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Last Modified: May 13, 2008
Last Reviewed: May 13, 2008
Content Source:
Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities (OMHD)

Highlights in Minority Health
& Health Disparities
May, 2008
May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

During the observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we celebrate the cultural traditions, ancestry, native languages, and unique experiences represented among more than 47 ethnic groups from Asia and the Pacific Islands (speaking over 100 languages) who live in the United States. We also recognize millions of AAPIs whose love of family, hard work, and community has helped unite us as a people and sustain us as a Nation.1
AAPIs represent one of the fastest-growing and most diverse populations in the United States.2  According to the 2003 President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Report to the President and the Nation, AAPIs comprise many populations that make critically important contributions to American life.  Their communities often are described as a “model minority” that generally enjoys superior health status.  However, in reality, the AAPI population experiences genuine health disparities in cancer screening, diabetes, and infectious diseases, among others.3

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Asian Americans represent the extremes of both socioeconomic and health indices:
red arrow Asian American women experience the greatest life expectancy (85.8 years) of any other ethnic group in the U.S.3
red arrow Asian Americans have the highest proportion of college graduates of any racial or ethnic group (44.1% of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 24.4% of the total population).4 
red arrow Asian Americans contend with numerous factors which may threaten their health, including infrequent medical visits due to the fear of deportation, language/cultural barriers, and the lack of health insurance.
red arrow Asian Americans are at a greater risk for: cancer, heart disease, stroke, unintentional injuries (accidents), and diabetes.3
red arrow Asian Americans also have a high prevalence and risk factors for: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, smoking, tuberculosis, and liver disease.3

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The U.S.-associated Pacific Island Jurisdictions
comprises three Flag Territories:
American Samoa
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
and three Freely Associated States:
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)
The Republic of Palau3
They are U.S. territories made up of hundreds of small islands and atolls spread across about 5 million square miles of ocean—nearly half the size of the United States—with a total population of 469,356 (1999 and 2000 estimates).5
It is significant to note that in comparison to other ethnic groups, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders have higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity.6  Major causes of premature death among NHOPIs are obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. 6

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  red arrow The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers for Native Hawaiians is 47%, compared with 57% for whites and 55% for all races.5
  red arrow In 2005, Asian American women (ages 18+) were least likely to have had a Pap test (64.4%) compared with other racial/ethnic women (non-Hispanic white: 77.7%, non-Hispanic black: 81.1%, Hispanic/Latino: 75.5%, American Indian/Alaska Native: 75.2%. 7
  red arrow In 2002*, the infant mortality rate for Native Hawaiians was 9.6 per 1,000 live births, higher than the rate for all AAPIs combined (4.8), and for all populations (7.0). 8
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In 2005, AAPIs aged 40 years and older were 1.2 times more likely to have Hepatitis B (3.5 per 100,000) than non-Hispanic whites (2.9).9 

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  Asian American Populations
  Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Populations
  White House Proclamation: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month 2008

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  1. The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, President Celebrates APA Heritage Month at White House, 2002
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Asian American and Pacific Islander – Primer, 2006
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Minority Health Resource Center (OMHRC), Asian American / Pacific Islander Profile
  4. U.S. Census Bureau, Educational Attainment 2000
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Health Disparities Among Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders Garner Little Attention, Chronic Disease Notes and Reports, 15 (2): 14-27
  6. HHS, OMHRC, Native Hawiian / Other Pacific Islander Profile
  7. CDC, NCHS, Health US 2007, table 88
  8. CDC, NCHS, Health US 2007, table 19
  9. HHS, OMH, Immunizations and Asians and Pacific Islanders, 2005

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  * Starting with 2003 data, estimates are not shown for Asian or Pacific Islander subgroups during the transition from single race to multiple race reporting in Source 8.

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