SAPHA - South Asian Public Health Association - logo
SAPHA - South Asian Public Health Association - logo

Newsletter - April 2023


Celebrating Dalit History Month!

On February 21st, Seattle became the first US city to add caste to their anti-discrimination laws. This historic ordinance, proposed and championed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, prohibits caste based discrimination in hiring practices, workplace conditions, housing, and public accommodation (i.e. public transportation, hotels, restaurants, medical offices, etc.).

Caste apartheid is still prevalent within the South Asian countries of origin and in the South Asian American diaspora, particularly in the tech sector. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Equality Labs, 67% of the Dalit American respondents reported that they had experienced caste based discrimination at their workplace in the US, whilst 60% shared they had experienced caste based derogatory comments. Moreover, in 2020, the state of California filed a lawsuit against Cisco Systems Inc. for caste based workplace discrimination against a Dalit employee. These injustices are compounded when folks are experiencing both white-supremacy and caste based oppression.

The seeds for the caste equity movement in the United States were planted by Dalit activist and political leader, B.R. Ambedkar when he attended Columbia University in the early 1990s; read more about his work here. We hope that the passing of this bill and the momentum garnered by the Dalit Rights movement in the United States serve as a catalyst for initiating conversations on how we can check our privileges within our South Asian American communities and advocate for caste equity nationwide.

Recommended Reading: Works that center Dalit voices as sources of knowledge, agency and solutions:

Folks to Follow: 

  • Equality Labs: @ equalitylabs
  • Seema Hari @ seemahari
  • Ambedkar Association of North America @ dalitdiva

Earth Day 2023

On April 22, we celebrate the birth of the modern environmental movement, commemorated annually as Earth Day. On this day, all stakeholders come together to discuss and advance sustainability and climate action. No matter who you are or what your capacity is, you can make a difference. You can find Earth Day events near you and get involved today!

EARTHDAY.ORG has a Southeast Asian team, where the India team works with consultants in the countries of Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar to execute Earth Day programs and promote partnerships. Each of the consultants has developed programs unique to their country's challenges and context, like Climate Talks in Bangladesh, Refill Me campaign in Myanmar to reduce the use of plastic bottles, plantation and cleanup drives in the Philippines, and environmental education programs in Nepal.

To create effective changes and substantive moves towards sustainability, we need to combine climate and environmental literacy, coupled with strong civic engagement. Find educational and action resources for climate and environmental resources here.

As South Asians, Earth Day serves as a reminder of how our home countries are among the most climate-impacted in the world. Although the South Asian Diaspora resides in more environmentally stable areas, it's crucial to acknowledge that our home countries are currently struggling with the consequences of global warming. For instance, Kashmir is frequently dealing with climate-induced flooding, sea-level rise is devastating large portions of Bangladesh, India is grappling with crop failures, and the Himalayan glaciers are melting. In response, Brown and Green: South Asian Americans for Climate Justice  is striving to safeguard our communities.

National Public Health Week

During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health. Continue your participation by viewing our daily theme fact sheets, attending other APHA hosted events and our partner events. Learn more here.

Here is how you can get involved:

  • Use the APAH toolkit to plan local events in your community.
  • Use the APHA fact sheets and shareables to explore different public health topics with your friends, family and community members.
  • Take action on public health with your local elected leaders. 

Here are some community based public health resources for South Asians living in the United States:

Apna Ghar: Apna Ghar is a non-profit organization that provides services to South Asian survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. They offer culturally specific services, including emergency shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy.

South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network (SAMHIN): SAMHIN is a non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness about mental health issues in the South Asian community. They provide resources, education, and support for individuals and families affected by mental illness.

South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI): SATHI is a non-profit organization that focuses on reducing health disparities among South Asians through community-based research and intervention programs. They work to improve access to healthcare and promote healthy lifestyles among the South Asian community.

Here are some mental health resources for South Asians in the United States:

The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA): NAAPIMHA is a national organization that advocates for the mental health needs of Asian Americans, including South Asians. They provide educational resources, advocacy, and referrals to mental health professionals.

MannMukti: MannMukti is a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting mental health awareness and advocacy within the South Asian community. They offer online resources, including blogs and podcasts, and have a directory of mental health professionals.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI is a national organization that provides education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by mental illness. They offer support groups, educational resources, and a helpline.

Here are some domestic violence resources for South Asians in the United States:

Sakhi for South Asian Women: Sakhi is a non-profit organization that provides support and resources to South Asian women who are survivors of domestic violence. They offer a helpline, advocacy, and counseling services.

Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (API-GBV): API-GBV is a national organization that addresses gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities, including South Asians. They provide training, technical assistance, and resources to service providers and community members.

Here are some reproductive justice resources for South Asians living in the United States:

Narika: Narika is a non-profit organization that provides support and advocacy services for South Asian survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They also offer educational resources and workshops on reproductive health and rights.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ): AAAJ is a national civil rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of Asian Americans, including reproductive justice. They provide legal services, advocacy, and community education programs.

Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood is a national organization that provides reproductive health care services, including contraception, abortion, and STI testing and treatment. They offer language-specific services and have resources available for South Asians and other immigrant communities.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, we are highlighting just a few organizations. More organizations and resources can be found on our website at

Research & News Highlights

COVID-19 vaccination disparities: South Asians in the US have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups. A study found that language and technology barriers, as well as cultural beliefs and mistrust, may be contributing to this disparity. 

Diabetes risk: South Asians are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the US. This increased risk may be due to genetic factors, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors.

Mental health: South Asians in the United States may be at increased risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. A study found that acculturative stress, or stress related to adapting to a new culture, may be a contributing factor. 

Cardiovascular disease: South Asians are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. This increased risk may be due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors, including high rates of smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. 

Cancer risk: South Asians in the United States may be at increased risk for certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer. A study published in the Journal of Global Oncology found that this increased risk may be due to genetic factors, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity.

Students in The George Washington University Maternal and Child Health Program have created a survey to better understand the health and well-being of South Asian adult women living in the U.S. 

If you are eligible and are able to spare 15 minutes we would appreciate your time if you could take this survey and then pass it along to other eligible participants (read: send this to every South Asian woman you ever met in your life who lives in the US). All responses will be anonymous.

Survey Link:

Celebrating Ramadan

More than 1.8 million Muslims across the world are currently observing Ramadan. Ramadan gives Muslims opportunities to feel sympathy for others who are deprived, develops self-control, improves willpower, strengthens their capability to endure overeating temptations and brings about a stronger feeling of modesty, spirituality and social involvement. Over 85% of individuals with diabetes practice fasting despite the risks. For many diabetics, they reported experiencing a pleasant feeling

Ramadan may pose challenges for individuals with eating disorders. The temptation to indulge in large quantities of food rapidly at Iftar, which is the meal eaten after sundown to break the fast, can lead to a sense of being out of control and feeling "ashamed." This may result in a "binge-purge cycle" that sets back the recovery of those with eating disorders. While individuals with physical conditions and illnesses certified by healthcare professionals are excused from fasting, individuals with mental health illnesses are often not granted the same leniency. Consequently, they may encounter further "guilt and shame" from their communities and society at large. Therefore, it is vital for faith leaders and family members to acknowledge the challenges that Muslims with mental health issues encounter. This recognition and acceptance can help break the cycle of shame and guilt that is prevalent across generations in society. You can read more about this here

It is important to note that COVID-19, increases in global food prices, and the war in Ukraine, can impact Eid-al-Fitr. The celebration of Eid-al-Fitr typically involves communal gatherings, feasting, and prayers, and these activities may be affected by the prevailing circumstances at that time. It is crucial to follow health and safety guidelines and regulations to prevent the spread of any potential outbreaks and to ensure the well-being of all individuals during the celebration.

South Asian Heart Health Bill

South Asian Americans are more likely to die from coronary heart disease compared to other ethnic groups in the United States. In fact, researchers found that while heart disease was the leading cause of death in South Asians, this unprecedented risk is hidden by a lack of data

Currently the bill, H.R. 3771 - The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act is in the process of being reintroduced to Congress to be considered. This bill will 1) provide grants to states for awareness initiatives and educational materials; and (2) establish programs to support research regarding heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other heart health-related ailments with respect to the South Asian population and other at-risk populations. The next step in getting this to the Senate is to find a Republican co-sponsor for the bill. We urge you all to reach out to your senators' office to urge them to support the bill. 

To find and contact your U.S. Senator:

  1. Visit the Senate website (
  2. Conduct a search using the Find Your Senators pull-down menu in the upper right corner (select your state and click Go).
  3. On the results page is a link to the Senators’ website, contact information, and links to an online contact form (forms vary by Senator).

We need your help!

The SAPHA Research Committee is building a repository of South Asian public health topics and of authors conducting related research that will be accessible on our website. We are also seeking any information about student researchers conducting South Asian public health research to highlight during AAPI month in May. Please fill out this google form if you have any suggestions.

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To learn more about SAPHA, check out our website:

South Asian Public Health Association

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