Albert Einstein College of Medicine
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Research

South Asian Health Research

South Asian immigrants are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States and include over three million individuals, of whom more than a third live in the New York City metropolitan region. Despite its large and growing number, South Asians have received almost no attention from the research community. This is due in part to their early reputation as a ‘model minority,’ in part to their geographic dispersion and cultural diversity, and in part to significant reluctance of many South Asians to participate in research. Only a handful of National Institute of Health funded studies have been conducted in US South Asian communities. This is of particular concern given the evidence regarding significant health and treatment disparities in this group, compared to native born Whites. Poor access to care, low birth weight and infant malnutrition, poor oral health, and depression are among the problems that have been identified. However, the heaviest disease burden relates to metabolic syndrome and related problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Due to a possible genetic vulnerability, South Asians are nearly 4 times more likely to develop diabetes and CVD than whites, after controlling for BMI. There is a pressing need for more research into these health disparities.

 

SAPPHIRE Research Network

SAPPHIRE is a primary-care based research network comprised of physicians/practices, researchers, and community organizations who all work to advance the health of South Asians in New York City, and the United States as a whole. Combining expertise in practice-based research and community-based participatory research methods, SAPPHIRE has created a unique practice-based research network. Our long term goal is to develop sustainable research infrastructure that can support and nourish health research in this underserved and understudied group. SAPPHIRE will achieve this goal through partnership structure that will include: Albert Einstein researchers; a group of 25 clinical practices serving the South Asian community; three community-based organizations serving the New York South Asian community; and an advisory group of patient community members. To develop the partnership and its capacity to conduct research, we will carry out a number of structured activities including: a needs assessment, development of materials to support participating practices (e.g. a health education library, a clearinghouse for social service referrals), and a pilot research project using trained South Asian community health workers.

SAPPHIRE provides the needed infrastructure to develop research programs in this underserved population. New York may be the only geographic location in which such a network is feasible, given the relative density of the South Asian population. Through SAPPHIRE, researchers can access research participants and practices for studies of health services, health behaviors, prevalence and cohort studies, and research into genetics and disease biomarkers. In addition, the location of the network within primary care facilitates the development of intervention studies aimed at life style and behavior change that are needed in order to address the major health impact of metabolic syndrome and related disorders.

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