NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Focused on AAPI Well-Being

New Scientific Interest Group Holds First Events

Dr. Joel Wong
Dr. Joel Wong

Since its establishment in 2021, the NIH Asian American Pacific Islander Health Scientific Interest Group (AAPI-HSIG) has made headway on its goal to advance the NIH mission and improve AAPI health by organizing its first events focused on AAPI well-being. 

In 2022, AAPI-HSIG will begin a culturally relevant webinar series focused on AAPI mental health. The first speaker will be Dr. Joel Wong of Indiana University, Bloomington, who will present on Tuesday, Jan. 18 from 11 a.m. to noon ET. He will give a talk titled “AAPI Mental Health: Progress and Prospects.” The lecture is open to the public. Register here:

In AAPI-HSIG’s inaugural seminar last September, NIMHD director Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable opened by discussing the importance of data disaggregation and use of interpreters in language-discordant encounters for AAPI. 

Dr. Grace Ma of Temple University gave a presentation, “Health Disparities Research: Addressing Multilevel Social Determinants of Health in Asian American and Pacific Islander Populations.” She discussed AAPI heterogeneity, model minority health invisibility in scientific research and multilevel approaches to population health equity. 

Dr. Grace Ma
Dr. Grace Ma

Ma also touched on hepatitis B, diabetes and cancer as priority health concerns for AAPIs. She also highlighted the less-apparent ways Covid-19 has affected AAPI health. Several needs in clinical research and clinical trials involving AAPI groups were discussed during Q&As, including the improvement of AAPI recruitment to increase statistical power, enhancing culturally sensitive mental health research efforts and boosting data disaggregation through separation of Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians and Asian Americans when collecting clinical data.

Last November, Dr. Mindy DeRouen of the University of California, San Francisco, presented “Incidence of Lung Cancer Among Never-Smoking Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Females.” DeRouen’s talk highlighted the first study to show increased burden of lung cancer among most subgroups of AANHPI females who have never smoked. 

Dr. Mindy DeRouen
Dr. Mindy DeRouen

Findings from this study show that pneumonia, tuberculosis and residing in neighborhoods with limited English proficiency may confer increased lung cancer risk. DeRouen explained how these results can inform screening practices, further targeted research in this area and public health priorities. 

Several other factors were discussed during Q&As: education level, immigration status and family history. The webinar was the starting point for AAPI-HSIG to stimulate research important to identify risk factors (e.g., genetic susceptibility, environmental and lifestyle factors) for precise prevention. 

Comparing molecular features or mutation characteristics across different diverse AANHPI and non-AANHPI ethnic groups can inform cancer etiology, subtype identification and precision treatment development. It is important to investigate ethnic differences in genetic predisposition that impact cancer outcomes and treatment response. 

The interest group hopes to have more crucial discussions during the annual AAPH Health Research Symposium in May during AAPI Heritage Month. Find AAPI-HSIG’s vision at The group published the first issue of its bi-monthly newsletter last November. 

AAPI-HSIG’s ongoing initiatives also include conducting an analysis of NIH funding of AAPI health research, developing AANHPI health-related MeSH terms and planning the annual symposium tentatively set for May 4.—Dan Xi, Catherine Yu, Karen Qi 

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