Temple’s Ma Addresses Health Disparities
Dr. Grace X. Ma spoke on “Health Disparity Research in Diverse Asian American Populations: Present and Future” at an NIH seminar recently co-sponsored by the NIH Asian and Pacific Islander American Organization (APAO) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Ma is associate dean for health disparities, founding director of the Center for Asian Health, Laura H. Carnell professor of public health and professor in clinical sciences at Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University.
She discussed the driving force for Asian health disparity research, health disparities confronting Asian Americans, highlights from disparity research at the Temple Center for Asian Health and research opportunities for reducing health disparities among Asian Americans and other underrepresented populations.
Ma talked about the high rates of stomach, liver and cervical cancer among Asian Americans. She noted that more than half of Asian Americans diagnosed with diabetes did not know they had the disease and that they are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes despite having lower body weight (BMI).
Asian Americans ages 20-24 had the highest suicide rate. Ma emphasized the importance of culturally tailored interventions in areas such as mental health and minority health research. Her research projects were supported by NIMHD and NCI.
Ma described some of the projects at Temple. About a hundred attendees learned about community-based participatory research principles and how such a model has been effective in community and clinical settings.
One interesting example is the Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative, in which the center collaborated with several groups. The project’s goal was to reduce sodium at the area’s more than 300 Chinese take-out restaurants and improve the health of customers, who are predominantly from African-American and Latino- American communities in which hypertension is especially widespread.
Ma described how a New York professional chef taught the restaurant chefs healthy ingredient alternatives in free classes. These restaurants received certificates of participation and marketing materials. In blind taste-test sessions, people not only liked the dishes but many did not notice the reduced salt. Key to the program’s success, Ma emphasized, was community engagement and especially work with African-American pastors, who took an active part in health education with their congregations.