Background and History
In response to the health needs of the Chinatown community, Tufts Medical Center, in consultation with the South Cove/Chinatown Neighborhood Council, established the Asian Health Initiative (AHI) and its advisory committee in 1995. The AHI identifies public health issues of particular prevalence or concern to the local Asian community and seeks to work collaboratively with local community-based organizations to help address those health issues in a culturally and linguistically appropriate setting.
The advisory committee determined the most effective way to address the major health needs in the Chinatown community included the merging of two different sets of funds, creating a larger pool of money available to community health programs. This allowed more flexibility for community agencies in determining areas of focus to improve the health status of the Asian-American new immigrant community and to increase access to quality health care.
Since its inception, funded programs and projects have included: tuberculosis, hypertension, hepatitis B, chronic disease prevention, domestic and family violence, and the importance of primary care and understanding the American health care system. The AHI convenes with the advisory committee as well as grant recipients several times each year to receive program updates, discuss pressing health concerns with the Asian community, and to consider funding priorities and distribution. It also provides technical assistance to individual organizations as requested.
Because of the diversity of the programs and organizations supported, the AHI has been able to reach a broad segment of the Asian community, from toddlers to senior citizens.
The Asian/Pacific Islander community is among the fasting growing group locally and nationally. It now comprises 3.6% of the total population nationally, and 3.8% of the total population in Massachusetts. Within the state there is a high concentration in the Greater Boston area, especially in Boston, Quincy, Malden, Brookline, Cambridge and Newton. In addition, Lowell, Worcester, Fall River, and Springfield are also communities with a growing Asian population.
Asian immigrants tend to underutilize health care services, and often lack the information necessary to practice preventive health maintenance. This can be attributed in part to cultural differences and linguistic barriers, as well as financial concerns, such as lack of health insurance. In addition, 2000 Census data and a recent report from the Boston Public Health Commission (The Health of Chinatown, 2002) reinforce the need to focus on health outreach and education efforts within the Chinatown Asian community.
- > 50% of Chinatown residents are non- or limited-English proficient
- 30% of Chinatown residents live below the federal poverty level, while the median income is $28,000, compared to the Boston average of $40,000
- The Tuberculosis rate is three times higher than the Boston average and prenatal care is the second worst of all Boston neighborhoods, and
- Hepatitis B and smoking are prominent health concerns
AHI Funded Programs
Asian American Civic Association
Sampan continues its biweekly, bilingual health column and expands its health education efforts with the addition of two special health editions and an interactive dialogue with readers about health issues.
Boston Asian Youth Essential Service
A new program, “Teens Going Healthy”, helps teens adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes healthy food choices and regular exercise. Nutrition and wellness workshops and physical activities will be offered for both individuals and groups.
Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
A Family Services program focused on educational workshops for parents to reduce and/or prevent childhood diabetes and obesity in Boston’s growing Asian immigrant community. Other program activities include children’s fitness workshops, family counseling and referrals services.
Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center
A new program “Understanding Diabetes” for Chinese speaking seniors ages 55 years and older who have been diagnosed as having diabetes or who are at high-risk for developing diabetes. Program goals include helping seniors to take control of their diabetes and mitigating the consequences associated with diabetes.
Wang YMCA of Chinatown
A new program, “TEEN EBALANCE” (Early Beginning Active Lifestyle & Appropriate Nutritional Choices Education), helps area teens to learn about obesity and the health risks and consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle and helps teens develop the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices for a lifetime.
For more information contact:
Sherry Dong, Director
Community Health Improvement Programs
Tufts Medical Center
800 Washington Street, Box 116
Boston, MA 02111
Community Health Programs Home