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Dr. Ninez Ponce Featured at White House Event for Filipino American History Month

Dr. Ninez Ponce, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management and director of FSPH's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, joined leaders from the government, health, business and other sectors at a Filipino American History Month virtual event hosted by the White House on Oct. 28

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Thursday, October 28, 2021
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Dr. Ninez Ponce, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management and director of FSPH’s UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, joined leaders from government, health, business and other sectors at a Filipino American History Month virtual event hosted by the White House on Oct. 28.

Ponce, who also helped develop the influential California Health Interview Survey, or CHIS, in 2001, explained during the meeting that, compared with their share of the U.S. population overall, Filipinos are overrepresented among workers in health care and long-term care, and have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our Center for Health Policy Research has provided technical assistance and examples for other federal, state and local health surveys to follow the values that we have in California with CHIS,” she said. “It’s important to stress that as we are losing Filipinos in the front lines of fighting the pandemic, that we were simultaneously lost in the data, and consequently lost in policy priorities.”

The event was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Other featured speakers were Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“Filipino Americans contribute significantly to our health care workforce and have been disproportionately impacted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet these disparities are often masked due to a lack of adequate data on AA and NHPI communities,” said Krystal Ka'ai, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, during her introduction of Ponce, who was selected to provide remarks on health.

A “health data revelator,” Ponce outlined her three key roles: data producer, data equity advocate and coalition and pipeline builder. First, through her work as principal investigator of CHIS, Ponce produces disaggregated race and ethnicity data that has provided scholars, advocates, legislators, and other decisionmakers the evidence to address the unmet needs of Filipino Americans.

A data equity advocate, Ponce has led numerous pioneering efforts in multicultural survey research, including measures of racial/ethnic identity, acculturation, generational status, and discrimination. She also devised the rationale and implementation of Asian ethnic oversamples and the cultural and linguistic adaptation of the survey in Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog. Today, CHIS is a national model for data collection on race/ethnicity and on the meaningful inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Ponce, who has conducted research on the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on various communities since the start of the pandemic, pointed to how a lack of data disaggregation in health systems, including aggregating Asian Americans together, has masked health disparities and contributed to health inequities. Through her recent research, which has been published in JAMA Health Forum, Ponce has found that Filipinos, which represent a large proportion of health care workers, have been disproportionate impacted by COVID-19, and advocates for Filipinos to be considered a priority population.

Lastly, Ponce emphasized the importance of building coalitions to advance Filipino American health, including the Filipinx/a/o Community Health Organization, a multigenerational, multidisciplinary collective of Filipino leaders, which Ponce co-founded to continue the fight for visibility in data.

“When the data is available, to not just let it sit on a shelf, but to generate the insights on Filipinos and connecting these insights to informing policy so we can ultimately address the unmet need and advance the health and well-being of Filipino Americans,” Ponce said.

 by Tiffany Lopes