Improving Data Collection on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health

Over the last four years at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), we have been working with federal agencies across the board to improve data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings and reports on Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs).  We have been particularly focused on NHPIs, who, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, comprise just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, making it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys. The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and health care utilization. However, the available data for this population indicates that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders experience significant health disparities when compared to other groups, such as lower utilization of health care services and higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. 

That’s why we welcome the announcement made today that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will  launch the first-ever, large-scale national health survey to collect detailed health information on NHPI households – the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander National Health Interview Survey. This information will be collected through HHS’ National Health Interview Survey, the nation’s largest in-person, household health survey. Never before has there been a study of this scale to assess the health needs of NHPIs, and this type of survey has long been called for by the NHPI community. This important effort will help improve our understanding of the health concerns – from access to health care to health insurance coverage to rates of chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease – faced by this community and to identify areas of opportunity for federal government to better address these concerns.

WHIAAPI encourages advocates and organizations across the country to join us in spreading the word about this landmark survey.  We hope you can continue the conversation with us on Twitter using #NHPI.

Our hope is that the results of this study will provide researchers, policymakers, and community leaders with the data they need to understand and address disparities in health and health care, and provide lessons for data collection and analysis focused on small populations.

The Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander National Health Interview Survey will begin early next year, and the results will become available summer 2015.

Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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