Many in Long Beach’s Filipino community struggle with access to healthy food, new study shows • Long Beach Post News

A new survey conducted by the city shows that a significant portion of Long Beach’s Filipino community has been worried about being able to afford healthy food for the past year, among other findings.

Residents of the Philippines are also heavily concentrated in the Westside, an area that has historically lacked access to healthy food.

On Monday, October 30, the city’s health department presented findings from the Filipino Community Health Needs Assessment, which was initiated by the city’s health department in response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

Preliminary findings reveal that more than 38 percent of a group of 219 respondents from the Long Beach Filipino community experienced anxiety or stress about being able to afford nutritious food in the past 12 months.

The data also showed that 5% of respondents were “regularly” worried, and 8% said it was “always” a worry for them.

The findings — drawn from a sample of 219 respondents from about 20,000 Long Beach residents of Filipino descent — are part of a much larger research effort to identify health issues and disparities in the Filipino community.

The city hopes to launch that much larger study by early 2024, said Shiraya Thompson, a racial and health data analyst who worked on the study.

Residents of the Philippines in Long Beach have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 because many of them are primary workers and live in multigenerational households, according to Romeo Hebron, executive director of the Philippine Migrant Center.

Figures from January 2020 to August 2021 show that Asians were 1.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and 1.7 times more likely to die from the virus than whites residents.

While the Filipino community is scattered throughout the city, it is heavily concentrated on the Westside, Thompson said. The area was recently identified by the city as a potential candidate for its food market program.

“We also heard in our listening sessions the connection between not having enough access to nutritious foods and being able to make better health decisions about the food we eat,” said Filipino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health Equity Coordinator Harold Dela Cruz at the launch.

During the Oct. 30 discussion, residents spoke out and expressed that they want access to affordable groceries and alternatives to red meat, white rice, and fried or salty foods. In the survey, respondents noted that these foods typically make up a large portion of their diet.

Many respondents said they want to see more grocery stores, farmers markets, parks and gardens around their neighborhoods.

The report also describes these health findings among Filipinos in Long Beach:

  • 36% of the participants were told by a doctor that they have high blood pressure.
  • 15% of the study participants had been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • 57% had a family history of diabetes.
  • Younger generations are more likely than older generations to perceive a need for mental health care and seek help.

“Stigma is obviously still a big issue in our community,” Dela Cruz said. “Hopefully … we can start talking about what we could do to address the stigma, especially among older generations.”

Additionally, 22% reported not feeling safe walking around their neighborhoods, although recent comparable data from other ethnic communities or parts of the city is not yet available.

But Dela Cruz stressed that no sweeping conclusions should be drawn with a sample size as small as 219 people. Findings from other ZIP codes with a smaller sample size that were not included in the preliminary report will become available in the full report next year, he said.

The next steps are to work with the Filipino Community Advisory Committee and the wider community in developing programs and policies to address the issues found in this first report, he said. The data will ultimately help determine which issues to prioritize, he said.

Historically, there has been little participation and engagement of the Filipino community in city processes, so this project is “intended to build relationships” and provide opportunities for residents to voice their concerns, Health Department Impact Bureau Manager Erika said in an email Valencia-Adachi.

The department is also working on health needs assessments for the Cambodian and Native Hawaiian communities and will begin work on a health needs assessment for the black community early next year.

Health officials are also in the process of forming a Latinx Health Collaborative to support Latinx residents by improving health services, education and accessibility in line with the Mi Vida Cuenta COVID-19 Latinx Health Initiative report and work plan completed in 2022.

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