Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, I thought it would be the perfect time to share both my experiences conducting educational workshops across nail salons in the Greater Boston area, as well as my motivations behind them.
A huge reason why I hope to become a doctor stems from my confidence in medicine’s ability to heal, treat, and give hope to people at their most vulnerable. Growing up in Taiwan, I have been lucky to experience a nationally-subsidized healthcare system that serves everyone equally. When I came to the U.S. for college, I quickly realized that was not the case here. Throughout college, I volunteered as a student counselor at the only free afterschool program in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. I witnessed over time how healthcare disparities marginalized our students and their families.
Upon graduation, I started working at a community health center, where I saw even more clearly how different immigrant communities faced the same barriers to care. About a year-and-a-half ago, I reached out to Chien-Chi Huang, hoping to contribute to AWFH’s efforts in educating and advocating for the health and well-being of Asian women. Early on, she laid out the facts: Early on, she laid out the facts: There is an 89% increase of breast cancer among Asian women in MA from 1999-2013. (1). Cancer is the leading cause of death for Asians living in America, yet we also have the lowest cancer screening rates among other racial and ethnic groups. These numbers have stuck in my mind and continue to drive my motivation to improve them.
I have been humbled by the opportunity to participate in our Nail Salon Outreach Project: Each week, I visit 3-4 businesses with our wonderful volunteer Anh Nguyen. We run through information on breast and cervical cancer prevention with the nail salon workers.
The basic messages we try to get across during our outreach:
We also connect them with resources if they are having trouble with health insurance, and refer them to our partner, Boston Medical Center. We hope that our outreach empowers Vietnamese and Chinese women with the information/vocabulary needed to initiate important conversations in their doctor’s office and within their communities. This has become increasingly urgent given Vietnamese women have the highest rate of cervical cancer diagnoses, at a rate over twice than their White counterparts. (5).
Through this project, I continue to witness the value of the peer-led and community-based platform that AWFH strives for. As someone who does not speak Vietnamese, I was able to make more of an impact with Anh, a native Vietnamese speaker. Together we are able to reach a higher level of outreach success. We are also able to create opportunities for salon workers to become peer health educators, consequently broadening the scope of impact.
All of the lessons that I have learned, while volunteering and working at AWFH, have been extremely rewarding, especially knowing my and others’ potential of making tangible progress in improving Asian women’s health.
(1) Health of Boston Special Report: Cancer Among City of Boston Residents, 1999-2013
Written by: Amy Hsu