Are Asian Americans really the Healthiest Americans?

healthSince beginning the year, my family has been dealing with a number of medical issues, from emergency operations to life style changes stemming from chronic conditions.  When I saw that The Center for Disease Control has released a study looking at the Health of Asian Americans that declares that Asian Americans are more likely to be healthier than the average American, it really got my attention.  To its credit, the report disaggregates the data between Asian ethnicities, making conclusions such as Vietnamese Americans are more likely to have poorer health than the general population.  But what does it mean that Asian Americans are the healthiest Americans?  How applicable is that to all Asian Americans?  What does the study miss?

Some of its conclusions match with my anecdotal observations.  It finds that Filipino Americans have the most chronic health conditions of the major Asian American ethnic groups.  That’s certainly true in my observations, and in other studies that we have mentioned in the past.  It also points out the differences in health between different Asian American groups, as Chinese Americans population, prosperity and health generally skews the aggregate Asian American to make the overall group healthier than the American Average.

What does the study miss?  Some observers have pointed out potential problems with self-reporting and with the surprisingly low numbers (8%) who needed translation.   This 8% conflicts with a 16.6% of the same respondents who rate their ability to speak English as “not well or not at all.”  Some think that this might skew the numbers to not reflect elderly immigrants who might not speak English and who could be in poor health.   I would have liked to seen the numbers broken down by generation.  There is evidence that adoption of American lifestyles increases health risks, and that kind of data and closer analysis of inter-generational behavior changes could be useful not only to Asian Americans but to the American population as a whole.  Also, the report is a summary of data and makes no recommendations.

I think that the report is useful and definitely shows some interesting results.  It has some flaws, but should be thought of as a beginning step to further study.

(h/t:  Efren)

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Author: Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.