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

Newsletter- April 2024

April 2024 Newsletter


Public Health for South Asian Americans

Last week marked National Public Health Week in the US, where organizations, including SAPHA, highlighted critical public health issues such as civic engagement, healthy neighborhoods, climate change, new tools and innovationsreproductive and sexual health, emergency preparedness, and the future of public health. You can check out the posts on our social media platforms.

Additionally, over the past year, our board conducted a thorough review of research within the South Asian American (SAA) population and the South Asian Diaspora. Despite the significant presence of multiple focused organizations, SAAs remain among the most understudied groups, disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases.

We plan to publish our findings in a report later this year, which will shine light on the health disparities experienced by SAAs, the influence of social determinants of health (SDOH), and provide research and policy recommendations.

Notably, national databases often fail to capture a representative sample of SAAs, limiting data on crucial health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, mental health, infectious diseases, and cancer. To bridge this gap, researchers are initiating studies tailored for the SAA population, such as the OurHealth Study and the Rutgers-led South Asian Diet Study. However, there's still a pressing need for more research with underrepresented groups like Indo-Caribbeans.

We at SAPHA are dedicated to uplifting work that addresses these health disparities amongst SAAs, especially in the areas of cardiovascular diseases, mental health, and social determinants of health.

By advocating for more research and tailored interventions, SAPHA aims to reduce health inequities and address the unique needs of the SAA community. You can help support our goal participating in the previously mentioned study and reaching out to us to share your work!

Indian American Impact 2024 Summit & Gala

We are thrilled to share that Indian American Impact's 2024 Summit & Gala: Desis Decide will take place on May 15-16 in Washington, D.C.!

This isn't just another gathering; it's a rallying cry for Indian and South Asian Americans to recognize the pivotal role we play in shaping the political landscape of our nation. In the upcoming 2024 election, our community has the potential to be the margin of victory, influencing outcomes and determining who represents us on the national stage. 

Don’t miss it — RSVP today at!

Seizing the Moment: Environmental Action for South Asian Americans

As we approach Earth Day on April 22, it's essential to reflect on our collective responsibility towards environmental protection, particularly as South Asians. Throughout history, Asians and those within the Asian diaspora have been at the forefront of the environmental justice movement. Our home countries in South Asia face some of the most severe impacts of climate change, including intensified heat waves, cyclones, droughts, and floods. With our rich landscapes of mangrove forests, coral reefs, and diverse ecosystems, these environmental challenges hit close to home. With an increase in environmental disasters, the urgency for action is palpable.

However, as South Asian Americans, we face another layer of concern, considering the United States' historical role as the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. This reality poses significant risks to sea levels, extreme weather events, and overall climate stability, impacting both our homeland and adopted country.

In response to these challenges, SAPHA has taken proactive steps by participating in the Climate Health Organizing Fellows Program. This educational initiative aims to empower health professionals to develop and advocate for climate solutions. Through this program, our team, "Desis for Environmental Safety Interventions (DESI)," consisting of President Samira Khan, Communications Co-chair Thoin Begum, and Research Co-chair Anto Paul, is working towards establishing a South Asian Climate Health Justice coalition. Our goal is to advocate for health equity and justice within the South Asian community.

This initiative is especially crucial as many South Asian ethnic enclaves across the United States, such as those in Jackson Heights, Queens, face environmental challenges such as limited green spaces and high air pollution. Through interviews conducted with South Asians in Queens, New York, the DESI team discovered that many individuals do not connect their living environments with their health outcomes, while others feel they lack the time to address environmental concerns.

In response, SAPHA is collaborating with community and faith-based organizations to identify and address the environmental and health priorities of South Asian Americans. We invite you to join our efforts by becoming part of our working group, as we strive to create healthier living and working environments for all South Asians. 

Now is the time for South Asian Americans to unite in the fight for environmental justice, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.

Casteism in the US

Casteism, characterized by actions or structures that aim to constrain, impede, or categorize individuals based on their perceived caste, predominantly traces its roots to India. Its impact on public health is profound, fostering social exclusion and perpetuating health disparities among marginalized groups, notably the Dalit community, which comprises those formerly labeled as "untouchables" or "Scheduled Castes." April marks Dalit History Month, a period dedicated to spotlighting the history, culture, and contributions of Dalits, fostering awareness about their struggles, achievements, and resilience, while also combating caste-based discrimination and advocating for social justice and equality.

However, casteism transcends borders, emerging as a global issue that affects marginalized communities worldwide, including within the United States. Here, casteism mirrors racism, contributing to disparities and marginalization, particularly among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations, whose experiences are often sidelined, resulting in substandard palliative care and inadequate pain management. Within the US healthcare system, entrenched structural inequities further compound disparities in access to care, posing a pressing concern for South Asians who are frequently overlooked due to the pervasive model minority myth.

Casteism's influence extends beyond India to South Asia and its diaspora, shaping attitudes within public health systems and perpetuating inequalities in healthcare access and treatment based on perceived social hierarchies. In the US, manifestations of casteism and social segregation manifest in disparities in end-of-life care, lower rates of hospice utilization, and the neglect of complementary and alternative medicine practices favored by specific cultural and ethnic groups.

Although the specific expressions of casteism may vary across regions, such as social segregation in countries with religious or cultural majorities like Bangladesh, the underlying issues of marginalization, discrimination, and inequitable healthcare access remain pervasive across contexts.

In March 2023, Equality Labs initiated a groundbreaking campaign for SB-403, a bill introduced by Senator Aisha Wahab to ban caste-based discrimination in California. Despite Governor Gavin Newsom's veto, the bill's journey through the legislature marks a crucial step in addressing caste-based discrimination in the US.

Research Opportunities

Additional Reads

A Proclamation on National Public Health Week, 2024

Meet 13 Asian and Asian Diasporic Nature and Environment Writers

Find something to do this Earth Day

SAPHA mourns the life of 19-year old Bangladeshi youth, Win Rozario, who was killed by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Read our complete statement on our website.

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. Read about it on our website.

In Case You Missed It: Dil Se: A Virtual Town Hall on South Asian Cardiovascular Health

Last month, SAPHA hosted a virtual Town Hall in partnership with the OurHealth Study team to discuss cardiovascular health and the need for additional research amongst South Asians. You can catch the full event on youtube. Additionally, our town hall was featured in NRI Pulse, you can read the article on their website. Finally, for more information on the OurHealth study and to enroll, check out their website.

Organizational Spotlight

Equality Labs is a transnational South Asian feminist organization working to end caste apartheid, gender-based violence, Islamophobia, white supremacy and religious intolerance. Co-founded in 2015 by Dalit artist and activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan to address the global need for healing and reconciliation from the trauma of caste, the organization has made numerous impacts in the areas of civil rights, digital security, and leadership development. Examples include conducting the first ever U.S. survey on caste in the diaspora, providing leadership training to over 350 organizations and companies, and the addition of caste protections at many institutions including all 23 California State University campuses. You can also check out their podcast series “Caste in the USA” hosted on all forums. 

Follow Equality Labs and their work on X (formerly Twitter)Instagram, YouTube and Facebook

South Asian Public Health Association Spotlight Series

Our Spotlight Series delves into the remarkable careers and journeys of public health pioneers, with a special emphasis on the South Asian community. In our upcoming fourth episode, we feature Sharmila Rao Thakkar, an independent nonprofit and philanthropic advisor and consultant based in NYC.

Check out our third episode on Spotify or YouTube and stay tuned for Ms. Thakkar’s feature next week!

Thanks for checking out SAPHA!

Support SAPHA as we work towards advancing health equity and well-being within the South Asian community. Your contribution fuels vital research, advocacy, and outreach efforts aimed at tackling pressing public health challenges. Join us in making a meaningful difference today.

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