George Shen, an IBM data specialist, and Ye Pogue,  a Ph.D. candidate in Social Policy at Brandeis University, voice opposition to the idea of gathering ethnicity data on Asian Americans. WESTFORDCAT PHOTO

VIDEO: Panelists Square Off Over Legislator’s Push for State Agencies to Collect Data on Asian Americans

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A state bill that would have required state agencies to categorize Asian Americans by ethnicity has been redrafted and is under review for acquiring demographics on all Massachusetts residents.

Asian American Disaggregation Bill H-3361 stirred impassioned responses by Asian Americans on both sides.

“Asian Americans is a culturally diverse group. There are more than 100 dialects…There’s a huge difference (among) the subgroups. Based  on my experience, it’s my opinion, the disaggregating data will support medical research,” said Dr. Minjin Kim, a postdoctoral fellow at UMASS Medical School.

“I agree more data is more power, but data can be dangerous if not used correctly,” said George Shen, an associate partner at IBM specializing in data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence. ”

Shen, who is the executive director of the Newtown Alliance for Chinese Americans, detailed the many varied cultures and languages within China and said it would not help for Chinese Americans to be lumped into one group. He added that in addition to ethnicity and race, family genetics and history, environment, stress, and lifestyle all play a role in health issues.

Last year, state Rep. Tackey Chan, a Quincy Democrat, filed the bill that would have required state agencies to request specific information from Asian Americans about their origins. Some viewed it as beneficial for providing better health data, but others saw it as having the potential to discriminate against Asians.

In February, Legislators ended up sending a redrafted version of the bill to the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight for further study. That group was charged with forming an 11-member commission which will report back by Dec. 31.

Bill H-3361 would have required state agencies to provide data on state residents whose families originated from Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, China, and India.

Westford resident Liewei Bao saw an opportunity to use the WestfordCAT studio fore debating the issue. Westford Town Moderator Susan Spuhler presided over the discussion. [Continue below]

Here’s a list of those who participated:

IN FAVOR
Dr. Minjin Kim, a postdoctoral fellow at UMASS Medical School, and Bethany Li, director of Greater Boston Legal Services' Asian Outreach Unit. WESTFORDCAT PHOTO

Dr. Minjin Kim, a postdoctoral fellow at UMASS Medical School, and Bethany Li, director of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit. WESTFORDCAT PHOTO

  • Bethany Li is the Director of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Asian Outreach Unit, which provides legal services and support for organizing to the low-income Asian American community.

  • Amy Mah Sangiolo is an attorney and former Newton City Councilor and was until recently, the longest-serving Asian American elected official in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

  • Dr. Minjin Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at UMASS Medical School. Her research interests include Quantitative Health Sciences and Preventive and Behavioral Science.

  • Dr. Haeok Lee is a professor in Department of Nursing. Her research interests include health disparities in minority populations, particularly immigrant populations.

Opposed
  • George Shen is an Associate Partner at IBM specializing in data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence and the Executive Director of Newtown Alliance for Chinese Americans.

  • Dianna Ploss is an entrepreneur, political activist and has an extensive medical background.

  • Ye Pogue is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Policy at Brandeis University. She studies mental health, trauma-related health disparity, and is a peer counselor for immigrants.

  • Jason Liu is a high school senior from Hopkinton, MA.