New data show major health disparities among Asian groups

Culturally appropriate care contributes to the dramatic disparity in death and disease rates among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, according to American Journal of Public Health data released in March.

For instance, Asian women are the only group in which cancer is the leading cause of death.   Additionally, Asian women suffer increased rates of death due to breast cancer. They are up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than their U.S.-born counterparts.

“Information, not ignorance, must shape the health care agenda for our populations,” said Kathy Lim Ko, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). “Cancer often goes unrecognized and under-treated.”

Other studies show that culturally appropriate care would dramatically lower rates of lung, colon, cervical, and liver cancers among ethnic groups.

Hmongs in California face rates of liver and cervical cancer three to four times higher than those of other Asian groups. Sixty percent of liver cancers and 70 percent of cervical cancers can be prevented through immunization.

“We are failing to adequately address cancer in our communities,” said APIAHF Deputy Director Marguerite Ro, who suggested that “cancer screening and immunization, along with the delivery of culturally appropriate care in languages understandable to the people who need care, would reduce costly, serious illnesses and lower death rates.”

Other findings stated that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are about 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than non-Hispanic whites. Asian Americans, on the other hand, are 50 percent less likely to die from heart disease than whites.

The data appear in the journal’s very first issue to be devoted to Asian Americans and the non-Hispanic Pacific Islander population. ♦

More more information, visit www.ajph.org.

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