An insight into the new center for Vietnamese Americans in San Jose

With bamboo glass walls and green exterior lighting, the Vietnamese American community in Santa Clara County will soon have access to an elegant new building to either collect a prescription or have dental work done.

Located near the corner of Center and Tully Road and approximately a 10-minute drive south of San Jose’s Little Saigon, the newly built 37,000 square foot Vietnamese American Service Center includes a pharmacy, health clinic, dental and mental health services, meeting rooms and child care facilities. The site opens fully from February 2022 and operates Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although anyone can use the center, it is focused on serving the second largest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the country, with more than 140,000 such residents. The building’s health clinic is the thirteenth such facility in the county and aims to serve approximately 3,000 patients a year.

“This is a culmination of many years of work,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, one of the main proponents of the project.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 18: A multifunction room on the first floor of the Vietnamese American Service Center (VASC) during a media tour in San Jose, California, Monday, October 18, 2021. The lights are arranged to echo a conical hat. (Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group)

Several parts of the building odes lead to Vietnamese culture. For example, bamboo glass found on parts of the plant resembles villages in Vietnam that used to surround themselves with the plant for “natural protection,” said Betty Duong, project manager for the center. On the first level of the building, spiral lighting in one of the rooms should look like one conical hat, known as a conical hats in Vietnamese.

The idea for a Vietnamese American center goes back a decade. In 2011, then-Supervisor Dave Cortese, now a state senator, commissioned a health assessment of the community.

That examination found that society experienced cancer rates much higher than other groups Liver cancer, for example in this community, causes deaths by four times as much as nationally compared to other adults in the county. The assessment also found a number of risk factors among society. Smoking rate among Vietnamese men was twice as high compared to others in the county. In addition, the study revealed that the poverty rate among the community is some of the highest in the county.

“What we really started to procure was that we needed a very specific approach to ensure that we can keep the Vietnamese American community healthy,” Chavez said.

Cortese said the investigation also created a “challenge” for the county.

So many in the county rightly said, ‘What is this? Another study that is going to be on the shelf? What good is it to know what our health assessment is if we do not want to do something about it? ‘”Remembered Cortese.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 18: An exterior of the Vietnamese American Service Center (VASC) during a media tour of San Jose, California, Monday, October 18, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group)

In 2015, both Cortese and Chavez called for the creation of a service center. A $ 33 million construction contract was awarded in 2018, and builders broke ground in 2019. In addition to the construction costs, an additional $ 17 million was put to an architect who allowed and decorated the inside of the building, Chavez said.

Asked whether the county had any goals in mind to close some of the health disparities it identified among the Vietnamese American community, Chavez said the center should first focus on medical examinations of patients, citing a study statistic that women in the community have some of the highest incidences of cervical cancer in the country.

“When we think of community goals, the goals we are going to set are likely to be done with the partners of the community in mind,” she said. “So we can look at the consequences of the initial health assessment and then start doing these health assessments at more regular (intervals).”

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