Multisectoral Coalition Meet on New York Healthcare Disparity: Kalusugan Coalition leads FilAm community

by Momar Visaya/

NEW YORK — Members of Project CHARGE (Coalition for Health Access to Reach Greater Equity) were joined by Assembly Members Richard Gottfried and Ellen Young, City Council Members Alan J. Gerson and Robert Jackson, and the Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum (APIAHF), to launch a 4-year national campaign to eliminate health disparities on Tuesday, February 19th in the Red Room of the New York City Hall.

Project CHARGE, composed of 14 local organizations, has been selected as one 8 coalitions funded nationally by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the APIAHF to address healthcare gaps in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

Kalusugan Coalition, led by its chair Noilyn Abesamis-Mendoza, represents the Filipino-American community in this coalition.

“It is very important for our community to be represented here because like our fellow Asian Americans, our community has its share of undocumented immigrants, of uninsured family members. We have met people who have insurance but are not comprehensive enough to cover major emergencies,” Mendoza told the Asian Journal during the launch.

According to the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, there are real and human costs of not providing healthcare coverage for all APIs in New York City.  In New York City, an estimated 1 in 5 Asian Pacific Islanders has been uninsured in the past year.  Failure of the health system to educate the API consumer combined with the high cost of healthcare drives the API community to rely on a patch-work system for necessary medical care.

Project CHARGE is a component of an unprecedented $16.5 million community investment initiative in which key stakeholders will drive changes in healthcare access for the API community in New York City and nation-wide.

“The API community is locked out of the healthcare system because of the high cost of care and language barriers,” said Wayne Ho, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families.  “This pioneering relationship between the Asian Pacific Islander community, government and the philanthropic sector will create real change for Asian Pacific Islanders and will improve healthcare access for all New York City residents.”

New York State Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried said, “The daily reality for millions of New York residents includes having to deal with a healthcare system that does not speak their language.  Project CHARGE and the efforts of others to provide universal healthcare are all tied together and one cannot succeed without the other.  I am happy to be here today and together we are working to change that reality.”

“We want more people in our communities to get insured and we need to have affordable healthcare as well. This is very important for us,” shared Melissa Nibungco, development associate of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV and AIDS (APICHA).

This groundbreaking work will build a unified voice for underserved communities in the national healthcare debate.  “As the only Asian American representative in the New York State Assembly, I fight to ensure that the Asian Pacific American community has a strong voice in government,” said Assembly Member Ellen Young.  “This groundbreaking public and private partnership guarantees that all New Yorkers have an equal access to healthcare.”

At almost 12% of the City’s population, more APIs live and work in New York City than any other city in the United States.  By joining forces with the API community, decision- makers will be able to create policies that speak to the needs of all New Yorkers.

New York City Council Member Robert Jackson said, “healthcare is one of the major issues here in New York City.  As the co-chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus in City Council, I, along with my colleague John Liu and other City Council members, are point persons for the Asian Pacific Islander community.  We need to be able to know what is going on in the different neighborhoods in New York City from community members.  It is my pleasure to know that this grant will help Asian Pacific Islanders not insured and give them access to appropriate healthcare.”

“This effort is literally a matter of saving lives.  Overcoming the financial hurdles, expanding health access through education, providing culturally competent and language accessible care, treatment and referral – everything that this project and coalition is designed to do – We know that Project CHARGE will succeed on saving lives in the Asian Pacific Islander community,” said City Council Member Alan J. Gerson.  “I know that I speak for all of my colleagues as I pledge our support across all levels of government – not only the community’s allies in City Council but also in Albany.”

“This is the first time a national private foundation has recognized and sought to remedy the inequities that are happening in our community.  In this time of healthcare reform, efforts need to be made at the local, state, and national level.  We have to revisit what healthcare should look like and that it should be,” said Dr. Marguerite Ro, Deputy Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF).  “”We thank the W.H. Kellogg Foundation for partnering with us and are very pleased to award this grant to Project CHARGE.  We expect the New York Coalition to help lead the way across the country developing strategies and advocating for equitable financial access to healthcare as well as access to quality care.”

“This coalition is a milestone in terms of Asian American and Pacific Islander health.  It has been a long time coming, but we are united from coast to coast,” concluded Suki Terada-Ports, Executive Director of the Family Health Project.  “We are excited to partner with local and state government and foundations to change the tide and raise the visibility of Asian Pacific Islanders.”


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