Asian Pacific Islander Health Data Disaggregation Bill Signed into Law

A bill that requires California's Department of Public Health to record the data separately for each Asian and Pacific Islander group was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday.

Current state law already requires certain departments, including the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, to collect data separately for each specific group among Asians and Pacific Islanders when conducting decennial census reports. This bill, AB 1726, would include the Department of Public Health in that existing law. Advocates who have been pushing for this legislation have said that the law would help to close disparities in health needs among Asian and Pacific Islanders.

"We celebrate this milestone in our community's history to uncover long-neglected health disparities and develop targeted solutions. This new policy will provide California's Department of Public Health with more granular data on the diverse Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) populations it serves," said a joint statement from multiple Asian American groups, including the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.

"Better data on the different needs of our communities translates to more effective public health strategies that save lives," the statement continues.

California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who introduced the bill, said that breaking down the data regarding the health needs of each Asian and Pacific Islander community "will give us a clearer pathway to formulate policy focused on positive outcomes for our specific API communities."

"It's critical that our policy leaders understand this diversity and are sensitive to the fact that APIs are not all the same," he said in a statement. "While we share some of the same challenges, such as language access issues, racial discrimination, and obstacles born of immigration, each of our diverse communities has different social and economic outcomes that need to be addressed appropriately."

However, some opposed the bill, arguing that the bill only requires disaggregated data for the API community, and not others.

"I disagree with the way we finely divide the Asian community into specific subcategories when we don't do the same thing to the other ethnic groups," Silicon Valley Chinese Association committee member Lily Ding told NBC News.

Under the new law, the State Department of Public Health would be required to disaggregate the data for the API community when collecting data on the rates for major diseases, leading causes of death, pregnancy rates, and others.

The law will take effect on July 1, 2022.