Promoting Wellness and Reducing Stigma Through Culturally Competent Outreach

Objective: To promote wellness in Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities living in Alameda County and help overcome stigma through culturally competent outreach.

Description: API Connection is funded by Alameda County’s Mental Health Service Act to do early prevention and intervention services. By employing culturally-based outreach, education, mental health consultation, and early intervention services in API communities, Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA) focuses on improving access to care, reducing the stigma attached to mental health services and strengthening the community’s knowledge about wellness practices and resources. They also provide space for the community to meet and help bring services to the community. A major focus is on prevention and early intervention to prevent crisis.

The use of bi-lingual staff from the community is a major factor in their success and ability to do effective outreach and engagement. They are strengthening their efforts to work with newly arrived and un-served Bhutanese refugees, and those from Mongolia, Nepal, and Tibet. These are often communities that do not receive services and are particularly difficult to access. API Connections trains community wellness advocates (CWAs) who are already active members of the community and often serve as mentors. They meet once a week with CHAA staff and provide a critical bridge between the community and CHAA. In 2012, CWAs documented 7,000 contacts and many more are not documented. Each CWA has his/her special area of focus which increases their effectiveness. For an example, one female CWA works with female population, including those in prison. Another one works with the refugee population.

CWAs fill a gap left by the lack of licensed service-providers. CHAA is creating a “zone of wellness” by combining resources with other local health and non-health organizations, such as the Center for Immigrant Empowerment.  They also incorporate traditional healing practices which are familiar to the community. CHAA has found that use of traditional medicine and developing leadership among community members are key to CHAA’s engagement strategies.

Population of Focus: Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Immigrant, Limited English Proficient, Adults, Children, Transition aged youth. Elderly, Incarcerated/formerly incarcerated

Setting: Community health center, mental health clinic

Level of Intervention: Individual, Family, Community

Background: The mission of CHAA is to provide community-driven behavioral health services, family support, youth development, and advocacy for the historically underserved API communities in the Bay Area. Located in Oakland, CHAA provides services in the area of mental health, substance use, youth programs, consumer empowerment, health literacy, advocacy, and cultural wellness activities. Services and programs are conducted in Spanish and 20 AAPI languages including  Bengalis, Burmese, Khmer, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Illocano, Visaiyan, Igarot, Hindi, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mei, Mongolian, Tibetan, Nepali, Rakhaig, Khmu, Tongan, and Urdu.  CHAA has also developed a strong collaborations with over 50 agencies and community-based organizations in the Bay Area that include the Bay Area Network for Positive Health, California Reducing Disparities Project, East Bay Refugee Forum, and the City of Richmond.


Sean Kirkpatrick, Associate Director
Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA)
268 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA