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SAPHA - South Asian Public Health Association - logo

Newsletter - March 2023


Celebrating International Women’s Day!

The theme of this year is #EmbraceEquity and to embrace this theme, President Biden and Vice President Harris introduced the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. This strategy addresses barriers faced by historically marginalized groups including women of color, LGBTQIA+ people, those with disabilities, and everyone living with persistent poverty and inequality. 

“The difference between equity and equality is that equality is everyone get the same thing and equity is everyone get the things they deserve.”

— DeRay Mckesson, Civil Rights Activist

Equality versus Equity

“Gender equality, equality between men and women…does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they were born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.” –United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESDOC)

Read more here.

It is important to recognize that inequities have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several women’s health services and movements have been defunded or stopped during the global crisis due to limited resources and many have not returned to pre-pandemic operations. Grassroots organizations were hit the hardest. Read about the study done by Oxfam with WROs across the Global South and allies in the Global North.

This International Women’s Day, SAPHA recognizes the commendable work of South Asian female researchers in the US!

Namratha R Kandula, MD, MPH

Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine) and Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology), Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine 

Dr. Kandula’s research has made fundamental contributions to how immigration, culture, and social context shape health. She has advanced health equity by working with stakeholders and communities to adapt and implement prevention interventions that reach health disparity populations. She has focused on transforming healthcare delivery to be patient and community-centered. 

Nadia S. Islam, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Population Health, NYU Langone Health 

Dr. Islam is the principal investigator of several National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded initiatives evaluating the impact of community health worker intervention on chronic disease management and prevention in diverse populations. She co-directs the NYU-CUNY Prevention Research Center (PRC), the Community Engagement and Population Health Research core of NYU’s Clinical Translational Science Institute, and the Community Engagement Pillar for IEHE. She is a lead investigator in the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health, the nation’s only NIH-funded research center of excellence dedicated to eliminating disparities in Asian communities.  

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Meghana Gadgil, MD

Internist, Preventionist, amateur writer, and respecter of nature, UCSF Health 

Dr. Meghana Gadgil is a specialist in internal medicine who provides primary care to adults who take a humanistic approach to patient care. In her research, Dr. Gadgil studies nutrition and its role in preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, particularly in women. Dr. Gadgil is a member of the Society of General Internal Medicine and American Diabetes Association.

Unjali Gujral, MPH, PhD

Assistant Professor at Emory University

Dr. Gujral’s research area of interest lies primarily in type 2 diabetes etiology, pathophysiology, and risk reduction in South Asian populations both in India and the United States. In 2012, Dr. Gujral received a Fulbright Nehru Scholarship allowing her to spend 9 months in Chennai, India working closely with collaborators at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation.

Naheed Ahmed, PhD

NYU Grossman School of Medicine

As a health equity researcher Dr. Ahmed’s research focuses on public health and health disparities among minority racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

Shivani A. Patel, MPH, PhD

Assistant Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health | Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Dr. Patel is a social epidemiologist. Her research is guided by an overarching interest in describing and understanding disparities in cardio-metabolic disease morbidity and mortality globally, with a particular focus on South Asia. 

Research & News Highlights

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:

March is National Nutrition Month

In March we raise awareness of the benefits of having a healthy and nutritious diet. South Asians are four times more likely to develop heart disease than the general population. They can have serious cardiovascular diseases even with a normal BMI. Diet is a manageable risk factor which can help reduce the risks. Diet becomes an increasing concern with Ramadan starting soon. While intermittent fasting is actively being discussed, Ramadan poses no danger to healthy people. However, Muslim patients with acute or chronic medical conditions need to stay well-educated and informed of potential risk factors, as fasting may adversely affect their health if not addressed properly. There are nearly 90 million diabetic Muslims worldwide and estimates show that 79% of Type 2 diabetes patients fast during Ramadan. It is important to have a preRamadan medical assessment and let your primary care physician know that you are planning to fast so that you both are aware of risk factors and can closely monitor your health!

There is quite a bit of research on this topic:

Nutrition transition in South Asia: the emergence of non-communicable chronic diseases

The Association between Acculturation and Dietary Patterns of South Asian Immigrants

Diet quality and risk factors for cardiovascular disease among South Asians in Alberta

Colorectal Cancer (CRC)

CRC is the second most prevalent cancer which affects both men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Age is one of the biggest factors, with nearly every 9 in 10 CRC cases being among men and women aged 50 or older. However, CRC cases are increasing among those younger than 50 years of age. What is worrisome is that CRC incidence trends show a significant decrease in other Asian groups and in Non-Hispanic Whites between 1988-2014, but not in South Asians. Early detection can save lives and reduce healthcare costs. You can learn more about what the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has been doing here

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Happy Holi!

SAPHA wants to wish all its members a Happy Holi! The Festival of Colors is one of the most popular and significant festivals celebrated in India and all parts of the world.

Interestingly, bright colors are a catalyst for our brain, exciting it with happy emotions. Our brain releases many endogenous opioids that give us that euphoric feeling. Furthermore, during this festival, running, jumping, and dancing are a great way to get in some high intensity exercises. Play is great for brain health and overall wellbeing! 

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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