Note: This interview was originally featured on County Health Rankings & Roadmaps' County-by-County blog.
If you've participated in our national webinars, you've likely met our discussion group facilitator and producer, Joanne Lee. Lee is also the Collaborative Learning Director at Healthy Places by Design where she provides strategic coaching and assistance to those supporting sustainable community transformation.
We recently asked Lee to share her experience working with our most recent webinar, Exploring Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Identity and Health Equity.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
JL: My relationship with CHR&R began in 2012, almost 10 years ago! CHR&R was interested in learning about Healthy Places by Design’s approach to providing community-level support and forming a partnership. Since 2015, I have facilitated the webinar discussion groups, and more recently served as an associate producer.
A few things I find meaningful about CHR&R’s national webinars are their comprehensive approach to positive community transformation; their focus on timely and relevant topics and services; their explicit emphasis on equity; and the ability to reach and support leaders and practitioners through the national audience who are truly the ones affecting meaningful change in local communities.
This is a milestone particularly because of CHR&R’s national audience. As an Asian American who grew up in Hawai’i, I have always been aware of the lack of disaggregation of ethnic groups within health data, as well as the inequities and stereotypes that have been harmful to these populations. Living in the continental U.S. and in the South for more than a decade, I’ve also experienced racism firsthand and have seen these populations dismissed in important dialogues and decisions. So this webinar and the discussion group was a personal and professional hope realized. Two leading experts – Dr. Simona Kwon and Dr. Nia Aitaoto – helped dismantle some long-standing stereotypes.
Sometimes, practitioners can dismiss populations that don’t show up in their data in large numbers. A key point of the webinar is that the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander categories used to collect much of the data in our country is a construct. There is so much diversity within the groups that have been lumped together in these broad categories, and this has masked some real health disparities in local communities. If community practitioners don’t see the differences by disaggregating the data, they could very well be unintentionally contributing to inequities in their communities.
Another webinar key takeaway was that U.S. policies and practices have not only perpetuated harmful stereotypes about Asian Americans, but they have also intentionally pitted Asian American and Black communities against one another.
I don’t want to share any spoilers but anyone who is working on equity in the public or community health realm needs to watch the webinar and access the resource guide for important information that practitioners may never have seen before.