HHS releases AAPI cultural competency RFI

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) released a request for information (RFI) Friday to receive input from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and AAPI-serving organizations on the best practices regarding cultural competency, language access and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 


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The RFI is part of the department’s outreach following a memorandum President Biden issued in January condemning racism and xenophobia against AAPI, as hate crimes increased as much as 150 percent in some cities during the pandemic, a study found. The memorandum tasked the HHS and COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to identify information that can inform best practices. 

The RFI specifically asks for best practices towards cultural competency for AAPI regarding the department’s COVID-19 response, including federal activities such as: 

  • Data collection, utilization and reporting
  • Allocation of personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, vaccines, therapeutics and other resources
  • Enforcement of anti-discrimination and HIPAA requirements pertaining to availability and access to COVID-19 care and treatment
  • Assistance to individuals and families experiencing disproportionate economic or health effects from COVID-19
  • Training and placement of contact tracers and other workers
  • Outreach related to vaccine trust and uptake, public health measures/prevention, testing, or other mitigation measure

In Hawaii, community leaders have already proposed solutions that would better ensure health equity for the state’s AAPI and Native Hawaiian communities. 

At a June panel discussing health equity in Hawaii, Sheri Daniels, MD, executive director of the non-profit organization Papa Ola Lokahi, underscored the importance of dedicating a specific response team to address the needs of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic. 

“Through [the response team] we were able to create opportunities and spaces to talk about testing, contact tracing, isolation, vaccines, social support and recovery, policy, data and research.”

Proposed legislation has aimed to reform data collection practices regarding Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities — and ensure data reflects the unique needs of each one. Sunny Chen, executive director for Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, helped advocate for SB900 last legislative session, which applied this perspective to maternal mortality in Hawaii, although the bill ultimately did not pass. 

“It’s also important that we’re disaggregating our data because Hawaii is particularly unique, in that you can’t just lump all Asians or Pacific Islanders into groups.”

Comments are due to the department by 11:59 p.m. EST on August 17, 2021 and can be submitted here.