June 24 was a momentous occasion for UnitedHealthcare as it commemorated the 20th year of its Asian Initiatives program. For the last two decades, Asian Initiatives has been an important provider of healthcare services for thousands of Asian-Americans at its three health centers in New York (Chinatown and Queens) and New Jersey (Edison). “We are honored to be a part of this community and to help many local residents get the health care support they need to live healthier lives,” said Chris Law, national vice president of UnitedHealthcare Asian Initiatives.
Most of the program’s employees are bilingual, which is essential for Asian-Americans in these areas who are not fluent in English. As New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated, “By providing information in multiple languages, UnitedHealthcare is meeting the challenges specific to the Asian-American community here in Lower Manhattan and throughout the region.” 98-year-old Kamlim Lee voiced appreciation for this aspect of the program. “I’ve been happy with UnitedHealthcare,” said Lee. “I have good benefits and they offer me help when I need it […] And what other company offers me services in Toisanese?”
In addition to having bilingual services, Asian Initiatives also works with other organizations to help tackle health problems that are specific to Asian-Americans, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a cancer that is more prevalent in the Asian-American community. Partner organizations include Glaxo Wellcome, the Chinatown Health Clinic (CHC), and the Chinese-American Independent Practice Association (CAIPA). In 2011, for instance, UnitedHealthcare supported CAIPA President George Liu, M.D. in launching the Asian Diabetes Center in Chinatown. UnitedHealthcare’s presence in New York and New Jersey is especially important because of both regions’ large Asian-American populations. For example, in New York’s seventh and twelfth districts—which include Chinatown and the surrounding area—Asian-Americans make up 18% and 20% of the population, respectively. In New Jersey’s sixth district—which includes the city of Edison—Asian-Americans make up 13% of the population. In addition to its locations in New York and New Jersey, UnitedHeathcare has established customer support centers in California and plans to expand its outreach to other Asian-American neighborhoods across the US.
Andy Nguyen is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at Georgetown University.