The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded Rutgers $11.6 million in funding to create a Center for Asian Health Promotion and Equity. The center will serve as a regional hub for researchers to conduct studies on cardiometabolic disease and mental health issues in the New Jersey and New York Areas.
Asians are the fastest growing yet most understudied minority group in the United States at 23 million people, having grown 26% from 2010-2019. From 1992 to 2018, only 0.17% of the National Institutes of Health’s budget went to studying Asian, native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Americans.
Bei Wu, one of principal investigators for the new center, said, “These health inequities are further complicated by the heterogeneity of these immigrant populations, especially with respect to culture, religion, language, sexual identity, and trauma exposure, many of which challenge our assumptions about the ‘model minority’ stereotype around Asian-Americans.”
In an interview with NPR, Doris Chang, an associate professor of psychology at New York University, drew the connections between the under-reporting of hate crimes and mental health. In one of Chang’s ongoing studies, she surveyed roughly 700 Asian Americans across the U.S., at least 40% of them reported one or more incidents of in-person racism including verbal harassment, physical assaults and property damage. Those experiences also came with a decrease in mental health for Chang’s participants.
“That shows us how under-reported these events really are, how pervasive they are across our community, and that they’re happening to many, many more of us than are actually reporting it,” Chang says.
To further enhance their reach, the Rutgers institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research will work closely with New York University on the project. The Rutgers-NYU Center for Asian Health Promotion and Equity intends to focus on cardiometabolic disease and mental health research to inform both practice and policy at community, regional, and national levels.
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