The health of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) who are receiving treatment for severe mental illness may benefit from including primary care as part of their overall treatment program, according to a new report.
A review of the lessons learned from the Wellness for Asian Pacific Americans Project (WAPA), a primary and behavioral health integrated care project implemented in partnership by International Community Health Services (ICHS) and Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), showed that health indicators for AAPIs living with serious mental illness (SMI) improved with better access to primary care.
The finding was reported in a special edition of the AAPI Nexus Journal.
AAPIs living with SMI are adversely affected by health disparities and face significant personal, social, economic, and environmental stressors that impact their physical and mental health status. The goal of WAPA, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), is to improve the overall wellness and physical health status of low income, limited English proficient AAPI immigrants and refugees living with SMI.
“Based on preliminary data, people’s health is improving, they are feeling better, and they are getting more connected with their community,” said Michael McKee, ICHS health services and community partnership director, who co-authored the report.
McKee spoke about the report at a press conference March 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to launch the journal’s special edition.
“Health indicators for patients who were tracked—including their blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol levels—improved as well as quality of life as their access to primary care improved,” said Yoon Joo Han, ACRS behavioral health director, co-author of the report.
Their report was published in a special edition of AAPI Nexus Journal, a national journal focusing on policies, practices and community research published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. The journal’s special edition was dedicated to Federally Qualified Health Centers serving Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
The authors noted that the program could have implications related to health care reform and applicability to similar programs since their target population often disproportionately deals with serious health issues, including greater risk for diabetes and early deaths, as compared to the general population.
WAPA reduces barriers and increases access for AAPIs with SMI by bringing an ICHS primary care team into a community mental health setting at the ACRS site. WAPA seamlessly engages the population in wellness activities, health education, and dental care in a supportive community environment that promotes overall health.
A key element of the care model was the integration of the ACRS case manager into the health care team, as the case manager often acted as interpreter, cultural mediator, patient navigator, health educator, and treatment plan care coordinator.
The report authors said improved health outcomes may have resulted in cost savings and are convinced that the model of care may be successfully replicated and sustained elsewhere, if care is delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.
To access the abstract of the report, click here.