There was no Southeast Asian American community in the United States prior to the 1970’s. We are newcomers who arrived as refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We share an experience of war with many of our members who survived the terrible trauma that comes with combat conditions, displacement, torture and genocide.
As Asians, we are often believed to be among the healthiest Americans, but this is not our reality. We are in fact among the sickest Americans with mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as with the chronic diseases associated with extreme stress. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. When these conditions occur together, they produce complex health problems that use up the greatest proportion of health resources.
Before we can solve our health problems, we must be able to identify them. Currently, health records, public health surveys, and insurers collect data about members of the Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese communities under the pan-ethnic umbrella of “Asians.” This means that the health problems suffered by some of these smaller Asian subgroups go undetected and unaddressed. For this reason, it is imperative that data collected by the health care system in Connecticut be disaggregated, or broken down by subgroups. Without disaggregated data, the unique health care problems of the Southeast Asia community remain invisible—and unseen.