Tufts Medical Center’s annual Asian Health Symposium to be held Friday

The Asian Health Symposium "Together: Strengthening the Health of Chinatown" will feature collaborative projects to aid communities such as Chinatown. Ingfbruno via Wikimedia Commons

The annual Asian Health Symposium, this year entitled “Together: Strengthening the Health of Chinatown,” will be held at the university’s School of Medicine this Friday.

The symposium is hosted by the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Addressing Disparities in Asian Populations through Translational Research (ADAPT). ADAPT is a CTSI initiative that is a coalition of local community non-profit organizations and several schools of Tufts, according to Amy West, manager of communications and media at Tufts CTSI.

ADAPT’s member organizations include the Asian Community Development Corporation, Boston Chinatown Resident Association, Asian Women For Health, Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence, Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), Tufts School of Medicine’s Public Health Program, Tufts School of Medicine and Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, according to West. The members meet monthly outside of the symposium to talk about community-engaged research, particularly in the Boston Chinatown area, she explained.

ADAPT receives financial support from CTSI and the School of Medicine, according to Carolyn Rubin, assistant professor in the community health department and director of ADAPT.

The symposium will take place at the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to a press release yesterday.

West said she is expecting symposium turnout on Friday to be similar to last year’s; around 90 people, including students, attended the 2014 event.

West said the symposium focuses on health in Asian and Asian American communities and that it brings students, residents and clinicians together to discuss community-specific health issues.

“[We’re] looking to explore ways to work together to improve Asian health,” she said.

This year’s symposium will touch on the collaborative projects that emerged from last year’s between Tufts researchers and professors and Chinatown organizations, who work together to survey Chinatown residents about health issues or work with residents to better understand health in their community, West said.

“Our overarching goal is to [find] examples of what it means to do research in partnership with these communities,” Rubin said. “I see my role as acting as the bridge between Tufts and the Chinatown community.”

The event will features various speakers, including Susan Koch-Weser, an assistant professor at Tufts Medical Center’s Department of Public Health and Community Medicine; Kieran Reid, a scientist at the physiology lab at the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging; and Mei-Hua Fu, program director at ABCD’s Chinese Church Head Start Program, according to West.

After morning presentations from speakers and lunch, the symposium attendees will break up into four different work groups to discuss different areas for collaboration across their respective fields and areas of expertise, West said. These areas include wellness and chronic disease management, health care access, child health and family development and environmental and land use.

“The [symposium’s] goal is to continue to bring academics and community partners together, so they can talk and learn together about ways to improve research within the community and the actions taken on research findings,” West said.

Fu said that she will speak at the symposium about the impact that collaboration with Tufts has had on the Chinese Church Head Start Program. This partnership has included working with Tufts researchers to do parent focus groups, observations of children and oral health education.

“All these have been very helpful [in that they allow us to] look at the issue and try to understand what the causes are and how to address [them],” she said.

The Head Start Program, as one of the 20 ABCD sites across the Boston area, has raised concerns and awareness about what is needed to improve the health status of children and families in the Chinatown community, according to Fu.

“We serve 100,000 people each year because we do all different service areas,” she said.

Fu added that through the collaboration with Tufts, her program has been able to connect more effectively with the communities they work with.

“Because of the collaboration, we have stronger connections with the community, with all other organizations, and we all work together for the cause of health disparity,” she said. “So we have been talking about different issues, [including] oral health, chronic diseases, [the] language barrier, mental health concerns and all other issues…for the new immigrant community.”

Joann Yung, the associate director of development at BCNC, said that the symposium will focus on community-based research that is collaborative in nature, since groups are working with Tufts.

“Research has been done with local community residents and community-based organizations that are working directly with the population,” she said.

Symposiums that focus on health among Asian communities are important because researchers need to know the concerns of the communities, according to Fu. In addition, researchers can help community partners and residents form a framework around the issues so that communities can more effectively address them, said Fu.

“We are able to bring everyone together and really talk about all the issues that need to be dealt with and to have a…really open and honest conversation about all these issues,” Fu said.

She added that much of the data on Asian health is oversimplified.

“We don’t get to see what exactly is happening in Chinatown because the data…is [usually] diluted in number,” Fu said.

Additionally, Fu explained that many of the residents have had to deal with issues on their own because they are often isolated due to the language barrier and a lack of access to services about which they are unaware or which they choose not to use.

“All these researchers, they have a lot of expertise and knowledge and skills, and the community has a lot of experiences so…it’s very important that the two fronts work together,” she said. “It will be a very rich conversation.”