Indians ahead in heart diseases with high mortality rates

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The Asian Network Inc Study analyses data and challenges

(The Asian Network Inc Research Cover)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, October 11, 2021

Member of the Indian community, including New Zealand-born Indians, are susceptible to cardiovascular diseases resulting in high mortality rates while Asians, in general, are seriously affected by Diabetes and Cancer says the latest research work published by The Asian Network Inc (TANI), an organisation dedicated to improving the lot of Asian communities.

The Study, titled, ‘Asian Public Health in Aotearoa New Zealand,’ was released today (October 11, 2021) by Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan at a virtual conference attended by more than 125 people from across New Zealand.

Improving service delivery

Ms Radhakrishnan said that her government is committed to improving service delivery in the public health sector and is aware of the special needs of Asian people.

“I have had the pleasure of being associated with TANI for many years and I am extremely proud of its work. The wellbeing of the Asian communities is a priority for the government, and we look forward to closer engagement to promote their wellbeing. We will study the findings of the Research and take appropriate action,” she said.

While delivery of services is itself a problem, there are many other challenges that the Asian population counters in New Zealand.

Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan (INL Photo)

Racism, discrimination challenges

TANI Director Vishal Rishi said that these include racism, discrimination, language barriers, cultural differences and lack of appropriate services.

He called for a National Plan or Strategy as an important step in achieving the national objective of improving Asian health.

“Such a Plan will give a consistent approach to Asian Health for the entire country and could provide a good framework for more targeted services, increased culturally appropriate workforce, increased engagement and accessibility and an improvement in Asian-inclusive public health research and data collection,” he said.

Mr Rishi said that the government should also address Mental Health issues on priority.

Vishal Rishi, Director, The Asian Network Inc

CVD risks among Indians

Sally Wong, who was involved with the Research, said that members of the Indian community in New Zealand, especially men, had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than Europeans.

“In comparison, Chinese and Other Asians (Non-Chinese, Non-Indian identifying Asians) had a lower risk than Europeans,” she said.

Ms Wong said that New Zealand has not analysed other subgroups. With the rapid increase of the Asian population since 2013, it is important that further analysis is conducted to ensure any issues are identified, she said.

As well as citing Cardiovascular disease rates as higher in Indian men than women compared to other ethnic groups, the Research found that they also had the highest presence of prior coronary heart disease.

Citing the observations of Corina Grey, Rod Jackson, Susan Wells, Billy Wu, Katrina Poppe, Matire Harwood, Gerhard Sundborn and Andrew J Kerr in an article that appeared in the New Zealand Medical Journal, the TANI Research Study said that Indians in New Zealand had a higher rate of mortality from ischaemic heart disease than other Asians (i.e., Non-Indian identifying Asians) and Europeans.

“Additionally, Indians had the highest rates of hospitalisation for ischaemic heart disease of all groups (Maori, Pacific, European, Other Asians),” it said.

The Study found that South Asians in New Zealand are more likely to need treatment for hypertension and high cholesterol.

Sally Wong, Researcher

Diabetes high among Asians

The TANI Research cited the 2018-2019 New Zealand Health Survey that accounted for Type II diabetes among Asians at 9.3%, higher than Maori (8.4%) and European & Other (4.9%).

“Analysis of the 2012-2013 data showed those identifying as South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bengali, Nepali, Afghani) had significantly higher rates of diabetes than Chinese or other Asians (Non-South Asian Non-Chinese identifying Asians). Indian people, in particular, have a high prevalence of diabetes when compared to New Zealand Europeans. This has been echoed in the analysis of Auckland and Waitemata District Health Board statistics, where the Indian population had higher mortality rates from diabetes compared with other Asian ethnic groups,” it said.

Lung Cancer takes more lives

According to TANI, the most diagnosed cancers for Asians in New Zealand are lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer.

“Incidence of cancer is lower than for other ethnic groups, except for thyroid cancer, where rates are higher. However, their participation in screening is also low. Asians have a low cancer mortality rate when observed as a whole. However, cancer mortality rates were lowest for the Indian population when compared to other Asian subgroups. It is thought that the lower smoking rates of Indians may contribute to this. In addition, it was found that Chinese cancer mortality rates increased with length of time in New Zealand,” it said.

The most common cause of cancer death for Asians in New Zealand is lung cancer, followed by breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

(Image from The Asian Network Inc Study)

Drinking and Smoking habits

Asian adults who were born in New Zealand or had lived in the country for more than 10 years were more likely to drink alcohol than those living here for less than 10 years. A similar pattern is seen in Asian youth, with those born in or living in New Zealand for more than five years being more likely to drink alcohol than newer migrants. There is evidence that drinking is used to help cope with the stress of migration and acculturation.

“Asians have the lowest smoking rate (6.8%) when observed as a whole. Asian men have a significantly higher smoking rate (11.0%) than Asian women (2.8%). This occurs for all Asian ethnicities. Those most likely to report regular smoking were men identifying as Korean (14.6%), Vietnamese (14.4%), Thai (13.4%), or Chinese (12.6%),” TANI said.

The Research has also analysed Gambling and Mental Health as issues affecting Asian health.

Mr Rishi said that Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic group in New Zealand. Asians have a diverse variety of ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures and thus have varied health needs. The Asian population is projected to reach 26% of the total by 2043. It is therefore important that their health issues are not overlooked,” he said.

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