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Bill Highlights Health Disparities Among Asian, Pacific Islander Populations

Legislation aimed at providing more detailed information about the disparate ethnic subgroups in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities passed its first hurdle yesterday in the California Legislature.

The Assembly Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday passed AB 176 by Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), which would require the state Department of Public Health and California’s higher education system to add subgroups currently listed in the U.S. Census.   

“California is home to the nation’s largest Asian American and second-largest native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations,” Bonta said. “The API community, however, is not homogeneous.”

The U.S. Census has 20 different categories for Asian Americans and another six categories for Pacific Islanders, he said.

“From Hmong to Fijian to Korean to Vietnamese to Filipino to Tongan, there are more than 23 distinct communities within the Asian population and 19 within the native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population,” Bonta said. “This bill requires the Department of Public Health to use the disaggregated categories for each major … category in the U. S. census. The data … will give policy makers, researchers, government agencies and community groups unprecedented access to information to more effectively serve the API community.”

Mike Hoa Nguyen testified at Tuesday’s hearing. He’s a doctoral student in the Division of Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA’s School of Education.

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are too often misunderstood, misrepresented and overlooked in research and policy debates,” he said.

The bill passed committee on a 12-1 vote and now heads to the Assembly Committee on Health.

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