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Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and professor of health policy and management at the Fielding School of Public Health, was awarded the 2019-2020 Don T. Nakanishi Award for Outstanding Engaged Scholarship by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
The award recognizes faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, for their outstanding practical research, publications, teaching, training, and educational service to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
From working at community-based organizations focused on public health equity to serving on several committees focused on disparities among racial and ethnic groups, Ponce has dedicated more than three decades to advocate for and promote the visibility of underrepresented groups, including Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Ponce currently leads the Center for Health Policy Research, which houses the California Health Interview Survey, the nation’s largest state health survey that provides a detailed picture of the health and health care needs of California’s large and diverse population. She championed the meaningful inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through oversampling, and by developing culturally and linguistically appropriate survey instruments. This approach has resulted in representative data of many Asian subgroups, which tend to be masked because other standardized survey methods do not differentiate between groups.
Under Ponce’s leadership, the center has become known as a major advocate for social, racial and health justice. Currently, she is collaborating with fellow researchers and community organizations to document and analyze racial disparities of COVID-19, particularly as the inequalities impact Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and the data they produced was used in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means committee.
Ponce will use the Nakanishi Award funding to set up a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Research Fund to award stipends to students she is working with on collecting and analyzing this data. She continues to focus her efforts on public health equity, immigrant and global health, and survey-based research, along with mentoring students.
Written by Elaiza Torralba