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

Newsletter - October 2023


In our vision for better health and well-being for South Asians in the USA and the communities in which they live, the South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) vehemently opposes and condemns all forms of discrimination, racism, and bigotry. We stand against violence and aggression directed at both Palestinian and Israeli civilians and express deep concern regarding the surge in religious attacks in the U.S., stemming from political rhetoric in response to the Gaza humanitarian crisis and the dehumanization of innocent lives.

The South Asian diaspora is well familiar with the enduring ramifications of colonization, which lead to the persistence of generational trauma and has significant implications on health [1]. Our pathways to liberation from these systems of oppression are intertwined. As an organization dedicated to addressing public health issues impacting South Asians in the U.S., we are deeply concerned about hateful rhetoric used by politicians, mainstream media, and others in power. This inflammatory speech mimics the dehumanizing rhetoric used by politicians and the media following 9/11; and the recent rise in Islamophobic attacks are directly related to this harmful rhetoric.

We strongly urge all to contact their representatives to demand an immediate ceasefire and the cessation of financial support by the United States for this ongoing genocide.


In Solidarity,

The SAPHA Board of Directors

[1] Misra, S., Tankasala, N., Yusuf, Y. et al. Health Implications of Racialized State Violence Against South Asians in the USA. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 9, 1–8 (2022).

Celebrating South Asian Diversity in the United States: Hidden Cultures and Health Challenges

As we embrace Global Diversity Awareness Month this October, we recognize the importance of fostering respect and inclusivity by celebrating the diverse cultures and backgrounds that enrich our global community. This observance encourages activities and discussions that emphasize the value of diversity, highlighting its pivotal role in social, economic, and intellectual progress. In the spirit of this month, SAPHA casts a spotlight on South Asian cultures in the United States, shedding light on their unique public health challenges and advocating for solidarity and awareness.


Featured  South Asian Cultures

Bhutanese, Nepali, Sindhi, Maldivian, Burmese, Bengali, and Assamese Americans communities brought their distinctive cultures and stories to the US, contributing to the rich tapestry of our nation.

Unique Public Health Challenges

Many of these communities arrived in the US as refugees and asylum seekers, and their journey left them grappling with mental health issues, stemming from the trauma experienced as refugees and the adjustment to a new lifestyle.

Others face specific health disparities, including an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and a higher prevalence of hepatitis B. These health disparities can be attributed to a combination of genetic factors, lifestyle, and limited access to healthcare.

Barriers Faced by These Communities

All South Asian communities are more likely to face a common set of challenges that affect their health and well-being, including limited access to healthcare, language barriers that hinder effective communication with healthcare providers, a lack of cultural competency in healthcare, economic hardships, and the stigma surrounding mental health.

What You Can Do to Make a Difference

It's crucial that we all support these communities in their journey to better health and well-being. Here are ways you can make a difference:

Advocate for Inclusive Healthcare Policies: Advocate for policies that support healthcare access for immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

Promote Cultural Competency: Encourage funding and programs that facilitate language access and cultural competency training for healthcare providers.

By joining hands in solidarity, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable world where everyone has access to the healthcare they need and deserve. 

Breast Cancer Awareness 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. ​​South Asians are among the fastest-growing ethnic minorities in the United States, and breast cancer rates are rising along with the population. Like most Asians, South Asians are often seen through the lens of the model minority stereotype. 

PC: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

One study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data found that South Asian women were diagnosed with breast cancer at a significantly younger age  than non-Hispanic white women. Additionally, incidence of breast cancer is increasing among South Asian women. Incidence of the disease is increasing at a rate of 1.9% a year, with 1 in 8 South Asian women in the United States facing a lifetime breast cancer risk. Obesity and weight-related disease may play a role in the increased risk observed. 

There is significant stigma related to breast cancer among the South Asian community. Stigma not only adds mental health pressures but it can also lead to delayed care or to avoidance in seeking support from a community that is otherwise traditionally all-embracing. We can help by helping patients by providing culturally relevant materials and resources, including information about the disease in their native language so they could refer to it and share it with family members.

South Asians come from collectivist communities where if one person gets sick everyone bands together. Therefore, it is important to keep that sense of community and remember that its not just about the patient but also their families. 

You can spread breast cancer awareness and minimize risk within South Asian communities by: 

  • Promoting open discussion addressing stigma 
  • Raising awareness about risk factors
  • Promoting the importance of regular mammograms and breast self-exams 
  • Becoming an ambassador
  • Advocating for culturally sensitive care through integration of core cultural values into clinical practice

Domestic Violence 

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The aim of this month is to educate people about domestic violence issues and promote efforts to support victims and hold abusers accountable.


South Asian Americans are disproportionately impacted by interpersonal violence (IPV). Recent studies show that a significant number of SA women have either witnessed violence in their own relationships or between their parents. Factors such as immigration status, and living with in-laws impact the rate of IPV in the South Asian Community. SA women who have lived in the US for less than 3 years, are "far less likely to be aware of IPV-related services available to them". Of SA women who have imported IPV, 15% of the state "experiencing emotional abuse from in-laws." There are many long-term impacts of DV and IPV, one being impacts on mental health.  People who have experienced DV are "Twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder," with one-fourth meeting the criteria for depression.

A recent study on IPV among SA Women during the COVID-19 Pandemic depicted that depressive symptomatology was positively associated with economic abuse among the South Asian sample. This further highlights the long-term impacts of DV and IVP on mental health. 

RSVP here!

This month we celebrate Indigenous people, Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that honors and celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of Indigenous peoples in North America. It serves as an alternative to Columbus Day, recognizing the rich and diverse heritage of Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous communities while acknowledging the complex history of colonialism and its impact on Indigenous populations. Indigenous Peoples' Day is a call for greater awareness, respect, and solidarity with these communities. SAPHA recently published  a Land and Labor Acknowledgement, available on our website

Thanks for checking out SAPHA!

We are constantly finding new ways to promote the health and wellbeing of all our South Asian communities. We do this through advocacy, education and fostering meaningful partnerships in the community! Learn more about our mission or make a donation at!


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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