Some are looking for more boxes to check out “other” Pacific Islanders


Honolulu (AP) —A few months after the pandemic, data show that Pacific Islanders suffer from the highest infection rates in Hawaii.

However, early figures did not publicly indicate that Pacific Islanders in diverse identification categories, including those with ethnic roots in Samoa, Micronesia, and other islands, were most affected, excluding Native Hawaiians. It was that.

In August 2020, when Hawaii recorded the highest number of cases, those identified as Pacific Islanders accounted for 24% of all COVID-19 cases, but only 4% of the state’s population. It was. report According to the Department of State and academic and community groups.

According to a health inequalities report released in March this year, 29% of Samoans and 24% of Chukeses were the two largest groups represented by COVID-19 cases of Pacific Islanders.

Before detailed data became readily available, Dr. Capono Chung Hansen of Kauai checked the Pacific Islanders’ box and looked up their names to understand a particular racial background. Printed a list of people.

He recalled that this feat was possible on a small island, but it provides information about Native Hawaiians, but is educational in a language that speaks with more specific state data, concentrated in all other Pacific Oceans. With the help, it was quicker and easier to target the community. islanders.

In the 1990s, driven by concerns that Native Hawaiian students would be considered overrated by universities for being counted as Asian, Estarkia Aina wanted to separate Native Hawaiian data from Asian data at the federal level. Worked for. But since then, all other Pacific Islanders have remained in one category.

Kia Aina, now a member of the Honolulu City Council, announced a resolution adopted last month to give Hawaii government agencies racial data in one of the country’s most racially diverse states, exceeding federal minimum standards. I asked for more specificity when collecting.

According to the US Census, of the 1.5 million residents in Hawaii, 38% are Asian (mainly Japanese and Filipino), 26% are white, 2% are black, and many are large. It is a race. Native Hawaiians make up about 20% of the population.

Jung Hansen, Medical Director of the Kauai Community Health Center and Director of the Native Hawaiians Association, said: Doctor. “Therefore, federal standards are not really useful for our public health and other services.”

He said that fragmented data (data in smaller groups) also helped in efforts to encourage people to vaccinate.

The resolution provides separate categories for Samoa, Micronesia, Tonga, Chamorro, and “Other Pacific Islanders.” The categories also include White, Black, Native Americans or Alaska Natives, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and “Other Asians”.

The resolution is not binding, but Kia Aina said the agencies it had contacted so far were cooperative. She said she would send a resolution to city and state agencies asking for voluntary compliance.

“This is not only to get the data to prioritize financing, but also to promulgate policies to address the underlying inequality for some reason,” she said. .. “

On the Big Island, Marshallese-speaking Dr. Wilfred Arik, from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, focuses on collecting specific ethnic data himself when talking to Pacific Islander patients who test positive. Said that.

Collectively organized groups as Asia-Pacific Islanders can bring numerical power to smaller communities, but acquiring specific data is especially useful for contact tracing on language skills and cultural sensitivities. It helps, said Arik, who works at Kaiser Permanente.

Early in the pandemic, We Are Oceania, a group advocating for the Micronesian community in Hawaii, requested state health officials to provide specific data to Pacific Islanders, said group CEO Josie Howard. ..

They believed that data was the key to understanding how people were affected by the virus, but they further blame Micronesian people, who are often the target of racism in Hawaii. Howard said he was also worried about that.

Health ministry epidemiologist Joshua Quint said stigma and privacy are also a concern for state health officials who have already collected more detailed and fragmented data than recommended by a city council resolution. Said there was. He said there are limits to how responsibly publishing data, including privacy issues, especially when the population is small.

That’s one of the reasons they don’t break down Pacific Islanders into those available on the sector’s COVID-19 website, he said.

Disparities can also be difficult to detect if population estimates for small groups, such as Chuuks, are inadequate, Quint said.

According to We are Oceania, Hawaii has an estimated 15,000-20,000 Micronesians who began migrating here in the 1990s in search of economic and educational opportunities. It is difficult to determine the number of people from Chuuk, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.

When a case of the virus was first diagnosed in Hawaii, health officials focused on their travel history and asked people who tested positive, Quint said. However, when the spread of the virus community was established, social disparities between racial and ethnic groups began to emerge.

Proponents say expanding the choice of ethnicity categories is a trans-pandemic issue.

Elisapeta Alaimaleata, Executive Director of the Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center, said:

Without specific data, she said it would be difficult to advocate a Samoan language education service at a public school in Hawaii.

The ability to mark boxes that aren’t just “other” could benefit an individual’s identity, half-white, quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaii, raised in Iowa. Indigenous people Jung Hansen said.

“It helps more people, if not the bigger United States, at least in Hawaii, understand that we exist,” he said. “These different types of Pacific Islanders are real people.”

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