Pacific Islanders have high obesity, smoking rates

September 24, 2012

In the first study to detail the health of Pacific Islanders living in the United States, University of Michigan researchers have found alarmingly high rates of obesity and smoking.

The preliminary findings are being presented today (Sept. 24) at a conference in Los Angeles on health disparities among and Pacific Islanders.

"Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the second fastest growing in the U.S.," said Sela Panapasa, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research and principal investigator of the Pacific Islander . "But they are often underrepresented in national surveys.

"This is the first scientific study to assess the health, well-being and health care use of two subgroups of this important population— and Tongans. Our hope is that this will lead to the development of evidence-based interventions and policies to improve the health of these groups, and also serve as a model for similar studies of other subgroups of this population."

For the study, the research team interviewed a random sample of 239 California households in 2011 and 2012. Half were Tongans living in the San Mateo area and half were Samoans living in the Los Angeles area. Trained Samoan and Tongan interviewers collected information on a wide range of health conditions and among adults and adolescents in the households.

Among the key preliminary findings:

  • Smoking rates among were three to four times higher than for other Californians, and more than twice as high as in the U.S. overall. About 46 percent of Pacific Islander adults said they were current smokers, compared to 13 percent of all California adults and 20 percent of U.S. adults. Among Pacific Islander adolescents, 23 percent said they had tried , compared to just 3.5 percent of California teens.
  • More than half of Pacific Islander adolescents were overweight or obese based on their . More than 80 percent of Pacific Islander adults had a BMI that indicated they were overweight or obese.
  • Pacific Islander adults were much less likely than other adults to see a dentist (47 percent, compared to 86 percent of all Californians), and Pacific Islander women were less likely to have ever gotten a mammogram (53 percent, compared to 73 percent of Californians).
  • Pacific Islander adults age 50 and older were much less likely to have ever had a colonoscopy (31 percent, compared to 78 percent of Californians). Only 24 percent of Pacific Islander women ever had a colonoscopy, compared to 79 percent of California women.
  • Pacific Islander teens were much more likely than other adolescents to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. For example, nearly 47 percent of Tongan teens surveyed admitted to trying alcohol, compared to 36 percent of California teens overall. And 25 percent of Pacific Islander teens had tried any drug, compared to just 14 percent of California teens overall.
"By identifying the problem areas facing specific Pacific Islander communities, we can finally begin to chart a course to develop interventions that will help to reduce these health disparities and build healthy communities," Panapasa said.

Explore further: Young Asian/Pacific islander women in Calif. face higher breast cancer risk

Related Stories

Young Asian/Pacific islander women in Calif. face higher breast cancer risk

June 21, 2011
Young Asian and Pacific Islander women born in California have higher risks of breast cancer than young white women, and some groups, including Filipinas, might have higher risks than African-Americans, according to a new ...

Two million Californians report mental health needs; most receive little or no treatment

November 30, 2011
Nearly 2 million adults in California, about 8 percent of the population, need mental health treatment, but the majority receive no services or inadequate services, despite a state law mandating that health insurance providers ...

Effects of chewing wild tobacco during pregnancy: study

July 29, 2011
A University of Queensland PhD scholar is examining the health effects of chewing wild tobacco plants by Central Australian Aboriginal women during pregnancy.

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

One in five patients report discrimination in health care

December 14, 2017
Almost one in five older patients with a chronic disease reported experiencing health care discrimination of one type or another in a large national survey that asked about their daily experiences of discrimination between ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.