Welcome to our blog series, “Meet the AAPCHO Team,” where you’ll have a chance to get to know our staff! Meet Brianna Pascua, AAPCHO’s Executive Coordinator, as she answers some questions.
What’s your role at AAPCHO?
I am the Executive Coordinator. I’m responsible for providing the Executive Director with overall support and engaging with our members and Board by coordinating communications and meetings, assisting in travel arrangements, and other projects to support the overall goals of AAPCHO and its programs. In the near future, I’ll also be working closely with our senior leadership and finding ways to administratively support our operations.
Who are three Asian American (AA), Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander (NH/PI) health champions that you think people should know about?
It’s interesting, when I read this question I couldn’t come up with three AA and NH/PI individuals off the top of my head, but I could think of a lot of other races. This got me thinking about the huge lack of representation in major media that AA and NH/PI people face. There are likely tons of individuals that have made strides for health advocacy and care but in the U.S. our history and successes get washed out. Upon some further thinking and research, I did find some really amazing individuals to share who should be seen:
I’m a huge advocate for sexual health and reproductive justice, and my background in reproductive health centers reminded me of Senti Sojwal. She is an advocate for reproductive justice and a feminist organizer who I came across during my time at Planned Parenthood. She worked for branding, marketing and strategy at the PP of Greater New York and cofounded the Asian American Feminist Collective. She also founded Tia, an amazing new way to get comprehensive health care specializing in women but inclusive of people who have healthcare needs and experiences similar to cisgendered women so this means trans and nonbinary individuals are welcome! Sojwal has made so many amazing contributions to the field of healthcare and for gender and racial equality. Not many people know about her, but hopefully, people start to see her as visibility of the AA/NH/PI community advances!
A quick 2-for-1, mental health services are among the lowest services sought out by the AA and NH/PI community. Only 23.3% of AA and PI adults with mental illnesses are receiving treatment, the lowest help-seeking rate of any other group in the U.S. (NAMI, 2021). This is due to a plethora of contributing factors including language barriers and poor availability of linguistically and culturally appropriate service providers, a stigma among AA’s and PI’s surrounding mental health, lack of coverage, and racial disparities among many others. To help combat this, I wanted to share one individual, and one organization that I think are doing really important work for our community:
Jeanie Chang, LMFT who is the Founder of Your Change Provider, the “Self-Care & Wellness” program at the National Association of AA Professionals (NAAAP), and podcast co-host on “Raising Asian Teens: Resist the Roar” and “Mental Health Mukbang” as well as an activist in the AA community. Your Change Provider provides comprehensive therapeutic services founded on solutions and “Cultural Confidence”, a therapeutic practice founded on “intersectionality of mental health, identity, mindfulness, and resilience”. Her work is bringing down the barriers to culturally appropriate care and access.
Project Lotus: while this is not really an individual champion of health, it’s important to talk about the youth of this generation leading discussions on change and sharing their stories. This nonprofit is youth-led and shares stories, resources, and educative articles to destigmatize mental health in AA communities and empowering voices to advance the movement. As a 2nd generation AA, my upbringing was very different from the typical western family. Mental health was not an important topic, and the leaders of this organization provide resources for parenting specific to the AA and PI experience, ways to dismantle the “model minority” myth, and to engage in activism. So amazing and inspiring to see young members of the community with so much passion!
How would you describe what community health centers do and why they should support them to someone who may not be familiar with them?
Community health centers (CHCs) are integrated, preventative health care centers that provide care to a specific community separated by geographical location. They address specific issues of that community and can provide specialized care for the members of that community, specifically serving the medically underserved, and providing access to health care for all. When a family is low-income or limited on income, the health centers provide care by charging a nominal fee on a sliding scale to ensure equitable access to all the members of the community regardless of socioeconomic status (SES), race, gender, etc. That is why it is so important to support CHCs! Health care should be a right for everyone in this country, regardless of citizen status, income, or insurance. We should not have to turn someone away and risk their well-being because of money.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position at AAPCHO?
I’m looking forward to the culture of mentorship from my colleagues. Everyone here makes it a point to learn from each other and lift each other up. At this point in my professional and educational career, that type of environment is crucial. As a Master of Nonprofit Administration candidate, I want to utilize what I learn in my program to enhance organizational operations and put knowledge to practice. I’m also very excited to learn more about health care advocacy. I have always been an advocate for equality and access to health, and getting to work with an organization serving a community that is so often forgotten about motivates me to push forward. My experience as a child of Filipino-immigrant parents and grandparents has shaped my entire career, striving for equity and visibility, so being able to lift up my own community fills my soul.
What is your favorite or go-to childhood comfort food?
Growing up with my grandparents, I was always eating traditional Filipino food. When I was down, or if I was sick, my grandma would always make me sinigang and tinola with ampalaya (the cure to everything if you asked my grandma). Without fail, I would feel 10 times better just by smelling these dishes cooking in the kitchen and any time I smell them now, it takes me back to those cold days washing rice with my grandma and listening to my grandpa write songs on his guitar for the next week at church.