SAAPRI Hosts South Asian Community Health Forum

SAAPRI Hosts South Asian Community Health Forum

SAAPRI Hosts South Asian Community Health Forum

This past weekend, SAAPRI hosted a community conversation on the health status of South Asians at Dil Dhadakne Do (Let Your Heart Beat): A South Asian American Community Health Forum. We would like to thank all those who were able to join us and support this critical gathering to discuss the need for more South Asian-focused research in health as well as the advancement of health policy that can empower and uplift our communities.

Our panelists, Village Clerk of Skokie Pramod Shah and Dr. Namratha Kandula of Northwestern University, moderated by Dr. Ram Krishnamoorthi, shared their unique experiences and insights on the status of South Asian public health from their respective work in local government and in research, as well as their partnership on the South Asian Healthy Lifestyle Initiative (SAHELI) study. Together, we had a broad discussion on the health issues affecting the South Asian American community and how to address these from a community health and policy perspective. These were some of the key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Health Issues Affecting South Asians
    • Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are among the most common health issues disproportionately affecting South Asians. Some risk factors are specific to South Asians and need to be better understood for prevention and treatment.
    • Aging and related issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, care giving, and social isolation are a growing concern as the elderly South Asian community grows.
    • Other issues raised included mental health, the role of stress in understanding South Asian health, and the role of immigration as a risk factor.
  • Barriers to Effective Healthcare
    • Transportation, language access, other communication-related issues, and insurance are barriers for some South Asians when seeking services.
    • Deficiency of culturally-competent healthcare, especially in physician-patient interactions. This includes a lack of culturally-tailored dietary and exercise recommendations and lack of learning about patient’s religious and cultural background to understand what is meaningful to them as part of their care. There is also a lack of understanding about South Asian-specific health risks and how to screen South Asians differently with an understanding of these risks.
  • The State of South Asian Health Research
    • Some of the most relevant research and insights about cardiovascular disease among South Asian Americans have come from the MASALA study (a longitudinal study with a cohort of 1,000 South Asian participants). Dr. Kandula is also currently leading the SAHELI study, an intervention and behavior change study focused on reducing cardiovascular disease and diabetes among South Asians.
    • There is little research on healthcare issues for the aging South Asian population. Future research should focus on assessing and meeting this population’s needs.
    • We need more disaggregated health data (ethnicity, race, country of birth) and South Asian-specific research to get more accurate understanding of risk factors. Future research should expand sampling size and include more diverse South Asian populations (especially those most affected by healthcare access including recent immigrants and lower income households) to account for the diverse backgrounds and life circumstances within the South Asian community.
  • Next Steps to Advance a South Asian Public Health Agenda
    • More community awareness and education on issues and risk factors that affect South Asians
    • Pushing for culturally-tailored and meaningful healthcare recommendations and resources
    • Sharing resources created by Skokie Health Department for its South Asian population with other municipalities
    • Creating a community health needs and resource assessment for South Asians in Illinois (including the aging population)
    • Establishing community health research partnerships with community  members shaping research goals and process
    • Building bipartisan Congressional support to pass H.R. 3592 (The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act). SAAPRI is leading efforts in Illinois to gain support for this bill, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in Illinois’ 9th District has agreed to cosponsor as a result of our outreach thus far.
  • Action Items – What You Can Do Today! 
    • Learn more about H.R. 3592 here and here. Use this template letter to write to your representative and spread the word!
    • Engage with and support the SAHELI and MASALA studies.
    • Learn about the National Institute of Health’s All of Us Research Program. SAAPRI will be joining this initiative as part of NIH’s Asian Recruitment and Engagement Core in 2019 to help collect health data on South Asians to improve precision medicine. Keep an eye out for upcoming outreach events!
    • Contact SAAPRI and tell us what your concerns are about the health status of our communities.
We look forward to making South Asian American community health a priority in the the new year by formulating data-driven solutions to inform policy and supporting our communities through research, outreach, and programming. But we cannot do it without your help! Consider making a contribution to SAAPRI today at www.saapri.org/donate. Thank you so much for your continued support of our work!

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