House re-introduces bipartisan legislation on heart disease among Indian-Americans, South Asians

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Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, re-introduced the South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act June 5, a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, which aims to raise awareness regarding the “alarming” rate of heart disease in the South Asian community and to invest in reversing this trend.

American Heart Association logo (Photo: heart.org)

According to the President of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Richard J. Kovacs, “South Asians living in the U.S. are more likely to die from heart disease than other Americans.” The American College of Cardiology “strongly supports” passage of the South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2019, Kovacs is quoted saying in the press release. “Such an Act would greatly expand research and outreach efforts necessary to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health among our South Asian population,” he noted.

“We thank Congresswoman Jayapal for her leadership and look forward to working with Congress and our counterparts in the health care space to move this bill forward,” Kovacs added.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington. (Photo: profile photo from Rep. Jayapal’s Twitter account)

“Heart disease in the South Asian community has risen to an alarmingly disproportionate level. Our bill will fund research and analysis to identify solutions to these preventable circumstances and ultimately save more lives,” Rep. Jayapal is quoted saying in a press release. “Not only will we prevent deaths within this specific community, but we will pave the way to increased awareness and a better understanding of heart health that will have impacts on the health and well-being of every American,” Jayapal said.

Rep. Wilson echoed Jayapal’s views.

Specifically, this bill if it becomes an Act, seeks to:

  • 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, develop 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 the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on cardiovascular disease and other heart ailments among South Asian populations living in the United States;
  • Include a Sense of Congress that U.S. medical schools should include, as part of their nutrition curriculum, a focus on cultural differences in diets and ways to achieve optimal nutrition in communities that experience substantial heart disease.

South Asians in the United States, which includes people who immigrated from or whose families immigrated from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, have four times the risk of heart disease than the general population, have a much greater chance of having a heart attack before age 50 and have emerged as the ethnic group with the highest prevalence of Type 2 diabetes—a leading cause of heart disease, the press release noted.

The bipartisan bill is backed by a growing list of organizations including the American Heart Association, the Asian Pacific Islander American health forum, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, MASALA (Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association) and AAPCHO (Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations).

 

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