Health Care Research

Asian Americans aren’t getting the health care they need. And it’s killing people like my grandfather

A year before my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, he had regular medical appointments for chronic discomfort and pain. He was agitated with the lack of progress and scared because of his nagging symptoms that no one could figure out. He lived with a question constantly hovering over him: What was wrong with him?

Despite irregular test results and frequent trips to the doctor, little effort was made toward finding the cause. He grew weary of hospital visits that ended with the same response: We don’t know what’s wrong with you. It wasn’t until after a year of him suffering through extreme chest pain, as fluid gathered around his lungs, that doctors finally screened for cancer.

But by then it was too late.

My grandfather’s story isn’t unique. Across the United States, Asian Americans are less likely to receive quality care and counseling to prevent and manage illness than other racial or ethnic groups.

As someone who is studying the interactions between race and public health, I believe the disparities in treatment and access experienced by Asian Americans are directly linked to a lack of representation in medical research and how medical professionals view them. Despite being the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, Asian Americans are the most understudied racial group in peer-reviewed literature, and research on Asian Americans receives less than 0.17% of the National Institutes of Health budget.