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

Newsletter- March 2024

March 2024 Newsletter


Breaking the Silence: Sexual Health Challenges in the South Asian American Community

Picture credit: Feminism India

March is a time to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women worldwide. March 8, observed International Women's Day, honoring trailblazers like Kalpana Chawla, Bibha Chowdhuri, and Shobhana Johri Verma. However, amidst the celebrations, SAPHA aims to shed light on sexual and reproductive health disparities among South Asian Americans (SAAs).

The overturn of Roe v. Wade disproportionately impacts SAAs, particularly sexual assault survivors, immigrants, and those marginalized due to caste, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. Sexual health services often receive little to no attention within SAA communities, exacerbating existing disparities. These services include preventive care, health promotion, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) screening and treatment, yet discussions around sexuality remain limited for females and even less for males.

Despite widespread support for sex education, students receive less today than in 1995, and many SAA households avoid discussing sexual and reproductive health altogether. This lack of dialogue contributes to gaps in data on birth control usage and knowledge among SAAs. STIs, including hepatitis B, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, pose significant risks, particularly for Asian women, and marginalized groups within the community often go overlooked in HIV and STI prevention efforts.

Sexual violence is a pressing issue within the SAA community, showing high proportions of survivors, with many perpetrators being South Asian or family members. Organizations like Sakhi provide essential resources to combat this issue. Immigrant SAA young adults face unique challenges related to sexual violence, including acculturative stress and intergenerational cultural conflict.

Numerous barriers, including cultural norms and gender stereotypes, set back access to sexual health services within the SAA community. Overcoming these barriers requires understanding and addressing these cultural and societal expectations. Educating SAA males on sexuality and reproductive health from a young age, despite cultural modesty, is crucial for improving sexual health outcomes.

We encourage initiating open, fact-based discussions on sex education with family members, despite discomfort. To assist in starting these conversations, here are some resources:

  • The Banyan Tree Project - Shares information on HIV stigma in the Asian & Pacific Islander Community
  • South Asian Sexual and Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA) - Defines key terms
  • South Asian Youth in Houston Unite (SAYHU) - Provides personal stories and relatable content
  • South Asians for Abortion - Understand your reproductive rights (or the lack thereof)

Research and News Highlights

Picture credit:

This month, we're highlighting colorectal cancer (CRC), which is particularly pertinent for SAAs. CRC screening rates are low, especially among uninsured immigrants, and many SAAs lack awareness of CRC, its risk factors, and the importance of screening. Physicians play a crucial role in improving CRC screening by engaging in open conversations with their patients and providing culturally sensitive information. Targeted education on CRC tailored to the SAA population can help address specific barriers such as language and acculturation issues, ultimately enhancing screening rates. Find your nearest endoscopy center using this tool and take proactive steps towards CRC prevention and early detection.

March is National Nutrition Month

In last month’s newsletter that featured Heart Health month, it was highlighted that South Asian Americans face a significant burden from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) with a twice higher risk compared to White adults. For National Nutrition month, we stress the importance of a healthy balanced diet for CVD prevention and management. Studies show that diets such as intermittent fasting, vegetarian, and plant based, have been linked with a lower risk of CVD and related conditions but there is a lack of culturally tailored resources for South Asian Americans living with CVD. In addition, with Ramadan approaching, studies have shown that dietary intakes shift and those observing Ramadan should consider food practices and dietary intakes that are healthy and balanced.

Tips for practicing healthy nutrition in March:

  • Consume a balanced diet and one rich in healthy plant-based foods, liquid plant-based oils, high fiber, and lean protein.The MASALA study webpage has tips and recipes for healthy eating and a South Asian Nutrition Tool has been developed
  • Stay hydrated is also important for maintaining health
  • Obtain a pre-medical assessment, especially if observing Ramadan or living with CVD to determine any considerations such as medication or lifestyle adjustments

Watch this video to learn more!

Hot News

Stem cell study offers clue to South Asians’ increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Older Asian Americans hesitant to participate in MRI research

Doctors urge more CPR training for South Asians (video)

Khmer Girls in Action Fight Against Sexual Harassment 

Partnering with Purpose

Interested in collaborating or partnering with SAPHA? We would love to hear from your organization about your work with the South Asian community. We have a variety of ways to work together whether joining a strategic coalition, spotlighting your organization’s services, hosting a town hall, or highlighting policy or a recently published report. Reach out to us at to schedule time to meet about how our goals align and how we can support each other’s vision to uplift our communities. 

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. Episode three features Dr. Arnab Mukherjea, an Associate Professor & Department Chair of Public Health at California State University, East Bay (Cal State East Bay).

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

Dil Se: A Town Hall on South Asian Cardiovascular Health

SAPHA recently partnered with OurHealth, a nonprofit research initiative that enables South Asian-identifying individuals to contribute to cardiovascular research by sharing their samples, their clinical information, and their voices. 

Later today at 5PM EST we will be hosting a town hall with the OurHealth Study investigators. During this event, we'll discuss:

  • The risk of CVD for South Asians
  • The importance of genetics and biomarkers in assessing CVD risk
  • Information about the Our Health Study and how you can get involved as a clinician, researcher, patient, or advocacy organization

Support SAPHA in advancing health equity and well-being within the South Asian community. Your donation enables vital research, advocacy, and outreach initiatives addressing pressing public health challenges. Join us in making a meaningful difference today.


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