South Asian Health Disparities

Article | April 2022

South Asian Health Disparities

Find clinical insights and practical tips on how to address health disparities among this diverse population.

A 2019 statistics study cited that the South Asian American community in the U.S. grew 40% from 3.5 million to 5.4 million between 2010 and 2017.1

The South Asian community contains subgroups with differing socio-economic statuses, health care practices, access to care, and patient-provider readiness. This makes it difficult to plan health care initiatives and address gaps in care.

While there is some data exploring South Asian health disparities, more research is needed to identify and address their unique needs.

South Asian Health Disparities

Heart Disease

South Asians have a four-fold greater risk of developing heart disease than the general population.2 They have a higher risk of developing heart disease at a younger age; 50% of heart attacks occur under age 50 while 25% of heart attacks occur under age 40.3

Mental health is fundamental to improving cardiac health among South Asians. First generation South Asian immigrants face challenges such as immigration, acculturation, loneliness, and lack of family and social support.

The stigma of mental health is also a barrier to effective treatment. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and critical mental health interventions, which further prevents patients from achieving ideal cardiovascular health.

Woman smiling while taking a bite out of her salad.

Type 2 Diabetes

South Asians are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even when they are considered to be normal weight or have what is traditionally thought of as a healthy BMI, compared to other ethnic populations, including white, black, and Pima Native American tribe.4 Therefore, diabetes screening for South Asians is suggested if BMI is 23 or greater.5

South Asian Health Disparities Resources

Health Disparities Brief

This brief highlights the importance of preventive care and screening, as well as close monitoring of these five areas of disparities:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Mental health
  • Maternal child health

Download the health disparities brief

South Asians and Heart Health: Take Control Now

This guide can help your patients understand their unique risk factors and encourage them to take an active role in their health care.

View our digital guide

Digital Guide Companion

Use this overview of the South Asian and Heart Health digital guide to help talk to your patients about heart health, prevention, and lifestyle changes.

Download the digital guide companion

Woman checking a man’s heart rate with a stethoscope.

Diabetes in South Asians Training

These modules address key health disparities found within the South Asian population including a deeper exploration of the diversity within the South Asian sub-populations. This provides foundational knowledge regarding specific cultural traits, beliefs, and practices that can enable you to provide culturally responsive care.

Module 1: Overview of Health Disparities among South Asian population. (35 minutes)

Module 2: Three case studies exploring variation within South Asian cultural groups. (15 minutes)

Module 3: Culturally relevant dietary changes and health care navigation tips for patients available in English, Hindi, Nepali, and Urdu.

Access the training series

1 Demographic Snapshot of South Asians in the United States, Strengthening South Asian Communities in America. 2019, https://saalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SAALT-Demographic-Snapshot-2019.pdf.

2 Krishnan, Sandeep. Cover Story – South Asians and Cardiovascular Disease: The Hidden Threat.  American College of Cardiology. 17 May 2019. https://www.ACC.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2019/05/07/12/42/cover-story-south-asians-and-cardiovascular-disease-the-hidden-threat

3 Stanford South Asian Translational Heart Initiative, Stanford Healthcare, 2021, https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-clinics/stanford-south-asian-translational-heart-initiative/conditions.html#about.

4 Narayan, K.M.V., and Kanaya, A.M., Why are South Asians Prone to Type 2 Diabetes? A Hypothesis Based on Underexplored Pathways, Diabetologia 63, 2020, pp. 1103–1109. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-020-05132-5.

5 Diabetes and Asian Americans, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/diabetes-asian-americans.html