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Why coronavirus is devastating California's Pacific Islanders - The Guardian; May 22, 2020

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

BARHII is proud to have contributed to an article published in the May 22, 2020 edition of the Guardian.

Advocates are saying small communities are overlooked, which puts lives and customs at risk amid a death rate for Pacific Islanders of more than twice that of the overall population. This article examines the disparities and the impact it’s having on Pacific Islander communities. Key quotes from the article include:

“Time and again we’ve been told, ‘Your numbers are so small, they’re statistically insignificant,’” said Natalie Ah Soon, co-chair of the Regional Pacific Islander Task Force. “We’ve heard that before. We didn’t know infant mortality rates were a concern in our community until they published the data. When I hear someone say we’re ‘statistically insignificant’ I hear, ‘I’m not going to devote my time and mental energy to comb through this data.’ This disease is just ripping through our communities and we continue to be overlooked.”

“In some regions where data is available, the local discrepancies of Covid’s impact are stark. In Los Angeles county, for example, officials say the infection rate for Pacific Islanders is four times that of the population; the death rate is more than six times greater. But in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to 87,000 Pacific Islanders, only five of nine counties – Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, Santa Clara and San Francisco – disaggregate data for Pacific Islanders, according to Melissa Jones, executive director of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative. (Some California counties don’t report racial or ethnic data at all.)”

“The Alameda county public health director, Kimi Watkins-Tartt, said her county’s decision to disaggregate data was part of a longstanding push toward health equity. “If you don’t know where the disparity is, you can’t address it,” Watkins-Tartt said.”

“Four hundred miles north, in Alameda county, the rate of coronavirus cases among Pacific Islanders is the third-highest among racial groups – behind Latinos and African Americans. Watkins-Tartt said she was concerned about the picture data revealed for Pacific Islanders, but she was not shocked. “Seeing the data [for rates of coronavirus infection] was not completely surprising to us because we’ve already seen it in chronic disease; we’ve seen it in infant mortality rates.”

“Taunu’u Ve’e, co-chair of the regional Pacific Islander taskforce, said it was crucial that trusted members of the community remain involved in the fight against coronavirus by leveraging relationships and ensuring that communication and contact tracing is done in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way.”

View the article BARHII contributed to here.


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