victims' rights. Domestic violence victims in many APA communities suffer silently, as families traditionally attempt to confine family issues to the walls of the home. However, women and other victims of domestic violence do have resources and support systems available. In particular, Commissioner Charmoy explored the option of restraining orders, their various legal implications, and the logistics of acquiring such an order. Domestic violence in APA households signifies another rationale to increase APA access to the civil court system, which currently has no comprehensive program to provide qualified interpreters or translated documents for the APA community. This prevents our peoples from realizing individual security and justice within our system.

Ultimately, APAAC Commissioner Trung Le, Chair of our Human Services Committee, offered closing remarks encouraging the community to engage the Commission and utilize our various resources, such as I-SPEAK cards to increase language access to federally funded programs.

APAAC expresses profound appreciation to our community members in attendance, the Long Phuoc Buddhist Temple, our gracious and effective partners, and all who helped make our Understanding the Law series a great success. We will continue traveling the state to engage the communities we serve. Please check our web and social media, or contact APAAC offices for further information, or to connect with us!

We hope to see you at our next legal education workshop!


NOTE: Article modified from its initial publication to correct details regarding the line-up of presentations.


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Commission on Health Equity releases YouTube clip on disparities facing Connecticut populations

Everything is Health:


The Commission on Health Equity (CHE), which includes APAAC, recently released a video addressing some of the community challenges its work entails, as well as action steps for stakeholders moving forward.

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APA Needs Assessment, Narratives Beneath the Numbers: Health Access

On Monday, June 30, APAAC hosted a press conference around the completion of our first Asian Pacific American (APA) community needs assessment. This needs assessment focused on Southeast Asian Americans with ethnic roots in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The needs assessment final report discusses many well-known barriers, such as APAs' limited access to essential services, housing, and employment.

However, even where data demonstrates no disparity, the challenges facing Southeast Asian and other APAs may deter or prevent them from utilizing services. Reviewing data pulled from the APA needs assessment, which APAAC conducted with our gracious and effective partners at Connecticut Coalition for Mutual Assistance Association (CCMAA), Khmer Health Advocates (KHA), and Lao Association of Connecticut (LAC), highlights some less visible barriers to well-being.

Statistics concerning APA health coverage do not necessarily reflect the rate at which APAs access health services. According to US Census data, about 13% of APAs in Connecticut lack any type of health insurance. While this seems to place APAs in a better situation than the 15.4% of uninsured Americans nationwide, a closer examination of circumstances facing insured APAs reveals that health coverage does not equate to health access. This disconnect between points of data and realities on the ground can obscure cultural challenges facing communities like Connecticut's Southeast Asian populations.

Examining the health access section of APAAC's needs assessment survey, 87% of Cambodian participants, 91% of Lao participants, and 81% of Vietnamese participants responded that they held some form of health coverage. This appears to signify a highly positive trend, particularly considering that many needs assessment participants came from low-income backgrounds. However, 42% of Cambodian participants, 14% of Lao participants, and 31% of Vietnamese participants indicated 'often or always' facing language barrier with medical doctors.

Among APAs who reported requiring a qualified or certified medical interpreter for doctor visits, 57% of Cambodian participants, 43% of Lao participants, and 36% of Vietnamese participants indicated that a medical interpreters was never or rarely available. Confronted with these systemic shortcomings and cultural challenges, APAs report neglecting medical checkups and other measures that can prevent health issues ranging from short-lived bugs to chronic illness. Furthermore, the mental health of APAs with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) or other severe conditions, which many survivors of war and genocide experience, may continue to deteriorate without access to necessary and culturally appropriate support systems.

In response to cultural barriers in the healthcare, 14% of Vietnamese needs assessment participants indicated that they have not visited a doctor in five or more years. This does not illustrate the picture of an equally accessible health system. This figure does, however, suggest that more APAs, or at least APAs who have undergone similar experiences, would access  medical services that understand and accommodate the needs of the community. Considering the significant impact of linguistic and cultural barriers on health access, greater resources and funding must be made available to established and upcoming community services, as well as more mainstream providers, to address the needs of the APA community.

These shortcomings precisely demonstrate the disparities that linguistic and cultural barriers reinforce, compounded with a near dearth of appropriate resources for providers and community members. However, these challenges also raise opportunities for the APA community, providers, advocates, and other stakeholders to converge and act collectively in diminishing inequity in life-quality. Building greater awareness, information, resources, and relationships, in conjunction with strong community leadership, represent essential steps to overcome challenges in the APA community. Community members, providers, and all stakeholders must maintain continual lines of communication, and ultimately establish a reliable network of service and advocacy groups.

We cannot move forward without the will of our people and strength of our partners. We must develop comprehensive, holistic approaches to address inequality in the State of Connecticut. APAAC hopes the results of our first community needs assessment highlight that disparities exist even where data may suggest otherwise. This is mind, let us move forward to overcome these challenges in APA and all communities!

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Common Harvest brings together Suffield farmers and Hartford’s Karen community

karen1In a nation as ethnically diverse as the United States, its inhabitants originating from all over the globe, all Americans ought to be proud to see people of different worlds and experiences come together for common purposes. In Connecticut, a state infamous for significant disparities along racial and economic lines, this unique social phenomenon manifests between Suffield residents, and a vibrant community of Karen refugees and their families who made their home in Hartford’s West End.

The adults of Hartford’s Karen community came to the United States as political refugees, fleeing violence and persecution taking place across Southeast Asia. Elders in the community have experienced the horrors of relocation camps and mass incarceration. As they build their lives in Connecticut, where many Karen children now grow up attending Hartford public schools, they preserve one of their cherished cultural traditions. Over the past few years, Suffield families and the Karen have cultivated not only a genuine friendship, but also a decent tract of land that the community works together.

This year marks the third growing season of the community garden that Suffield farmers and the Hartford Karen share. This friendship began with the meeting of Michael Lefebvre, who owns the land, and Mr. Saw Than, community leader and president of the Connecticut Karen Community Association (CKCA). Prior to meeting Saw, Michael had no awareness of the Karen people, their struggles in their native land, and their journey to the United States.

In learning about Saw’s people, Michael also began a friendship that would bring together people with vastly different experiences and who share a passion to work the land. In his conversations with Saw, Michael became aware of the community’s desire for a garden to grow their own food. Demonstrating his nature as a good friend and neighbor, Michael offered to donate space on land he owns in Suffield, which about 10 families now share as a community garden.  Michael calls this project “Common Harvest”.

Michael names numerous other individuals involved in the community garden partnership. Brian Loiseau, a local horse farmer, often supplies growing materials for the farm, and is always acting as a helpful neighbor and good friend to the Karen and other farmers. Steve Sheldon, another active member of this community, and his family have helped prepare the farmland with heavy equipment, and donated many garden plants.  Iran Jackson, owner of a local paving company called JRJ Construction Company, donated the use of a bulldozer to prepare the land for expansion of the garden area this year. Others in the community have also worked the land with tractors and bucket loaders to make it more conducive to gardening. The Karen also purchase chicken and other farm animals to raise on the land.

The genuine friendship built around the South Grand Street garden in Suffield reflects the true spirit of ‘community’. The Karen families and local farmers share space, their harvest, and even meals prepared right on the land. Additionally, they all take responsibility for the well-being of their families by providing fresh, natural, and healthy foods. Working the land also teaches the youth about friendship, commitment, self-reliance, and a strong work ethic. These values resonate across Western and Eastern traditions.

karen2The South Grand Street community garden also illustrates the potential of active communities and shared opportunity. Although many of the local Karen come from challenged communities in Hartford, a simple “hand up” enables them to preserve their cultural traditions, contribute to the larger community, and provide for their own families.

Though the Karen continue to face cultural barriers and socioeconomic challenges, such as limited access to housing, education, employment, and health, their progress building a new life in a new land has been incredible. The Karen American youth serve as cultural navigators and ambassadors for their parents and elders, while preparing to become the next generation of champions in their community. The connection with Michael Lefebvre and the gracious residents of Suffield not only represents a true cultural exchange, but also a lesson in compassion, responsibility, diligence, and other traits of effective leaders. It also helps create delicious food!

APAAC greatly appreciates the friendship of Michael Lefebvre, Suffield residents, and others towards the Karen community. We greatly admire the positivity created through their genuine partnership, as well as the example it sets for all diverse communities in fostering understanding and discovering common passions.

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