The 8Asians Writers Talk About: Health Concerns of Asian Americans

asian-doctor-patientOur internal e-mail lists have us discussing all kinds of stuff: Asian American identity, representation in the media, the experiences of activism in an academia setting and its progression as we transition to the working, adult world. And sometimes, we talk about Hep B.

John: [via the New York Times: This article on the specific health concerns of Asians and Asian-Americans, and how the cultural issues of both doctor and patient can effect that.]

Yan: Oh my god. My maternal grandfather died from liver cancer. My family is from Fujian. ::runs to doctor::

Efren: My former doctor (a gay white man) had insisted that I get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B when I first started seeing him, since men who have sex with men are also one of the groups highly affected by hepatitis A and  and I’m really glad I did, especially after I had read about the rates of infection of hepatitis among Asian Americans AND gay men.  Hepatitis is a bigger issue among queer Asian men because of these compounding factors than HIV actually.

I know that there are programs being done here in the Bay Area to get East Asian Americans to become more aware of hepatitis vaccination though I’m not sure how affective they’ve been.

Jeff: My doctor (a Vietnamese guy) had me, The Wife, and the Daughter vaccinated for these when he found out we were going to Asia on a trip.  This is a good reminder to check if my sons have been vaccinated since they were born after we took our last trip to Asia … it appears that kids are now vaccinated against hep A and hep B as standard procedure.

Bo: The Korean church I attended growing up periodically ran Hep A and B vaccination drives.  I’m luckily vaccinated because of this – as is my entire family. I’m aware of a few other illnesses that Asian-Americans are particularly prone to – osteopososis and a form of anemia.  All the women in my family are anemic.  Asians also have higher rates of stomach cancer but that tends to dissipate when you look at 3rd and 4th generation Asian-Americans.  Researchers think the higher rates of stomach cancer are linked to our diet which includes massive quantities of highly preserved foods.

Jeff: Is the Osteoporosis from related to lactose intolerance – hard to get calcium?  Also got any specifics on the type of anemia?

Bo: I don’t think anyones made the link between lactose intolerance and osteoporosis.  That would also mean that blacks were more prone to osteoporosis, which isn’t the case.  White and asian women are at the greatest risk. I believe the anemia is called beta-Thalassaemia but don’t quote me on this one.  I believe people of middle eastern, southeast asian, and east asian origin are most prone to this form.  You may also be aware that people of African heritage are more prone to sickle-cell anemia and people believe this is related to the malaria resistance it provides its carriers.  I don’t know that anyone has shown any tangential benefits for asians to be anemic.  One could theorize that iron-deficant anemia is a result of diet (traditional asian diets being largely plant based) but then you’d see far lower rates of anemia in asian-americans, which isn’t the case.

Jee: I’ll add myself to the statistics: I have chronic anemia (and I refuse to take iron pills because side affects – constipation- is not worth it). I recently had Hepatitis vaccinations because my antibodies were too low. And yeah, osteoporosis in my family is due to the lactose intolerance (I am taking calcium pills for that).

Yan: So, I told this all to my mom, who just kind of rolled her eyes and said that she already knew. Apparently Hep vaccines are commonplace in the hospitals in our region.

Moye: Don’t you love it when moms do that?

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