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SAPHA - South Asian Public Health Association - logo

SAPHA's Active Engagement in National Health Policy Discussions During AANHPI Month

During AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, SAPHA was prominently involved in several high-level discussions, reinforcing our commitment to advocating for South Asian health priorities. On April 23, Vice President Ayesha Azam represented SAPHA at the White House for the unveiling of the 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The event featured keynotes from figures like US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and advocates Ashley Judd and Aloe Blacc. Just a week later, Ayesha brought her insights to the “Diabetes & Cardiovascular Health Equity Data Dilemma” panel at the National Minority Quality Forum Leadership Summit, addressing significant data gaps in healthcare affecting our community. On May 6, SAPHA President Samira Khan engaged in a critical roundtable with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, discussing a spectrum of issues from mental health equity to language access and data disaggregation. Ayesha Azam continued our advocacy at a White House briefing for AANHPI leaders on May 10, discussing administrative priorities and community concerns with senior officials. Further emphasizing mental health, Samira participated as a panelist at the APAICS Legislative Leadership Summit, focusing on the need for dismantling linguistic barriers, enhancing cultural competency, and addressing mental health stigmas within the AA & NH/PI community. These engagements underscore SAPHA’s active role in shaping health policy and ensuring our community’s needs are prioritized at the federal level.

White House 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and Federal Action Plan Event - Shelby Rowe,  Executive Director for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Ayesha Azam, Vice President for SAPHA

HHS Roundtable. Pictured Left to Right: Juliet Choi (APIAHF); Clayton Fong (NAPCA); Krystle Canare (NAAPIMHA); Marielle Reataza (NAPAFASA); Samira Khan (SAPHA); Nia Aitaoto (NAOPO); Sung Yeon Choimorrow (NAPAWF); Secretary Becerra (HHS); Rod Lew (APPEAL); Quyen Dinh (SEARAC); Sheri Daniels (POL); Gloria Lamela Beriones (PNAA) ; Karla Thomas (EPIC); Martina Kamaka (NCAPIP); Jeff Caballero (AAPCHO); Krystal Ka’ai (WHIAANHPI) 

APAICS Legislative Leadership Summit, Mental Health Panel: Pictured left to right: Kimmy Yam (NBC Asian American); Pearl Pugh (Johnson and Johnson); Samira Khan (SAPHA); Krystle Canare (NAAPIMHA); Myron Dean Quon (Pacific Asian Counseling Services)

SAPHA Statement on Student Encampments in Support of Palestine:

The South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) stands in solidarity with students, activists, faculty, and communities advocating for justice and human rights in the face of escalating police violence at home and ongoing genocide in Gaza. The recent wave of student encampments, unfolding over the past few weeks, continues to persist despite efforts by administrations to suppress them and the ongoing violence against protesters by the police. As a public health organization, we recognize that violence—whether state-sanctioned or otherwise—poses a grave threat to community health and well-being.  The rising tide of student protests highlights the disproportionate and escalating use of police force which amplifies  public health risks and undermines public safety. 

The genocide and associated violence echos far beyond their immediate environments, leading to widespread trauma, mental health crises, and exacerbating health disparities—both immediate and long-term. The student protests represent a critical response to these human rights abuses, and supporting these movements aligns with our mission to promote a healthier, more just society.

In alignment with our mission to address and eliminate health disparities across our communities, SAPHA calls for immediate and sustained action to protect the health of all individuals, particularly those who are most vulnerable. We urge health professionals everywhere to raise their voices against injustices that compromise health and to support initiatives that foster a healthier, more equitable world.

For more resources and to support the students and community members, please see below: 

Mental Health & Legal Resources: 

SAPHA Marks Sixth Annual National AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate

On May 18, 2024, anti-bullying nonprofit Act To Change is rallying the nation in commemorating the sixth Annual National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Day Against Bullying and Hate. SAPHA is committed to ending bullying and hate in the AAPI community and is proud to join over 100 organizations and over 40 cities, states and jurisdictions in this movement.

Act To Change’s commemoration on May 18 is part of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and marks the birthday of Vincent Chin. In 1982, Chin was falsely blamed for the layoffs in the auto industry, and brutally murdered in a racial hate crime. He lost his life simply because he was Asian. Chin’s death launched the modern Asian American movement, and we’re proud to join Act To Change in continuing this movement.

America has a longstanding history of anti-AANHPI racism and violence, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese American internment camps, colonization of Hawaiian islands, post 9/11 stereotyping, COVID-19 fueled hate crimes, and the use of the harmful “model minority” myth. Additionally, the "Communities on Fire" report by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) documented a significant rise in hate violence, with 302 incidents targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities from 2016 to 2017—a 45% increase from the previous year, predominantly fueled by anti-Muslim sentiment. Throughout history, AAPIs are continually portrayed as the “perpetual foreigner” and AAPI youth grow up feeling the need to prove their Americanness. Queer children - especially trans, nonbinary and two-spirit youth - also often feel the need to hide or change their identities for safety and a sense of belonging. In SAPHA's paper, "Health Implications of Racialized State Violence Against South Asians in the USA," we highlighted how factors such as appearance, accent, speech, attire, and behaviors can contribute to perceptions of difference, significantly contributing to discrimination against South Asians. The paper also links bullying among South Asian youth to broader themes of racism and xenophobia, noting that nearly half of South Asians experience microaggressions like stereotypes of terrorism and assumptions of inferiority, significantly more than their white counterparts.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a staggering rise in verbal and physical violence against people of AAPI descent, with nearly 11,500 incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate. The most vulnerable communities, including youth and elders, bore the brunt of this violence, and AAPI youth continue to become targets of ridicule, social isolation and physical violence in schools. Cyberbullying is another worrying issue, contributing to low self-esteem, social anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. The Trevor Project reports that 40% of AAPI LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide.

The National AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate is a celebration of AAPI youth. AAPI youth continue to organize within their schools and communities, and fight bullying with awareness, art, creativity and compassion for each other. Act To Change’s Youth Ambassadors and Homeroom Anti-Bullying Workshop participants lead exceptional programming and workshops among their peers. AAPI youth grow up to become exceptional leaders, and inspire the nation.

We stand in solidarity with the AAPI community, and publicly denounce all forms of bullying and hate. We invite you to join us and Act To Change in our collective movement against bullying and hate.
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Statement on SPD-15

The recent update of Statistical Policy Directive No. 15(SPD-15) by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) marks a significant shift in how federal agencies handle race and ethnicity data, the first update since 1997. These revisions include combining race and ethnicity questions, recognizing the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category, and requiring additional detail in data collection for various Asian communities, such as Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and an option to check off “Another group” like Pakistani, Hmong, Afghan, etc. This approach aims to improve data accuracy and effectiveness by facilitating disaggregation in collection and presentation. However, agencies retain the option to opt out of detailed data collection if they deem the burden outweighs the benefit. While we applaud these advancements, ensuring successful disaggregation requires making detailed data collection mandatory and providing a write-in option for better representation of the growing diverse South Asian groups beyond 'Asian Indian'. SAPHA is committed to continuing to advocate for data disaggregation on a local and national level.

Statement on Win Rozario

SAPHA honors the life of 19-year old Bangladeshi American youth, Win Rozario, who was killed by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). On March 27th, Win placed a 911 call for mental health crisis support. Instead of de-escalating the situation, the police shot Win Rozario six times in his own home, resulting in his tragic and preventable death. 

We uplift the call to action laid out by the South Asian Legal Defense Fund in their recent statement: 

  1. A demand for a thorough investigation of the incident to ensure justice and accountability
  2. A release of body camera footage from the scene for transparency purposes
  3. Continuous investments towards policing alternatives and community mental health services, and expansion of said services to cover all neighborhoods in the borough of Queens 

We offer our condolences to Win’s family, friends and loved ones, and the Bangladeshi community in Ozone Park and across NYC. This devastating incident highlights the urgent need to address the intersection of mental health crises and over policing within our communities. Events like these perpetuate a cycle of fear and distrust, exacerbating mental health crises rather than providing the necessary support and resources. As detailed in our paper, Health Implications of Racialized State Violence Against South Asians in the USA, South Asians, along with other racialized groups, have endured a long history of state violence and discrimination, leading to profound impacts on mental health and well-being. It is crucially important to invest in mental health resources and alternative crisis response teams across the country to prevent these incidences. 

SAPHA remains committed to advocating  against racialized police violence and promoting healthy and safe environments for South Asian Americans and the communities they live in. It is imperative that we work towards systemic change to dismantle the structures perpetuating such tragedies and ensure the provision of adequate mental health support for all individuals in crisis. 


As our communities mourn the devastating loss of Win Rozario, if you or a loved one are seeking culturally tailored mental health support in NYC, we invite you to explore the following resources: 


South Asian Public Health Association Spotlight Series

SAPHA is kicking off the year with a new initiative - a podcast series! Our podcast, the South Asian Public Health Association Spotlight Series, will delve into the remarkable journeys and career trajectories of trailblazers in public health, with a special emphasis on the South Asian community.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the South Asian Public Health Association, each episode this year will bring you insightful conversations, inspiring stories, and a closer look at the impactful work being done by previous SAPHA board members shaping the future of public health.

Episode 1

Featuring Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH

Our inaugural podcast episode features the esteemed Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, a SAPHA co-founder and the editor of the very first issue of SAPHA’s Brown Paper, Join us as Dr. Upadhyay shares her career journey, insights into reproductive health, and her pivotal role in co-founding SAPHA in 1999.

Listen to this episode on Youtube


Listen to this episode on Spotify

Learn more about Dr. Upadhyay below:

Dr. Upadhyay is a Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, specializing in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences as well as core faculty of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). As a public health Social Scientist trained in epidemiology and demography, with expertise in abortion safety, access, and medication abortion, Dr. Upadhyay serves as the Principal Investigator for the California Home Abortion by Telehealth study, evaluating telehealth's safety, effectiveness, and acceptability for abortion in 22 states. She is also leading a study on interest in a late period pill. In addition to her impactful research, Dr. Upadhyay is the Co-Director of the UCGHI for Gender and Health Justice.

Additional Resources:

In our podcast, Dr. Upadhyay highlighted the work of one of her mentees, Sneha Challa, PhD, MPH. You can learn more about her work here.

You can also check out the books mentioned in the podcast:

 It’s NOT the Stork! ; It’s So Amazing and It’s Perfectly Normal

Listen to this episode on Youtube


Listen to this episode on Spotify

Thanks for checking out SAPHA!

We are constantly finding new ways to promote the health and wellbeing of all our South Asian communities. We do this through advocacy, education and fostering meaningful partnerships in the community! Learn more about our mission or make a donation at!

If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to support our work so that we can continue to put out engaging content, please consider donating to us:


Subscribe to SAPHA’s Spotlight Series to hear more captivating discussions with trailblazers in public health.

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