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

Newsletter- February 2024

February 2024 Newsletter


Heart Health Month

February is American Heart month, aimed at raising awareness about cardiovascular health and promoting heart disease prevention. These health conditions are particularly concerning for South Asian Americans, who typically  have elevated baseline risk and earlier onset of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to other ethnicities. Much of this risk is attributed to increased consumption of high fat and processed foods, high levels of stress and a genetic predisposition as South Asians tend to have higher lipoprotein(a) levels than other ethnic groups. 

Research Opportunity 

 OurHealth studies health and genetic information of South Asians living in the United States to better prevent and manage cardiovascular disease risk to tackle heart disease. South Asians represent 23% of the global population and have twice the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to Europeans, they are significantly underrepresented in genetic studies and research. Learn more about their study and become a participant to drive their research forward. 

February 4 is recognized as American Cancer Day. Studies show that SAAs have a lower risk of cancer compared to blacks, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, or other Asians. There is a slightly higher risk among SAAs compared to whites.  Additionally, there is a severe lack of research and tracking of cancers among SAAs. Despite the low rates of cancer incidence in comparison to other sub-groups, cancers are the second leading cause of death for Asian-Indian immigrants. 

In particular, the high incidence of oral/mouth cancers in both Indians and Asian-Indian immigrants may be due to the use of cultural smokeless tobacco (CST) products such as paan, paan masala, and gutka, which may contribute to the high rates of CVD and oral cancers, which are widespread among SAAs. 

Of the few studies conducted with SAAs, they have found that there are disparities among SAAs with colon cancer. SAAs were less likely to have received a timely colonoscopy compared to Hispanics. Age, health insurance, poverty group, and education were significant predictors. While there are several on-going local and national campaigns to increase colonoscopy, they are not targeted to SAAs. 

Additionally, hepatitis B and C are endemic in South Asian countries. These infections are problematic due to factors such as inadequate sanitation, healthcare infrastructure, and preventive measures. Chronic hepatitis B and C infections can significantly increase the risk of liver cancer. Unlike other cancers, the incidence of liver cancer is increasing, particularly among Asian Americans. 

South Asian Health Initiative launched the Supporting Taxi Drivers to Exercise through Pedometers (STEP) and the Smokeless Tobacco Product Prevention and Awareness Network (STOP PAAN) programs to help SAAs reduce their risks of cancers through  targeted, linguistically- and culturally-adapted campaigns.

Advocating Together

The South Asian Youth Initiative (SAYI) is a student-led organization at Yale University, aimed at creating community amongst young South Asians and South Asian-Americans from all over the US while also serving as a forum for activism, discussion, and solidarity. Follow along to learn about their recent conference and stay connected with their progress. 

The Power In Numbers campaign is a national community-led effort to drive lasting policy change and investments in civic engagement that empower and ensure our AANHPI communities are respected, recognized, and prioritized.

Campaign Goals:

  1. Push state & federal policymakers to meet the policy needs of AANHPI communities on key data equity issues to ensure we are visibilized and prioritized
  2. Publish accurate and timely data-powered insights & tools on AANHPI communities to create positive social and policy impact
  3. Amplify and engage AANHPI communities at the state and local level to demonstrate our power in numbers and increase investment in civic engagement

Together, we have the #PowerInNumbers.

Celebrating Black History Month

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to recognize the interconnectedness and shared struggles among diverse communities.

From the civil rights movements of the 1960s to contemporary struggles for racial justice, South Asians have stood shoulder to shoulder with Black communities in the fight against systemic racism and discrimination. Yet, as we commemorate Black history, we must also acknowledge the complexities within South Asian communities, including issues of colorism, casteism, and anti-Blackness. It's a time for self-reflection and solidarity, to confront these internal prejudices and work towards building a more inclusive society for all.

As we honor the achievements and resilience of Black people throughout history, let us also reaffirm our commitment to allyship, amplifying Black voices, and continuing the fight for justice and equality, not just during Black History Month, but every day of the year. 

Recommended readings:

Long History Black Asian Solidarity

Black Lives Matter’s Movement to fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice 

South Asian Public Health Association Spotlight Series

Our  Spotlight Series dives into the extraordinary careers and journeys of public health pioneers, with a special focus on the South Asian community. Our second episode features Dr. Umair Shah, Secretary of Health for the state of Washington, and the first South Asian to assume this role in the state’s history. 

Check out our first episode on Spotify or YouTube and stay tuned for Dr. Shah’s story later this week!

Did you enjoy the content in this newsletter? Consider supporting SAPHA by making a donation. Every contribution, no matter the size, brings us one step closer to our shared vision of connecting people, ideas, and resources to advance the health of South Asian Americans. Together, we can create positive change in our community and beyond. 


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