Asian Health Initiative


Our 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 Need to Address Health Issues in the Asian Community

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.

For example:

  • > 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 to publish a biweekly, bilingual health column and has expanded the column to a full page addressing multiple topics in each issue.  Focus groups of Sampan readers will be convened to ensure that health topics are meeting their interest and need for health information.

Asian Spectrum
The cable access program produces bilingual programs for broadcast to viewers in Boston, Malden and Quincy on the topics of diabetes and breast cancer to promote awareness, prevention, early screening and treatment.  As each series is completed they will be available for broader distribution through Asian Spectrum’s webpage and DVDs.

Boston Asian: Youth Essential Service
Their program, Teens 4 Healthy Living, offers nutritional workshops and fitness activities for teens between the ages of 13 and 18 years of age to encourage good nutrition and healthy food choices and active lifestyles to prevent obesity.

Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
The Family Service Program has focused on reducing the impact of stress on the physical and emotional health of recent immigrants to Boston.  Program activities include community workshops, support groups and case management.  (2014 only)

Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center
Better Management of Chronic Diseases for Asian Elders has been designed to help Chinese speakers to improve the management of their chronic diseases and support their continued independence.  The focus of workshops will be on strategies for coping with a chronic disease, the importance of healthy eating and exercise and medication management.

South Cove Manor Nursing Home
Breakfast seminars will be offered on a monthly basis along with other activities to help Asian seniors maintain their health and continued ability to live independently.   Seminar topics will reflect the input of audience members and ancillary activities such as tai chi classes and brush painting will promote muscle strength and balance and cognitive skills. 

Wang YMCA of Chinatown
The Senior Strength and Movement Program has been designed to help Chinese seniors increase their strength and flexibility as a means to retard muscle and bone loss and reduce the incidence of osteoporosis and injuries from falls.

Contact AHI

For more information contact:

Sherry Dong, Director
Community Health Improvement Programs
Tufts Medical Center
800 Washington Street, Box 116
Boston, MA 02111