Asian Health Services was founded in 1974 to meet the pressing need for health care amongst the low-income, immigrant Asian & Pacific Islander (API) population of Alameda County, California. AHS emerged from student activism of the civil rights and social justice movements of the late 1960s with the mission to serve and advocate for the API community by ensuring access to health care services regardless of income, insurance status, immigration status, language, or culture. Today, AHS provides over 105,000 medical and dental visits to over 24,000 patients annually, 97% of whom live at or below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and is a nationally recognized comprehensive community health center model for serving a primarily low income, limited English speaking population.
AHS has overcome many challenges during its 40-year history. One such challenge was the 1978 passage of Proposition 13 which severely threatened community based organizations across California with eliminated funding.
Mission to serve and advocate for the API community by ensuring access to health care services regardless of income, insurance status, immigration status, language, or culture. Faced with these dire funding cuts, AHS worked in collaboration with local community groups to galvanize its patient base to protest Prop 13 cuts. As a result of such rousing protests from its committed and passionate patients, AHS did not lose funding and was able to continue serving the medical needs of the API community. AHS has also overcome the challenges presented by the passage of 1994 California Proposition 187 which denied undocumented immigrants from accessing public benefits and represented a significant barrier to health care for underserved APIs. AHS again collaborated with local community based organizations to advocate for immigrant rights and health care reform. These efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of Family Care, a new health insurance plan offered to all Alameda County residents regardless of immigration status.
Along with providing linguistically and culturally competent medical services to the API population,
AHS’ General Meeting, an annual event at which patient congregate to discuss health care policies which affect them, has seen its attendance grow from one patient during its first year to nearly 400 patients today.
Community organizing and engagement continue to be an integral component of for AHS’ mission. Due to 87% of AHS’s patients being best served in a language other than English, General Meetings are interpreted in ten languages - Burmese, Cantonese, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, Mien, Mongolian, Tagalog and Vietnamese. This commitment to providing linguistically competent services is a key component of AHS’s mission, and is reflected in all of AHS’ services from the Perinatal program, to the Nutrition Program, to AHS’ clinics.
Community organizing and engagement continue to be an integral component of for AHS’ mission. AHS has long been a pioneer of community organizing. Community organizing efforts include initiatives such as the “Revive Chinatown” pedestrian safety campaign, which aims to reduce traffic accidents at busy community intersections in Chinatown through utilizing six-way crosswalks and implementing additional traffic lights, and a program which educates nail salon workers and owners to better protect themselves against dangerous toxins contained in beauty salon products.
Throughout its history, AHS has consistently collaborated with ally organizations on the local, state and national levels. When health needs of APIs were not receiving national attention, AHS played a key role in the formation of the Asian Pacific Islander and American Health Form (APIAHF) which provides the API community with a national voice and played a key role in the passage of Executive Order 13125 in 1999, which recognized the unmet health needs of APIs at the federal level. AHS continues to address the health needs of the API community. In 2003, AHS opened a dental clinic with 7 chairs, and in 2008, AHS opened the Oakland High School Wellness Center specifically to address the reproductive health needs of local youth. In 2009, AHS officially launched the philanthropic arm of the organization, the Asian Health Services Foundation. In 2010, AHS expanded its services at the East side of Lake Merrit named Frank Kiang Medical Center and opened a Dental clinic at the College of Alameda. With Healthcare Reform underway, AHS received federal funding to expand 835 Webster Clinic which was opened in 2013.
AHS continues to be a leader in culturally and linguistically competent health care for underserved, low-income, and limited English speaking APIs, and serves as a strong reminder that health care, regardless of socioeconomic status, immigration status, language, or culture, is a human right.