Health Equity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Children and Youth: What’s Racism Got to Do With It?
Laurin Mayeno, Joseph Keawe‘aimoku Kaholokula, David MKI Liu , Lloyd Y. Asato & Winston Tseng
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Since entering high school, Kekoa, a 16-year-old obese Native Hawaiian male with type 2 diabetes, has become depressed and taken up cigarette smoking and drinking on a daily basis.
In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old Korean American college student with mental illness, killed 32 people and wounded many more, before committing suicide.
These are two individual examples of health inequities that threaten the well-being of Asian American (AA) and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) children and youth. In this commentary, we highlight these health inequities and pose the question: “What’s racism got to do with it?” We begin by presenting data on health inequities and briefly discuss existing investigation and theory. We then explore, through the stories of Kekoa and Seung-Hui, how the health of children and youth of AA and NHPI communities is shaped by pervasive racism in our society. While focusing on the fundamental problems that contribute to health
inequities among AA and NHPI children and youth, we also discuss the supportive role that family, community and culture can play in fostering their health and well-being.