Academic journal article The Foundation Review

Toward Health Equity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders: The Health through Action Model

Academic journal article The Foundation Review

Toward Health Equity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders: The Health through Action Model

Article excerpt

Keywords: Health equity, health disparities for communities of color, capacity building, philanthropic investments in communities of color, racial equity, community capacity, advocacy capacity, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities

The mission of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) calls for "supporting children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society." As Gail Christopher, WKKF vice president of program strategy, points out, in a society where children of color are disproportionately represented among the most vulnerable, identifying and removing racial barriers to equal opportunity "requires that, collectively, we heal the nation's legacy of racism" (WKKF, 2013). In 2007 WKKF's board of directors committed the foundation to being "an effective antiracist organization that promotes racial equity," and in 2009 "racial equity" became a distinct program category that has to date invested upwards of $100 million in fostering racial healing and eliminating policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differing outcomes by race.

Notably, all grantmaking at WKKF emphasizes not only a commitment to racial equity, but also a simultaneous commitment to community and civic engagement. The foundation acknowledges this dual commitment as critical to supporting communities in creating the conditions under which all children can thrive. This approach is aligned with growing acknowledgement in the field that transformation of systems of inequity must simultaneously incorporate a racial lens and be driven by communities of color and their allies (Keleher, 2012; Perry, 2012; Inouye, Estrella, & Foley, 2010).

Community-centered change can ensure that policy change is authentically informed by the voices and needs of the communities it purports to serve (Themba, 2012; Pastor & Ortiz, 2009; Potapchuk, 2006), but also then requires investments in building community capacity - particularly within communities of color - to serve as effective change agents toward this end. In fact, capacity building of change agents has been emphasized as critical in order to "reach sufficient scale to make a significant dent in socioeconomic or racial inequity" (Virtue, 2010, p. 5). Thus, true progress toward racial equity cannot simply be measured by policy wins that advance racial justice goals, but also by the strengthened capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to engage in and shift the public discourse that shapes their lives.

This article offers findings and lessons learned f rom the WKKF's $16.5 million investment in capacity building via Health Through Action (HTA), a five-year initiative aimed at building capacity at the grassroots, regional, and national levels to address health inequities facing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander families and children. The HTA model provides an opportunity to examine how strategic investments in capacity building can strengthen community capacity and give voice to complex and diverse populations that are often overlooked or excluded f rom critical health disparity dialogues.

The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Context

The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) population encompasses almost 19 million Americans who trace their heritage to more than 50 countries, speak more than 100 languages, practice a wide range of religious beliefs, and come f rom countless cultural traditions. The fastest growing racial or ethnic group, AA and NHPIs add a rich tapestry of history, belief s, and traditions to our increasingly diverse U.S. culture. The extreme diversity within this population, however, also poses significant challenges to assessing and ensuring its health and well-being.

Data aggregated across such a wide range of people has made it challenging to identify health trends; this is exacerbated by chronic disease studies that fail to accommodate limited-English speakers in their data-collection methods (Wong, Gildengorin, Nguyen, & Mock, 2005). …

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