Cardiovascular Disease


Hepatitis B




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Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD or heart disease) was the leading cause of death for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) men and women in 1980 and continues to remain the top disease killer for AAPIs in 2010. The lack of progress in a generation’s time poses an important public health challenge, especially in the Chicago metropolitan area where there are approximately 558,000 people of Asian descent, making this area the 6th largest concentration of AAPIs in the nation and largest in the Midwest region. Heart disease in AAPIs is highly correlated with adult diabetes mellitus, a co-morbidity that increases the health burden for Asian immigrant populations who are already highly vulnerable to negative health outcomes. 2008 NHIS data suggests that the prevalence of diabetes mellitus is higher among Asian Americans (4.3-8.2%) than Caucasians (3.8-6%). For some ethnic groups (e.g., South Asians) diabetes prevalence was as high as 14%. Research shows that despite the “model minority myth” that surrounds Asians, many tend to engage in poor health behaviors. Only 17.8% of Asian Americans met 2008 Federal Physical Activity Guidelines. Some Asian ethnicities tend to have high rates of smoking. For example, a survey conducted in Chicago’s Chinatown area revealed that over 30% of Chinese men living in this area smoke. Studies have shown that immigrant AAPIs also underutilize health services (NIH, 2000). Working in collaboration with community-based organization (CBO) partners, AHC aims to address these and other risk factors in order to reduce CVD and diabetes incidence in Chicago’s AAPI population.

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Diabetes is often influenced by genetic and social determinants (such an lack of insurance, cost of meds, language barriers), and Asian Americans have been found to have higher diabetes prevalence rates of Diabetes than Whites, and comparable rates to Hispanics and African Americans. In fact, Diabetes remains the 5th leading cause of death in Asian Americans. It was discovered through the Chicago Asian Community Surveys research initiative that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Chicago’s Asian communities is strikingly high, notably 10% in the Chinese community, 9% in the Cambodian community, and 15% in the Vietnamese community. These rates are much higher than the national rate of diabetes of 7%. Asian immigrant and refugee communities face significant barriers to accessing health programs and services, often related to cultural and linguistic differences, health insurance status, and attitudes towards the western health care system. Specific to diabetes control, members from the three communities expressed a lack of diabetes health awareness, knowledge, and literacy to effectively self-manage this chronic condition. AHC, along with community partners, use both quantitative data and supplemental qualitative data from the CACS initiative to guide the development of diabetes self-management programs (DSMP) for targeted Asian Communities.

To learn more, please click the buttons below to see our current and past projects:

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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious global health problem that affects Asians disproportionately. Of the 2 billion people infected with the hepatitis B virus worldwide, more than 350 million have chronic (lifelong) infections. Chronically infected persons are at high risk for cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure, diseases that kill about 1 million persons each year. Chronic hepatitis B infection is present in 5% to 15% of Asians living in the Chicago area (rates vary by ethnic group), far higher than the 1%-2% prevalence of chronic hepatitis B infection in the general U.S. population. Fortunately, Hepatitis B is preventable with safe and effective vaccines for children and adults. Early detection through screening is key for preventing the onset of serious liver disease in those who are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus.

Watch our Hepatitis B Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring our community partners!

Emerging from such need is the Chicago based Hepatitis Education and Prevention & Immunization Program (HEPP) initiated by the Asian Health Coalition in 1997 to:

  • Improve hepatitis B immunization rates among Asian and Pacific Islander children from birth to 18 years;

  • Raise public awareness of hepatitis risk factors

  • Reduce the incidence of liver disease and cancer through early recognition of chronic infection

  • Provide health professionals with up-to-date guidelines for diagnosis and treatment.

In 2000, the program’s mission expanded to include prevention of childhood communicable diseases through education and vaccine promotion. The program is community-based, providing education to Asian and African immigrants and refugees in their native languages by lay health educators who are trained and supervised by AHC.

The program is currently funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health. Gilead Sciences and the Uptown Neighborhood Health Center are also providing additional support for the program’s screening and immunization events.

For more information regarding this project, please contact Alia Ryan at (312) 372-7070 ext. 228, or alia@asianhealth.org

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Until recently HIV surveillance among Asian immigrants was inconsistent or completely uncollected, and for many years the disease received little attention in this ethnic community. However, in 2007, CDC reported that Asians were the only racial/ethnic group in the U.S. to experience statistically significant increases in HIV/AIDS diagnosis rates. A particular concern which may be a contributing factor is the low rates of HIV/AIDS testing amongst Asian Americans.

Asian Americans are generally ignored in current HIV/AIDS prevention efforts because the overall numbers of HIV/AIDS infections are low. Furthermore few studies distinguish between Asian Americans and the “Other” racial category, leading to a lack of statistical data about the prevalence in the community. Because of the marginalization of Asian Americans in the HIV/AIDS debate, little funding has gone to HIV/AIDS prevention programs that focus on the Asian American community.

A multitude of reports urge the development of culturally sensitive HIV prevention programs for communities of color (NIH Consensus Panel, 1997); however, there has only been one controlled study to date examining the efficacy of an HIV prevention program for an AAPI population in the United States (Choi et al., 1996). The need to develop and test culturally specific programs for these populations is urgent. AHC has developed culturally tailored HIV awareness campaigns for the AAPI communities in the Chicago metropolitan area through its Fight Ignorance Campaign working with front-line anchor staff at Asian Community-Based Organization (CBOs) and continues to In addition AHC also has a long history with HIV capacity building assistance through its previous national collaboration with the Asia Pacific islander Wellness Center and Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum on the Banyan Tree Project from 2003-2009. The Banyan Tree Project is a nationally funded initiative to provide capacity building assistance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under Funding Opportunity Announcement 09-906. It is a national campaign to end the silence and shame surrounding HIV/AIDS in Asian communities and produces an annual social marketing campaign, the National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and capacity building assistance programs, targeting community-based organizations serving Asians.

AHC was the Midwest regional partner for the Banyan Tree project and provided capacity building assistance for community agencies to improve their HIV program’s ability to achieve their mission and goals more effectively. The activities covered during AHC’s 6-year participation in the project included the following:
• providing HIV prevention community development and technical assistance services for Midwest community organizations through trainings, individual technical consultations, referrals and resource development and dissemination
• providing HIV prevention technical assistance services for strengthening adaptation, diffusion, implementation and evaluation of effective HIV prevention interventions serving high-risk and people living with HIV in A&PI communities in the Midwest region.

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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.