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Asian / Asian American Health Care: Model Minority Myth

Model Minority Myth

The promulgation of the "model minority" myth, that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are the most similar to European Americans, and, thus, are viewed as "models" for and/or "better than" other ethnic minority groups, has created many problems for Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders.
The result has been:(a) a lack of attention to Asian-American/Pacific Islander issues in health research and clinical practice,(b) the creation of antagonisms with other minority groups who may view Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders as co-conspirators with European Americans, and (c) interference with the development of collaborative efforts and coalition building among racial/ethnic minority groups.

(Asian American Psychological Association)
(Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All)

Model Minority Myth and Diversity

One of the consequence of the model minority label is its failure to acknowledge socioeconomic and education disparities among the diverse range of communities categorized as Asian-American. Not all ethnic communities under the Asian-American umbrella are advantaged...Sweeping generalizations of Asian-Americans as the “privileged” and “successful” minority cannot replace unnerving disaggregated data that bring truth to the inequalities that many Asian-Americans face daily. (NY Times)

Impact for Health Care:

As an aggregate group, Asians in America appeared healthier than non-Hispanic whites, according to the study. But when researchers disaggregated the data, they uncovered a number of disparities.

(Study: Health Conditions, Outcomes, and Service Access Among Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Adults in California, 2011–2017)
(Contradicting the Myth of the Model Minority Through a Population Health Equity Approach)

Top myths about Asian Americans and mental health:

Top myths about Asian Americans and mental health:
  •  Mental health isn’t an Asian American issue.
  • Depression and mental illness is rare in the Asian American community.
  • Alternatively, Asian/Asian Americans are more biologically or culturally prone to depression, which explains the high rates of suicide.
  • Depression is a character weakness, and means there’s something wrong with me.
  • Mental illness is embarrassing, and I can treat my depression on my own.
  • Other Asian Americans don’t/won’t understand me and my depression.

Susan Siokos

Susan Siokos, EdD, LCPC, BC-TMHTM, Personal Counselor
Chicago Campus: Office 6s31
Oak Brook Campus: Office 1314
Number: (630) 537-9853

In-Person and TeleMental Health Counseling (via video or audio)

Model Minority Myth Video

Understanding Implicit Bias

Studies show providers are less likely to deliver effective treatments to people of color when compared to their white counterparts—even after controlling for characteristics like class, health behaviors, comorbidities, and access to health insurance and health care services. (Source)


As a health care provider in America, it is imperative you understand the health disparities faced by different communities in America, your own implicit biases, and the importance of working towards equality in health care.  

What is Implicit Bias?

Implicit (subconscious) bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.


We All Have Implicit Bias:

We have all been exposed to "the negative narratives about racial minorities that circulate in society—discourses that become the stuff of unconscious negative attitudes about racial groups. [Health care providers], like the rest of the American public, have implicit biases. They have views about racial minorities of which they are not consciously aware—views that lead them to make unintentional, and ultimately harmful, judgments about people of color." (Source)


Why is it important to understand implicit bias?

When there’s a conflict between a person’s explicit and implicit attitudes—when people say they’re not prejudiced but give subtle signals that they are, for example—those on the receiving end may be left anxious and confused. Additionally, implicit bias against specifically the black / African American community leads to poorer care, less medicine prescribed, and large health disparities within this community. (Source)


How to overcome implicit bias?

Implicit bias in individual interactions can be addressed and countered if we become aware of our bias and take actions to redirect our responses.  (Source)

  • Stereotype replacement — Recognizing that a response is based on stereotype and consciously adjusting the response
  • Counter-stereotypic imaging — Imagining the individual as the opposite of the stereotype
  • Individuation — Seeing the person as an individual rather than a stereotype (e.g., learning about their personal history and the context that brought them to the doctor’s office or health center)
  • Perspective taking — “Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes”
  • Increasing opportunities for contact with individuals from different groups — Expanding one’s network of friends and colleagues or attending events where people of other racial and ethnic groups, gender identities, sexual orientation, and other groups may be present
  • Partnership building — Reframing the interaction with the patient as one between collaborating equals, rather than between a high-status person and a low-status person