The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the bipartisan South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act (H.R. 3131) Sept. 9, 2020, readying it for a vote before the full House of Representatives later this month.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington. with the objective of raising awareness about the “alarming” rate of heart disease in South Asian communities in the United States while investing in strategies to reverse this deadly trend, a press release from Jayapal’s office said.
“As the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, I am fully committed to not only raising awareness and educating the South Asian community about the risk factors for heart disease but also ensuring that those living with heart disease receive the care, treatment, resources and support they need,” Congresswoman Jayapal is quoted saying in the press release. “I am proud that this urgently necessary legislation passed committee today and I won’t stop fighting until it becomes law.”
Studies have shown that South Asians in the United States—people who immigrated from or whose families immigrated from countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal—are experiencing a dramatic rise in heart disease, pointing to a February 2019 article in the New York Times.
South Asians make up 25 percent of the world’s population but 50 percent of global cardiovascular deaths.
Additionally, South Asian Americans are four times more at risk of developing 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, which is a leading cause of heart disease, the press release noted.
House Resolution 3131 contains provisions that would allow for directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to create grants, such as South Asian Heart Health Promotion Grants at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide funding for community groups involved in South Asian heart health promotion and to develop culturally appropriate materials to promote heart health in the South Asian community.
It would also direct the HHS Secretary to fund grants through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research on cardiovascular disease and other heart ailments among communities disproportionately affected by heart disease, such as South Asian populations living in the United States, and develop a clearinghouse and web portal of information on heart health research, such as South Asian heart health.
The bipartisan legislation—originally introduced in 2017 with Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, has 40 co-sponsors in the House and is endorsed by the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Stroke Association, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, South Asian Public Health Association, Hindu American Foundation, Hindu American Physicians in Seva, South Asian Health Lifestyle Intervention, MASALA, AAPCHO, Mended Hearts, Bangladesh Medical Association of North America and South Asian Heart Center.