How to Connect the South Asian Community to Quality, Affordable Health Coverage

By Guest Blogger

In the final weeks of the second open enrollment period, we’re sharing blog posts from partner organizations about how they’re getting the word out.

This post was written by Sangeeta Lekhi of the Hindu American Seva Communities.

Since the beginning of the second open enrollment period (OE2), Hindu American Seva Communities (HASC) has worked tirelessly to reach out to the broader South Asian population about their new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). From our work across different states and communities, we’ve learned several strategies to effectively engage South Asian consumers and connect them to coverage.

Even if you don’t normally work within South Asian communities, there are several strategies you can employ to engage the uninsured South Asian population in your area. Actions you can take include:

  • Organizing large-scale enrollment events and advertising them on local South Asian radio stations;
  • Sharing outreach materials at local grocery stores that serve South Asian populations; and
  • Partnering with South Indian religious centers to raise awareness of new coverage options.

For example, in Edison, New Jersey, HASC partnered with the YMCA-Jewish Community Center Community Campus, which is located in a community with a large South Asian population. Since the beginning of OE2, HASC and the Community Campus host enrollment events once a month where people can receive in-person assistance, or just learn more about their new coverage options from members of Enroll America’s team and other trusted community organizations.

Assisters at the events are fluent in Hindi, the Indian national language, and Gujarati, one of the most spoken languages in the area. To advertise these events, the Community Campus sends regular email blasts to over 7,000 members and to families whose children attend their Child Care Center. HASC expanded on this outreach by spreading the word within local stores in the neighborhood, and announcing the events on local Indian Radio Stations and local newspapers.

During the last week of OE2, our monthly YMCA-JCC Community Campus event saw more people in one day than throughout the first three months. One Gujarati woman, who earns minimum wage at a medical facility, shed “tears of gratitude” when she and her husband, who works part-time at a Waste Management company, got financial help to get covered.

In Maryland, our volunteers found a local Indian grocery store, where many of the customers hail from Bangladesh and Myanmar, to be an excellent place to boost awareness about coverage and financial help. HASC trained the grocery store owner’s daughter on how to use ACA outreach materials to help educate the store clientele. She used these materials to explain the basics to clients and to refer them to local enrollment events.

Libraries, schools, and places of worship in South Asian communities are also great partnership opportunities. We have participated in various health fairs organized by Hindu Temples and an Islamic Center, and have also gone to these congregations to present on new coverage options for members. We boosted the amount of direct contact with several congregation members by setting up a table outside the temple and creating a space where congregation members could request more information — we even convinced the priests to enroll in coverage!

We encourage all enrollment groups to consider these ways to better engage South Indians in their communities around quality, affordable health coverage.

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