SUMMARY: Obesity is an often-overlooked problem in the AAPI community and according to the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), AAPIs have the fastest-growing rate of overweight children. Research has also found that Asian American youth consume fewer fruits/vegetables, have the lowest rates of physical activity, and the highest consumption of fast foods. National studies indicate the prevalence of overweight among Chinese American children ranges from 21.5% to 33.8%. Among youth under the age of 18, data from the Illinois Youth Survey (IYS) conducted in Chinatown, only 12% of the 8th graders, 24% of the 10th graders, and 17% of the 12th graders have met the recommended amount of physical activity (The recommended amount of physical activity for adolescents is 60 minutes of physical activity each day). In addition, only about 20 to 30% of the students consumed the recommended daily values of fruits and vegetables.
The prevailing “model minority myth” perpetuates the belief that Asian Americans do not suffer from obesity. However, according to the US Department of Public Health, 43% of Asian teens consume fast food on a daily basis compared to 35% of white teens. Only 1 in 3 Asian children consumes the recommended daily portion of fruits and vegetables compared to 1 in 2 Caucasian children. Furthermore, WHO indicates that Asians are at a higher risk of weight-related health problems at a lower body-fat count than Caucasians. For example, a 12-year-old Caucasian child who weighs 150 pounds and an Asian child who weighs 125 pounds faces the same incidence of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. In fact, the rate of childhood diabetes among Asians is very high; the rate of diagnosed diabetes in Asian Americans (all ages) is 7.5% compared to 6.6% of Caucasians.