OCR Celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month, a time to honor the diverse cultures and histories of the AA and NHPI communities and show appreciation for their many contributions to our country. At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), we reflect on the work ahead to address discrimination and disparities and promote equity and equality in programs of our country’s health and human services for AA and NHPI. communities. As President Biden said in his AA and NHPI Heritage Month ProclamationWhether we have called this nation home for one generation or many, we recognize the profound impact that individuals in these communities have had in shaping our collective history and culture.

According Census Bureau Population Estimates, there were approximately 24.7 million Asian American residents and approximately 1.8 million Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents of the United States in 2022. The AA and NHPI populations are also the fastest growing racial group in the US These communities are incredibly diverse and encompassing people. with roots in over 30 countries, from a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds speaking many different languages. While OCR celebrates this diversity, we know that AA and NHPI communities face unique barriers to accessing the health care and human services that HHS proudly offers. That’s why this year’s AA and NHPI Heritage Month theme, Be the source of better health: improving health outcomes across our cultures, communities and connections, It is as important as ever.

OCR enforces a number of federal privacy regulations and anti-discrimination laws that strengthen protections for AA and NHPI communities, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Titles VI and XVI of the Public Health Service Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, as well as age, disability, and sex, including multiple or interconnected bases of discrimination. These civil rights laws are more important than ever as AA and NHPI people have a high prevalence of risk factors and health conditions due to infrequent doctor visits, language and cultural barriers, and lack of health insurance.

Promoting cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity to their needs is particularly important for many AA and NHPI people when accessing federal programs, resources, and services. In fact, studies show More than one-third of Asian Americans experience limited English proficiency (LEP) and other language barriers, greatly increasing the risk of their health needs going unmet.

Effective communication is essential for quality healthcare and human services. In alignment with the Biden-Harris administration National Strategy to Promote Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for AA and NHPI Communities, OCR is taking steps so that everyone, regardless of their first language, has equal access to comprehensive supports. In early 2023, OCR released the HHS Language Access Report, which summarizes the Department’s progress in improving meaningful access to language assistance services for individuals with LEP and identifies steps to ensure this important work continues. Later that year, OCR spearheaded the updated HHS Language Access Plan, which includes practical guidance, best practices, and action steps for HHS Personnel and Operational Divisions to develop their own agency-specific language access plans for ensure meaningful access to programs for LEP individuals. and activities administered and funded by HHS.

The OCR recently published a final rule under Section 1557 of the ACA to strengthen protections against discrimination in health care. Among other provisions, the final rule expands access to linguistically appropriate care and reduces language barriers by requiring that reasonable steps be taken to ensure that any LEP individual, including their LEP companions, has meaningful access to resources and services. Read the HHS press release for more information on the final rule and access OCR’s LEP special topics page for additional information and resources.

Addressing all forms of discrimination remains one of OCR’s top priorities. On May 20, 2022, OCR, through the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to release a report detailing the rise in hate crimes and hate incidents against the AA and NHPI communities. The report includes guidance on how to increase public awareness of this troubling trend and steps law enforcement, public officials, and other partners can take to strengthen prevention and response efforts. As we continue to address the significant increase in hate crimes and other forms of discrimination that occurred during COVID-19 across the country, I echo Secretary Becerra’s message that we must remain diligent in our goal to meet the unique needs of the AA and NHPI communities.

As I mentioned, the AA and NHPI communities are not a monolith; They are made up of children, youth and adults of many nationalities, ethnicities and cultural heritages. To effectively meet their needs, we must recognize and appreciate the broad diversity of these communities. For too long, data collection and reporting practices have failed to measure and reflect the diversity of AA and NHPI experiences. That’s why collecting and reporting data by detailed AA and NHPI subgroups, known as data disaggregation, is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. Last March, OMB published reviews to Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (SPD 15), which provides a minimum set of identity categories that federal agencies must use when collecting information on race and ethnicity. SPD 15 gives us more information about how well federal programs serve diverse communities in the United States, and these changes will help ensure we have the accurate data needed to address disparities and promote civil rights protections for all.

The OCR website includes information on civil rights and health information privacy in the 15 most spoken languages ​​in the US. complaints portal It is also available in 15 languages, including Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese and Japanese, and allows those whose primary language is not English to more easily learn about and exercise their rights through our complaints portal.

During AANHPI Heritage Month, OCR renews its commitment to ensuring that AA and NHPI communities have equitable access to nondiscriminatory, linguistically appropriate, and culturally responsive health care and human services that strengthen their health and well-being. Please join me in celebrating these diverse communities and committing to achieving better health outcomes for all!


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