Health

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society.

Compared to other ethnic groups, cigarette smoking is at the lowest rate for AAPIs, yet over 75 percent of lung cancer deaths can be linked to cigarette smoking, per a study.

Smoking prevalence varies among AAPI subgroups. Based on a 2016 CDC mortality report, 20 percent of Korean Americans surveyed smoked. Following were Vietnamese Americans at 16.3 percent, and, the lowest, Chinese Americans at 7.6 percent.

Similar results were shown in 2006 data collected by the National Latino and Asian American Study: About 1 in 3 Korean and Vietnamese Americans smoke.

The percentages indicate about less than a quarter of each subgroup is affected by smoking, but many behind-the-scenes activities suggest these numbers are much lower than reported.

Kevin Trieu, a program coordinator at Asian Health Coalition based in Chicago, expressed fear in a Medill News Service report, saying Asian Americans are not well represented in these cancer or smoking studies.

Most of the smoking rate surveys are in English, and many AAPIs, especially those of older generations, only speak their non-English native language, said Trieu. Easily, this leads to inaccurate data, which, although unintentional, does not take into account the smoking issues of certain generations.

Elaine Ishihara, director of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Against Tobacco, expressed similar concerns in a Northwest Asian Weekly report.

“Many studies use phone surveys as a measuring tool, and they are only done in English and Spanish. They don’t desegregate that data — not [showing a different rate for] youths, not reflective of different communities. It’s very misleading,” said Ishihara.

Ishihara added, “Community members said that messages weren’t reaching them. We need resources that are [in their] language and culturally appropriate. If it’s not in [their] languages, people are not going to notice it.”

Only mitigating language barriers will not significantly decrease smoking rates, so many organizations, like Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy & Leadership, take multifaceted approaches to prevent smoking.

“[APPEAL] believe[s] that there are these core elements that are important in being able to get a community’s norms changed, to become tobacco-free. … That means raising awareness of the harms of tobacco but also building the expertise at a local community, to become better advocates,” said Rod Lew, executive director of APPEAL, in an interview. “We also believe that there needs to be investment into communities, to eventually engage … in tobacco policy change.”

Tobacco tax is one national policy that effectively curbs smoking rates and generates more funds to further investigate prevention methods, mentioned Lew. And, historically, increases in the prices of cigarettes have led to decreases in smoking rates, according to a study. Every 10 percent price increase was correlated with a 2.5 to 5 percent overall decrease in smoking.

But, the issue of smoking cannot be resolved with just one policy or community member. Each community or individual reacts differently to various methods; smoking prevention and quitting need to be relevant for each smoker.

In one study, foreign-born Asian men were found to smoke more than Asian men born in the States, but, conversely, Asian women born in the States were found to smoke more than foreign-born Asian women.

“How we view race and ethnicity – because it’s really more than that. Just because we find race and ethnic differences doesn’t mean it’s due to that. It’s likely due to other factors,” said Elizabeth D`Amico, an adjunct professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Similarly, on the California Watch, data on smoking disparities revealed that nearly all Vietnamese men surveyed said smoking would harm their health, but less than 80 percent of Koreans surveyed believed the statement. And, the longer an Asian immigrant stayed in America, the less likely they were to smoke.

“Each [community] has a different smoking rate … so it’s really important that each region has data to be able to prioritize how to address tobacco disparity. … [It] is important to be able to have a way of looking at how best to provide cessation and treatment for nicotine and cigarette addiction,” said Lew.

“The key is to really create [smoking cessation] programming that’s inclusive and that resonates, that’s developmentally appropriate. I think that’s a big key from times when people create programs [and] they don’t think about,” said D`Amico.

For more information on smoking and smoking prevention, check out these organizations: APICAT, APPEAL, CDC

While boredly scrolling through your Facebook timeline during class, you don’t expect to receive crushing news, news that makes you stop what you’re doing and leaves you there motionless. I got the devastating news that one of my friends died of Acute Myeloid Leukemia on June 4, 2013. It was not the greatest surprise; he was yo-yoing in his health the past two years, constantly coming in and out of the hospital. Even when you know that death is inevitable at that point, it is still shocking and heartbreaking to actually hear the news.

There was a period where his health improved after he received a bone marrow transplant. The most likely match comes from a close family member, but none of them were a match. Instead, he had to wait until a stranger was found to be a match for him. Eventually, a match was found, but the cancer had already taken a substantial toll on his body.

Bone marrow matches are usually found in people of the same ethnicity as the patient. This is because matches are found looking at human leukocyte antigen types which are genetically  inherited. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, 76% of African Americans, 84% of AAPIs, 90% of American Indians, 83% of Hispanics, and 97% of Whites will be able to find a match in the United States. This means that many patients, primarily of minority descent, will not be able find a bone marrow donor. This data also does not include how quickly a match was found, a factor that contributes to the effectiveness of the treatment.

“Less than 35% of the people in the national bone marrow registry are ethnic minorities. Since donor matches are more likely to be found within the same ethnicity, this makes it very hard for patients of minority races to find a match,” said Kerilyn Sato, College Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator of Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M), a Southern California-based bone marrow registry. “It is important for us to give every patient an equal opportunity for a second chance at life.”

Over the past few years, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with the Asian American Donor Program (AADP), a Bay Area nonprofit organization who aims to promote bone marrow donation in minority communities. This is an off-branch of the Be the Match Foundation, focusing on Asian American donation in Northern California. Through this organization, I have worked firsthand with the donation process and met a few of the patients and their families. While their stories are different, the hope that each of the families possesses is the same.

I’m no longer in the area to work with the AADP but while I was on summer break from college, I heard that they were holding a bone marrow drive close to me. Without a second thought, I cleared my schedule to make sure I would be able to help out. This drive was targeted at the Vietnamese community to help Trish, a 12-year-old girl suffering from aplastic anemia, who dreams of becoming a doctor when she is older.

It’s an amazing experience to go into different communities and educate them about the process of bone marrow donation where misinformation is rampant. Many people do not know how technology has advanced the donation process and think of the old process that involves a surgery.

Today, the main method of bone marrow donation is by peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation. This is a non-surgical procedure where blood is passed through a machine that collects the blood-forming cells then deposits the blood back into your body. In rare cases, a surgical procedure will be done where bone marrow is taken from the pelvic bone surgically. Both processes have side effects that last usually less than two weeks.

A few days of discomfort is a worth trade-off for helping save the life of a mother, father, brother, sister, or friend. There are many ethnic minority people like Trish who are waiting to match with someone in the registry, some who may never find a match. AADP, A3M, and other organizations will continue the fight against blood diseases for as long as there is a patient who cannot find a match. In the meantime, remember, you have the ability to save a life.

 

For more information about Trish’s story click here and to register to help save Trish and other patients in the registry click here.

Last Saturday, October 26, the James Bridges Theater of UCLA screened The Laundromat, an award-winning documentary on the stigma of mental health problems and its silence within Asian American cultures. Vanessa Yee, graduate from UCLA with a MFA in Production and Directing, started the film project four years ago. The documentary follows the personal stories of her friends who dealt with depression, isolation and the inability to voice their concerns to their friends or family. In a personal submission to Hyphen news magazine (2011), Yee shares what the film sought to explore:

“I was only planning to be the dogged interviewer … in search of an answer to, What does it mean to break your silence? … I talked to three of my friends who had each experienced depression and great loss, but were learning to seek counseling and air their dirty laundry.”

However, in the midst of editing the film, Yee felt something was lacking: “How could I make a documentary about dealing with personal pain and cultural stigma without also asking myself the same questions?” Struggling with the inability to talk about her own depression with her parents, Yee decided to include herself as a subject in the film. As a result of placing herself in a vulnerable position, Yee was able to produce a more intimate and cohesive film.

During her time in college, Yee learned the news of her mother’s pancreatitis and hospitalization. She noticed that her family kept the knowledge of her mother’s condition to themselves. No one outside of their immediate family was aware, and Yee was afraid to tell anyone because no one talked about these things, and there must be a reason behind this silence.

According to Yee’s research, depression isn’t seen or acknowledged to be a real problem by many Asian American families (especially first generation immigrants). A second generation Asian American student at UCLA shares a time when she opened up to her mom about her depression. Her mother brushed off the issue as if it were a matter of choice:

“You’re sad? Just stop being sad.”

This disbelief in mental health problems and the prolonged silence plays a big factor in furthering those affected into a deeper state of isolation and emotional distance from others. Yee chose to explore mental health through an Asian American lens because of the cultural pressures to keep silent. They are not to talk about personal or family problems in order to “keep face” and not shame – or stigmatize – the family. Yet, through the process of filming and the characters sharing their stories with Yee and the camera, the documentary reveals how opening up and sharing these secrets with others can become part of the healing process. Yee’s friends were able to talk about their experiences and the pressures and self-harm that result from trying to protect the reputation of the family.

After the screening, there was a Q&A panel for audience members to ask questions and discuss the implications of the documentary. Carol Miyake, member of the panel and a counselor from Asian American Christian Counseling Service (AACCS), discussed the film’s significance. Miyake states that she believes the film has great potential to open up discussions about mental health and create a more safe and accepting space within Asian American communities. More importantly, she says it is a profound way for family members and professionals to discuss nuances such as generational gaps and shame-based cultures that can lead to mental health problems.

Due to practical reasons such as the length of the film, the documentary is limited in its coverage, lacking a larger array of perspectives. Though the film offers no concrete solution to the problem of silence and mental health, the film does offer various ways to deal with the problem: counseling, finding a supportive community, opening up to the camera, and/or revealing the secret to a family member. In her personal experience, Yee says that her community and network of friends were able to support her through her depression.

Interested in learning more about how to help those in isolation with little support, I raised the question:

“What about people who can’t find a community? Aside from counseling, where can they find support?” I knew a friend who had received peer counseling and even professional counseling, but none of it was effective or beneficial according to him.

Yee replied: “To be honest, I just got really lucky to find this community and support.”

I knew it was a hard question, one that hadn’t been looked into or researched enough. Yet, the documentary is a big step in opening the door for more dialogue and exploration on the issues of silence and the near absence of resources addressing the root of mental health problems. Counseling continues to be the immediate and favored solution, or coping mechanism, to alleviate those who experience depression and related mental issues.

Although the documentary is unable to capture everyone’s stories, Yee is currently working on an interactive website (atthelaundromat.com) for people to form a community and have a place to share their ‘dirty laundry’ secrets and stories. Yee states her intention for the website is “to create a safe place for the Asian American community to speak on why we are like this, [and to] come clean about the secrets and shame we hide in the Asian American community.”

Interested in watching the documentary? You can follow the film’s production blog for news of upcoming screenings: http://thelaundromatdocjourney.wordpress.com/.

Without further ado, here’s the trailer:

500 cities across the globe were united in the March Against Monsanto Corporation held on October 12. The worldwide rallies and push towards labeling laws and prohibitions regarding genetically modified organisms (GMO) have again, ignited the ongoing debate concerning severe health issues related to GMO’s and the danger of consequent harmful chemicals near residential areas. Strong restrictions on GMO products are already in place in over 60 countries, yet Monsanto’s company website assures the wary that their genetically engineered products are safe and undergo extensive testing.

The American biotech giant based in St. Louis, Missouri has earned $1.48 billion in a 3-month period this year, on the rise from $1.21 billion for the same segment in previous years. Currently the United States is the leading producer of GMO crops in the world. NonGMOproject.org finds that 90% of corn and 95% of soy used within the U.S. has been genetically modified.

Last week, the Big Island of Hawaii’s County Council Committee passed two GMO prohibition bills following a 6-hour debate, which culminated in a vote of 6-2. Bill 113 outlaws all propaganda, experimental testing and open-air cultivation of GMO’s on the island except for papayas, which have been modified in 1990 to withstand the ringspot virus. These GMO papayas make up 75% of all of Hawaii’s papaya production today. Those found growing new GMO crops on the Big Island could face 30 days in jail and be fined up to $1,000 per day. Bill 109 plans to prohibit all GMO plants, animals and feed. Transgressors will face jail time. Both bills will progress to the full council this week, where further advancement to the Mayor may follow.

Testimonies included biologist Michael Hyson among others. Hyson explained the uncertainty of GMO’s and their link to serious health issues, premature death, tumors and sterility. Dennis Gonsalves, a leader in the modification of papaya against the ringspot virus testified against both bills: “The bills simply limit the capacity of the scientists to work to help farmers.” On the other side, a local farmer saw pigs avoiding GMO fruit. Bill 2491, a third restriction for the island of Kauai was passed on October 16 by a vote of 6-1 and will go into effect in nine months. Local Kauai residents camped out overnight to have a seat in the small courthouse for the 19-hour debate.

The bill requires all farmers to disclose if their crops are GMO’s, publicize detailed information about all chemical use, times they will spray and quantities along with keeping buffer areas between their fields and public areas. The bill also requires farmers to conduct health and environmental impact studies in their county.

The topic of biotech hits home with Hawaiians, since multinational companies, Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, DOW and BASF have been experimenting throughout Oahu, Kauai and Molokai for years. Islanders fear the adverse effects to Hawaii’s fragile environment due to chemical pesticide runoff into the ocean and soil. If the bill is passed, these corporations will not be able to expand production to the Big Island.

So this is my favorite go-to snack when I come home from a long dragged-out day at school and all I want is something to chomp on. It only requires two ingredients, and so far I’ve never met anyone who’s slapped these two ingredients together like I have. You ready? Here goes:

Ingredients:
Cucumbers
Hummus

I generally use Costco’s Red Pepper hummus, simply because it comes in a giant T-rex sized tub. But I am a firm believer in the versatility of hummus and I believe that any flavor hummus will do.

Written by Deanna Hoang-Yen Tran

The Asian-American and Pacific Islander community’s label as the model minority is detrimental to the well-being of the community.

In response to the topic of the model minority myth, a female Asian UCLA pre-med student majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology stated, “I believe that a lot of Asians come here in the United States with already some kind of stability, some kind of financial or economic upper hand that other racial groups may not have when they come here. In terms of the model minority myth where they work hard and pursue high education and climb the social ladder, I believe it goes hand-in-hand with the Asian values that are ingrained in us where you have to work hard, thinking about your family so that you have to find good jobs and be able to support them to provide stability.”

The model minority myth is believed by both non-Asians and Asians, posing an even greater danger towards future advances in the community. Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, PhD, MA, MN, RN, FAAN Faculty Associate, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research professor, UCLA School of Public Health and Department of Asian-American Studies, revealed the facts of the model minority myth in an interview.

API Stereotype:

●        The “model minority” is a term coined by the government, implying that if the other minorities followed the example of Asians, the other minorities wouldn’t have any problems that required federal aid or assistance.

●        The model minority claims Asians are (1) healthy (2) wealthy (3) highly educated. This stereotype for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community has proved detrimental for members of the community who seek aid from the government. Other minority groups, primarily African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians, claim that their communities lack these three traits and therefore require more governmental assistance. This has resulted in more fighting between the minority groups since Asians are being set up against the other groups.

Needs:

●        In reality, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders do need aid in health care. Members of the community are ineligible for many health care programs, but their health issues are becoming worse. Asian-American and Pacific Islanders have one of the lowest amounts of federal aid in cancer, which is the number one cause for death for the community. The community is one of the only groups where breast cancer rates are rising. Concerning the obesity epidemic in the United States where 2/3 of the people in this country are overweight or obese, Asian-American youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have the highest rates of obesity of all of the ethnic population groups.

●        More research needs to be done on the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community’s health problems. The statistics that do exist aggregate all of the subgroups of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, of which there are more than 50 different nationalities.

●        In studies that compile the subgroups of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, which number to be more than 50, much of the needs of the smaller groups become invisible. The community also has the highest level of limited English proficiency of the ethnic population groups, and 67% of the population is composed of first-generation immigrants. Therefore, the statistics from English surveys are not representative of the entire population and the numbers obtained are called insufficient for analysis.

●        A study in PubMed revealed that only 0.01% or 0.02% of funding for grants was related to Asian Pacific Islanders.

Why these needs are not being met:

●        The needs of the community are not being recognized. Asian-Americans believe the model minority myth themselves, as well as the power structure that would fund the required grants. Without support and awareness, the issues are being left untended.

●        The required statistics and research necessary to justify the claims of the advocates for more funding and assistance to the community is not being done. There is still a significant miscommunication concerning the needs of the community, resulting from a language and cultural barrier.

What actions should take place:

●        More awareness and attention of the needs of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community is needed to promote advocacy for government aid to resolve the health issues of the community.

●        The people in positions of power should implement action and display more concern for the community

●        Research needs to be done to determine the actual numbers of the community, and the data collection must be done in a manner that regards the diversity of the nationalities and the high percentage of immigrants in the population.

●        Asian-Americans have the right to be eligible for the programs and governmental aid provided to other minority groups. Funding from the government should be allocated to tackle the rising health issues of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

●        The miscommunication problems between the community, researchers, and policy makers need to be resolved. In order to discover the true numbers within the community, services such as translators should be established.

Professor Kagawa-Singer teaches a class on API health at the School of Public Health. This class is open to undergraduate UCLA students.

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