Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Utah Department of Health looks to Pacific Islander data and culture

The purpose of the P.I.A. project is to expand higher education opportunities for Pacific Islanders in America, principally by helping academic programs for underrepresented minorities understand that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented among college graduates. We realize, at the same time, that if people know more about Pacific Islanders, and have better access to data on Pacific Islanders, they are less likely to make mistakes like leaving Pacific Islanders out of underrepresented minority scholarships.  

An article published last month in the Salt Lake Tribune shows that the need to look at Pacific Islander-data, rather than lumping Pacific Islanders with Asians, or as "Other Race," extends beyond education issues. 

You can read the full article by clicking this link, but here's a summary: by considering culture and looking at Pacific Islander data, the Utah Department of Health realized that their state's Pacific Islander population is at high risk for obesity, diabetes, and prenatal health issues.  Just as importantly, the health department has been working with a Pacific Islander organization, the National Tongan American Society, to find culturally competent solutions to these public health issues. 

This is exactly the kind of how how people can identify and work to address issues faced by Pacific Islanders, based on data and cultural awareness.  At the same time, this is the kind of data that's missed when Pacific Islanders grouped with Asians or as "Other Race."

Do you think that "Asian Pacific Islander" data on obesity accurately represents Pacific Islanders?  This one didn't -- a CDC study which lumped Pacific Islanders with Asians, and concluded that as a whole, APIs were the least likely of any major racial group to be obese.  While this statement is correct, it's terribly misleading if you assume that what's true for "Asian Pacific Islanders" is true for Pacific Islanders. 

  • Why data on "Asian Pacific Islanders" inaccurately represents Pacific Islander higher education attainment: LINK
  • Utah's Pacific Islander American community: LINK
  • The Salt Lake Tribune Article: LINK
  • The CDC Study: LINK

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