South Asians in general and Indians in particular are susceptible to diabetes and lack of regular medical checkup complicates the problem, experts have said.
Apart from regular exercise and periodic visits to a General Practitioner (often the family doctor) and a few lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of the disease.
This was among the observations made by a number of specialists, researchers and medical practitioners at the Fourth Annual Wellbeing Conference held last month at the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health Tamaki Campus in Auckland.
Four international mental and physical health experts presented empirical data on the health issues of Asian immigrants around the world.
They said the risk of diabetes can be reduced by eating healthier food and engaging in more activity.
Among the experts were Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Diabetes and Cardio-Vascular Disease expert (Leicester University, UK), Professor Leighton Ku, Health Policy expert (George Washington University, US), Associate Professor Sukanya Ray and Associate Professor Samson Tse, Mental Health experts respectively from Suffolk University, Boston, US and Hong Kong University.
Our studies in New Zealand clearly matched the experience recounted by the experts.
During my presentation, I provided evidence on the social determinants of the health of Asians in New Zealand.
I suggested a paradigm shift in the way we consider Asian health.
We need to move away from a pathological view and consider the impacts of systemic issues on health.
A post-conference symposium was held in Wellington to further this discussion and find possible solutions to the concerned issues.
Professor Khunti presented compelling data on diabetes amongst South Asians and Chinese, saying that the former in particular have a genetic predisposition for the disease, which exacerbates due to lifestyle factors in New Zealand.
Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes is increasing globally and in many cases, remains undiagnosed. South Asians have two to six times higher prevalence compared to white populations,” he said.
According to him, South Asians are also at increased risk of developing diabetes at an earlier age with attendant complications.
“They have 50% increased mortality related to cardiovascular disease. This increased susceptibility to diabetes and cardiovascular disease is thought to be at least partly determined by genetic and environmental factors,” he said.
Recent data suggest that psychological risk factors may also be a contributing factor.
Lifestyle intervention accrues major benefits in preventing diabetes.
However, South Asians identify a number of barriers to prevention of diabetes, including certain health beliefs and practices relating to diet, attitudes to physical activity, religious beliefs, levels of underlying knowledge about diabetes, and attitudes to the concept of self-management.
In order to understand the impact of culture on diabetes, we need to look at a number of factors, including migration, diet, physical activity, tobacco use, socio-economic status, language barriers, access to health services and attitudes to medical treatment.
Dr Amritha Sobrun-Maharaj is Director of the Centre for Asian Health Research and Evaluation at the Tamaki Campus of the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health. She was also the Convenor of the Fourth Annual Wellbeing Conference.
Dr Amritha (front row centre), with Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor Leighton Ku, Professor Alistair Woodward, Head of the School of Population Health and Dr Samson Tse at the Tamaki Campus
Research in Mt Roskill
If you were to eat at a few selected restaurants in Auckland’s Mt Roskill area, you may be treated to an additional salad instead of a soft drink or served a couple of main dishes at no extra cost.
If you were to purchase groceries from one of the well-known retail outlets in the same area, you may find an Information Poster on Fats and Oil and pamphlets that caution on health issues.
These are among the efforts being concerted by
Dr Amritha Sobrun-Maharaj, Director, Centre for Asian Health Research and Evaluation at the School of Population Health of the University of Auckland and Public Health * Marketing Research expert Dr Sherly Parackal have been conducting research in Mt Roskill area on the occurrence of diabetes among South Asians,
The Auckland District Health Board is funding the project called, ‘The Mt Roskill South Asian Healthy Eating and Healthy Activity.’ The Asian Network Incorporated, an organisation dedicated to the wellbeing of Asians, is supporting the project.
Five restaurants and takeaway outlets are participating in the Project. They include Bombay Chinese Takeaway.
Namaste Food and Spices Ltd, RRK Foods, Sri Ganesh Traders and Yogiji Food Mart are among the grocery shops that are supporting the Centre.
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