Community Partner Spotlight: Austin Asian Community Health Initiative

The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) partners with the local Asian community to enhance public health and well-being through advocacy, language-specific education, and healthcare navigation services.

Successful and equitable deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most hopeful path to getting our community closer to herd immunity. However, we know that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities, those with low-income, or people who live in rural areas face systemic barriers to vaccine access and have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy.  

That’s why United Way for Greater Austin, in partnership with St. David’s Foundation and Austin Community Foundation, recently awarded $415,000 in grants to 19 local organizations to address these inequities and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in our community. The Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI) is one of those organizations doing incredible work in our community.

Learn from AACHI Program Manager Lucy Nguyen about the specific barriers to vaccine access facing the local Asian and Asian American community, and how AACHI is helping mitigate those barriers and decreasing vaccine hesitancy. 

What are some of the systemic barriers to COVID-19 vaccine access that the Austin Asian and Asian American community is facing? 

Language access is the biggest barrier in Asian communities with high limited English proficiency in accessing vaccine locations, scheduling vaccination appointments, and understanding the risks of the vaccine. A majority of local vaccination locations only accommodate English speakers.

What are some of the leading factors that promote vaccine hesitancy among some in this community? 

Earlier this year, ACCHI distributed a COVID-19 Vaccine Survey to better understand the attitudes, concerns, and barriers the Asian community faced in vaccine education and access. From the 1,000+ responses we collected, we learned that communities were mainly hesitant due to a lack of education regarding vaccine safety and side effects. There are very few translated resources for Asian communities to find factual educational materials, leading to higher hesitancy and misinformation in the community. 

How is AACHI addressing these barriers and challenges to increase vaccination rates among the Asian and Asian American community in Greater Austin? 

AACHI has provided timely translated COVID-19 vaccine educational materials to address concerns, had one-on-one conversations with community members, and have directly assisted community members in scheduling a vaccine appointment or referring them to walk-up vaccine events and locations. 

AACHI is currently hosting a vaccination event that will have language access at the forefront, with staff and volunteers onsite that speak 6 languages and providing video interpretation for any additional languages.

How can we build a better and more equitable Austin?

Language access must be a greater priority in community programming and factored into the budgeting process. There also must be an understanding that the Asian experience is not monolithic and that programming around Asian communities should not be lumped together. 

As we learned from this pandemic and even the winter storm, Asian communities were left out of critical conversations and did not have adequate translated resources to protect themselves and their families. In contrast, the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents across the country stirred feelings of anxiety, fear, and lack of safety in public spaces. 

We are proud to partner with AACHI to ensure that all of our neighbors have access to affordable and culturally relevant healthcare, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Together we can create an Austin that works for everyone.

Be a part of this work! Check out upcoming volunteer opportunities from our other incredible community partners. 

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