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Parmila Jayapal discusses the state of South Asian healthUW University of Washington Cardiologists work with U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal to solve cardiovascular issues within the South Asian community.

Over the course of the past few years, U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal has been advocating to make a change in the South Asian community. On August 3rd, 2017, Jayapal introduced the H.R. 3592 Bill titled the South Asian Health Awareness and Research Act (co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Wilson), which aims to give notice of the escalating rate of heart disease in the South Asian community through research. Throughout this process, she has been working with number of University of Washington Cardiologists to help solve these issues.

Doctors McCabe, Yang, Krishnan, and Steiner all worked with Rep Jayapal for the South Asian Research Act

Jayapal Visits UWMC

Rep. Jayapal recently visited the UW Medical Center (UWMC) to tour the facilities, and as Dr. Sandeep Krishnan says “‘discuss matters important to our cardiology practices, including obstacles to getting prior authorizations from insurers for patients’ care’”. She met with Cardiologists Dr. Jamie McCabe, Dr. Eugene Yang, and Dr. Sandeep Krishnan, in which each physician shared their own experiences dealing with the cycle of denials, appeals, and authorizations patients are constantly waiting for.

According to Dr. Krishnan, South Asians may visually appear to be relatively skinny, though they actually have a higher degree of fat than other populations due to their diet. A typical South Asian diet consists of a high amount of carbohydrates, which genetically their bodies do not process and metabolize at a high enough rate. Couple those two together, and the risk of diabetes increases, also leading to potential cardiovascular diseases.


Dr. McCabe and Rep. Jayapal discuss Cardiovascular Disease
Dr. McCabe and Rep. Jayapal discuss Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. Steiner educates congress members on Cardiovascular Disease
Dr. Steiner educates congress members on Cardiovascular Disease

Making an Impact on the Hill

In addition to Rep. Jayapal’s visit to the UWMC, she teamed up with UW Cardiology Fellow Dr. Jill Steiner to hold a discussion at a congressional briefing. Dr. Steiner represented the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the Division of Cardiology, with the intention of moderating the panel and educating members of congress about Cardiovascular disease within the South Asian community. Dr. Steiner gladly shared with us some details about the discussion, and how it went about.

The discussion was in preparation for the introduction of the bill to the House, speaking with other representatives, their clerks, and community members to highlight the issues driving the bill. Prior to the meeting, Dr. Steiner met with advocacy staff from the ACC to prepare a “fact sheet for distribution which contained information about the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease in the South Asian population, contributing risk factors and health conditions, and how the actions proposed by H.R. 3592 would address these concerns.” She brought the facts straight to Congress, depicting the issue with facts such as “people of South Asian descent are four times more likely to have heart disease, and up to 10 years earlier than other ethnic groups”, with mortality “50% higher”, and how “heart disease and related diseases occur in the absence of traditional risk factors (ie. obesity).” While some of it is due to diet and lifestyle, genetics also come into play in this situation.

Dr. Steiner portrayed the importance of the research to group, and how the data researchers have today isn’t enough, stating, “existing research has excluded this demographic and we need more knowledge.” The discussion involved various American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) members sharing personal anecdotes, as well as the audience asking a lot of good questions. One major theme Dr. Steiner found throughout the conversation, was the “importance of culturally-appropriate materials and programs that would resonate with the intended audience, particularly as it regards to nutrition, health literacy, and breaking down some of the stigma around diabetes and heart disease.” She and the other panel members aimed to use clear vocabulary, avoiding medical jargon as much as possible. With the audience able to comprehend the information handed to them, an engaging discussion occurred, and the support of the Bill was widespread.

We are very proud to have such talented faculty members and fellows who are truly making a change around the world, and we would like to thank Representative Jayapal for her work on this issue.

To read more about Representative Jayapal’s visit, check out the article done by The Huddle.