In Montgomery County, Maryland, the influx of Asian Americans has increased dramatically over the past ten years to approximately 123,822 persons. Typically new immigrants are middle-class working professionals who sacrifice the comforts of success, striking out for America often in hopes of bettering college enrollment opportunities for their children. However in the struggle for meeting basic needs such as learning English, adapting and establishing work connections, they sacrifice the security of former jobs, working in less well paid jobs--for some, this even causes neglect of health. This is why in 2005, the Montgomery County of Health and Human Services developed the Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) to help "respond to the needs of Asian Americans."
As an Asian American, one realizes how difficult it can be to ask for medical help. There is the language barrier, which can be very problematic in cases of different dialects. There is the fear of technology, the clinic run by non-Asians, and worries about the costs of treatment. Coupled with centuries old traditions, particularly in China, where surgery is viewed as cutting off the flow of qi in the body, the result is that too many elderly Asians seek help when it is almost too late. Thus, one of the first missions of the AAHI was to help develop a set of health brochures including in Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian languages.
Becoming a resident and working in the United States should not come at the cost of denial of healthcare. Most studies prove that routine and preventative healthcare help mitigate against long-term more costly procedures, but many Asians are afraid of even receiving vaccinations and regular health check-ups. Even when the statistics indicate that Asians are at higher risk for certain cancers, many do not screen or understand the importance of receiving life-saving endoscopies to detect for colo-rectal cancers, or mammograms to detect for breast cancers.
The efforts of AAHI and Maryland Department of Health and Human Services have aided more Asians in reaching out to other Asians regarding the logistics on receiving routine healthcare for both children and adults. Through resources such as at the AAHI Resources webpage, eligible low-income under- and uninsured Asian American residents of Montgomery county need not let their diseases proceed untreated or feel isolated, but with the help of staff, volunteers, and professional members, understand that there is a safety net united under the cause of mitigating common Asian health issues. --Written by C.H. Wong (www.blu-geese.org)
AAHI. Asian American Health Initiative. Montgomery County, 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.