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Building Healthy Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities

Updated: May 23, 2020


The Achieving Whole Health training provides a creative, interactive and culturally relevant way of improving both health and mental health outcomes for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander communities. It fills a critical need by drawing on the strengths of paraprofessional staff and community members to train them to become Wellness Coaches. They learn how to take an active role in improving their own health as well as learning ways to help others. This model can be easily replicated and used with all ages.


Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders continue to experience serious health disparities. They are often isolated due to language and cultural barriers and cannot wait for members of their community to receive their graduate degrees. While excellent providers do exist, they are limited in numbers and are often concentrated in areas of the country with high numbers of AANHPIs, leaving many without adequate services. Unfortunately most intervention strategies still separate mental health and physical health which goes against cultural beliefs that do not separate the mind, body and spirit. Solutions must also include changes in the workforce to fill gaps in the current service delivery system. An additional challenge is finding ways of improving health outcomes at the national level that address the great diversity found between AANHPI communities.


The solutions are in the community. The Achieving Whole Health project is an interactive and creative one day training that helps participants become Wellness Coaches. Trainers help them develop personal health goals that focus on one or more of 10 life domains in the area of mind, body, or spirit. Culture is embedded throughout all activities and individuals are encouraged to come up with their own examples. The intent is to help them be successful. This is particularly important for immigrants or refugees who often feel less than competent due to language and cultural barriers. By empowering community members they can can then engage others and improve health while reducing isolation.


The response to the training has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants felt the training was helpful, culturally relevant and increased their knowledge of how to work effectively with AANHPIs. NAAPIMHA trained over 300 Wellness Coaches in agencies throughout California, as well as Seattle, Denver, Hartford, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, Oahu, Hilo, Lanai and Guam. Several agencies asked to receive training for their entire staff. Participants also report that they have a clearer understanding of how to set realistic goals which is key to being successful. Participants appreciate the fact that it is flexible which allows them to make it relevant for the local community. Agencies have started to develop gardening, healthy cooking and exercise classes. One incorporated it into their existing Loss & Grief support group.


This project was designed specifically to help communities find ways to sustain outreach and engagement efforts to improve the health of AANHPIs. Mental health must also be addressed in assessing the overall health of a community, particularly for those which have experienced serious trauma. NAAPIMHA’s goal is to eventually develop a national training program that strengthens local capacity by providing ongoing training and supervision. Agencies can learn through sharing successes and challenges with each other in a peer to peer learning model. By developing common data collecting instruments and sharing lessons learned, they can develop best practices models which can then be used to help secure additional funding for their programs.


Get involved! Being a Wellness Coach can be for anyone, of any age. Healthy individuals build healthy communities…this means being emotionally healthy as well! It’s never too early or too late to learn how to make healthy decisions. Learning how to take care of yourself can be fun. It can involve your friends, your family or your community.

Be creative…..NAAPIMHA can help you get there.

Remember: Eat well, think healthy, be engaged!

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