Temple’s Center for Asian Health, a unique research branch, serves the city’s Asian population.
Some young people display little concern for their health, but according to a research branch at Temple, many struggling Asian Americans living in Philadelphia don’t have the same education and awareness of health risks to enjoy that freedom.
Grace Ma, a public health professor, acted to change this behavior by starting the Center for Asian Health at Temple 10 years ago.
According to CAH literature, lung cancer rates are 18 percent higher among Americans of Vietnamese descent than Caucasians.
The group also said Asian Americans are up to 10 times more likely to have liver cancer than the whole population, while Korean men suffer from stomach cancer more than any other demographic in the United States.
Ma is working to change these statistics of partially preventable cancers at the Public Health Department and close the social gap between Asian immigrants and healthcare. The CAH is one of the first research branches in the nation to fight cancer in Asian-American populations.
Since the CAH got its start, the branch has acted as a network bridge between more than 80 community organizations, research institutions, hospitals and health clinics. It also has groups of organizers, including the Asian Community Cancer Coalition and the Asian Community Cancer Network, which hold community workshops and run campaigns through media outlets to highlight cancer awareness.
Another group under the CAH, the Generation of Asian Leadership conducts research on the ground level by studying smokers and acting as an intervention group to help them quit in six months. The staff talks to smokers in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Cambodian communities face-to-face about habit-kicking ideas.
The section’s coordinator, Joanne Rhee, said cultural background is an important factor in these studies.
“Most of the people that we talk to do quit,” she said.
Other groups offer hepatitis B screening and vaccinations, breast cancer seminars and osteoporosis and diabetes prevention meetings.
Most of the funding for the CAH comes from federal and state grants.
Public Health Department Chairman Ian Greaves said few researchers at Temple have received as much funding as Ma.
“She has established a strong national and international reputation, something that takes a long time to put together,” Greaves said.
Greaves added while the program isn’t a service to the student body directly, the research can cut the price of health care for an underserved population.
“The whole area of health disparity is an important issue of the department,” Greaves said. “It’s important that we actually provide the necessary information to these groups.”
Research shows that, in general, health in Philadelphia’s population is poor compared to other regions. Philadelphia County, according to a recent report, ranks last out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in a list of the healthiest populations. Chester County is at the top of the list, while neighboring Montgomery County ranked fifth.
The study, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, was based on health factors such as diabetic screening, teen birth rate, children in poverty and adult smoking.
Ian Romano can be reached at email@example.com.