SEATTLE – Rep. Pramila Jayapal announced the introduction of the South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act on Aug. 3. The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, will raise awareness of the alarming rate at which the South Asian community is developing heart disease and will invest in ways to reverse this trend.
“Disproportionate levels of heart disease in the South Asian community are a red flag with a preventable cause,” said Jayapal. “By dedicating funding to research and ways to get the word out on the importance of heart health, we will not only save more lives in the South Asian community, we will also open a door to a new and better understanding of heart health that will benefit all Americans.”
South Asians are the sixth-largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the country.
Despite a traditional diet high in lentils, vegetables, grains, and spices, the Stanford South Asian Translational Heart Initiative found that South Asians have a four times greater risk of developing heart disease than the general population, and a much greater risk of having a heart attack before the age of 50. Additionally, South Asians have emerged as the ethnic group with the highest prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, according to a recent Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study. With diabetes being one of the most serious driving forces for heart disease, these high numbers underscore the urgent need for action.
The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by 19 members of Congress, and is backed by a growing list of organizations, including the South Asian Public Health Association, the Hindu American Foundation, and Hindu American Physicians in Seva.
The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act would:
- Create South Asian Heart Health Promotion Grants at the Centers for Disease Control to develop a clearinghouse and web portal of information on South Asian heart health, create culturally appropriate materials to promote heart health in the South Asian community, and provide grants to work with community groups involved in South Asian heart health promotion;
- Fund grants through NIH to conduct research on cardiovascular disease and other heart ailments among South Asian populations living in the United States;
- Fund grants through USDA’s extramural science granting agency (the National Institute of Food and Agriculture) for the promotion of South Asian heart health nutrition; and
- Urge U.S. medical schools to include a focus on South Asian diet and ways to achieve optimal nutrition in these populations as part of their nutrition curriculum.