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Cultural values key to intervention in Filipino heart health, study finds

A study by a University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate, medical student and professor has found that food and family are key to Filipino heart health.

The study, which was published in “Preventing Chronic Disease,” found that the Filipino-American community responds more successfully to interventions rooted in Filipino cultural values and the incorporation of traditional foods. Those values include family relationships, caring for others and a tradition of obligation and reciprocity.

“We found that incorporating these values into interventions is an effective way to improve heart health,” said Professor Kathryn L. Braun in a news release.

Braun, director of the UH Office of Public Health Studies, worked on the study, along with Jermy-Leigh Domingo, a recent UH-Manoa public health graduate, as the lead researcher and Gretchenjan Gavero of the John A. Burns School of Medicine was a co-author.

For their analysis, the authors looked at eight previous studies that involved healthcare workers using culturally tailored interventions to increase Filipino Americans’ participation in heart disease prevention programs. Four of the previous studies were done in Hawaii, while the others were conducted on the mainland.

Some examples include serving traditional Filipino foods, but grilling fish rather than frying it.

Other interventions focused on a recognition of the importance of family relationships. For example, since turning down food is frowned upon, it is vital to get the whole family on board rather than focusing on the single individual with heart disease, the researchers said.

Dancing, popular among Filipino Americans, could potentially help the community increase physical activity and may be an area to target in future studies.

“Our research is part of a growing body of evidence that shows that public health efforts that are tailored to reach people of certain cultures are effective in lowering the rates of chronic diseases,” Domingo said.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among Filipino-American males and second among Filipino-American females, according to UH. In addition, the community has a high prevalence of hypertension and behavioral risk factors associated with these conditions, including obesity, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity.

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