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US House passes South Asian heart health awareness bill

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Rep. Pramila Jaypal Photo
Rep. Pramila Jaypal Photo credit: The American Bazaar

Indian American member Pramila Jayapal’s bill seeks strategies to reverse alarming heart disease trend.

US House of Representatives has passed a bill to raise awareness about the alarming rate of heart disease in South Asian communities in the US while investing in strategies to reverse this deadly trend.

The bipartisan legislation — the South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act — sponsored by Indian American house member Pramila Jayapal was passed on Sept. 29.

“As the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, I am fully committed to not only 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,” said Jayapal.

“I am proud that the House passed my bipartisan legislation as a significant step in raising the alarm, reversing the trend of heart disease in our communities and saying to South Asian American communities across the country, we see you and we are ready to help.”

Originally introduced in 2017 with Republican member Joe Wilson, HR 3131 directs 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).

These grants  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 also directs 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 US, and develop a clearinghouse and web portal of information on heart health research, such as South Asian heart health.

Studies cited by Jayapal 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.

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 South Asian American community across the US grew by nearly 40 percent between 2010 and 2017. Seattle has been among the top five metro areas in the country when it comes to the population of certain South Asian groups.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has expressed gratitude to US Congress for passing the bill and urged the US Senate to take up the Bill without further delay.

This would help “South Asians living in the United States to become aware of the risks they face daily due cardiac issues,” AAPI president Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda said Monday.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, president-elect of AAPI, said the bill “recognizes the need for additional resources to be made available for creating awareness, offering preventive measures and treatment to our community, and continuing with the research on this vital healthcare area.”

The legislation is endorsed  among others by AAPI, 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.

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