New book spotlights health disparities for South Asian Americans

Memoona Hasnain

Dr. Memoona Hasnain. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Dr. Memoona Hasnain, professor of family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the lead editor of a new book about the health of South Asian Americans.

“The Health of South Asians in the United States: An Evidence-based Guide for Policy and Program Development” focuses on people who came to the U.S. from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

An immigrant from Pakistan who studies minority health issues, Hasnain says that while South Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing minority populations in the U.S., there is a lack of research on health care issues specific to this group.

“For many years, South Asian Americans were considered a ‘model minority,'” Hasnain said. “This erroneous perception that people from South Asian countries always achieve social and economic success has created a gap in our understanding of the significant health disparities experienced by this group.”

Hasnain, who is associate head for faculty development and research in UIC’s family medicine department, serves on the board of the South Asian Public Health Association and is chair of the organization’s research committee. She credits the ongoing work of this group to expand the body of research available about South Asian American health care issues as the inspiration for the new book.

“South Asian Americans bring with them unique languages, cultures, religions and perspectives that directly impact their health-related practices,” Hasnain said. “Unless we take the time to research and understand the unique characteristics that impact this group’s health, it will always be a challenge to provide patient-centered and culturally-appropriate care for this understudied and vulnerable population.”

Hasnain and her co- editors call attention to the high rates of chronic conditions, intimate-partner violence and tobacco use in the South Asian American community. The book discusses research-based recommendations to help improve the health and well-being of South Asian Americans.

“This book builds on our continuum of enhancing education, awareness, scholarship, advocacy and action to understand and address the health needs of minority and vulnerable populations at the patient, provider and health systems levels,” Hasnain said.

Each chapter went through rigorous external peer-review by national experts, Hasnain said, “to ensure that we bring the most up-to-date and high-quality evidence to readers.”

“We hope the information in this book will be widely used and applied for best practices, teaching, training, policy development and will also spark ideas for future research.”

Co-editors on the book are Punam Parikh of the UCLA School of Medicine and Nitasha Chaudhary Nagaraj of the George Washington University.

The book is available on amazon and

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