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South Asians' health worries British Columbia health minister

May 14, 2010 21:05 IST
The high rate of cardiovascular illnesses amongst South Asians in British Columbia has the province's Health Minister Kevin Falcon concerned.

In British Columbia, 25 percent of the population comprises visible minorities, most of them Indians and Chinese. Falcon is from Surrey, which has a large concentration of South Asians, and knows about the problems firsthand from his interactions with South Asian colleagues and friends.

"We are concerned about making sure that we are dealing with the human impact of having South Asians dying unnecessarily early as a result of cardiovascular diseases," he said. "That requires us as the government to make sure we are focusing on the community and offering culturally appropriate services. If we can get into the community with an aggressive campaign so that they change their lifestyles… which can reduce cardiovascular illnesses."   

Falcon, his health staff and the Frazer Health authorities are supporting the forthcoming Canada-India Cardiovascular Health Conference 2010, to be held in Vancouver June 20 to 23. 

"This conference is about highlighting the things we are doing to raise awareness and learning what more we can do," said Falcon, who will attend the conference. "We will have some top medical clinicians from India and Canada sharing information on how we can provide top cardiovascular health services to British Columbians, services that are specifically tailored to address the unique challenges within the South Asian community."

The conference, he says, also hopes to make the South Asian community understand the risks of not having a fat-free-low-sodium diet.

The provincial government recently released a DVD providing healthy cooking options for the community "so that South Asians can continue to eat their fantastic food, which I love, but also ensure lower fat content, sodium in their food."

The British Columbia government is also making culturally-sensitive sporting activities available for South Asians. Falcon said he recently allocated $ 250,000 for a kabaddi field in Surrey. "We want to make sure we have appropriate opportunities for the South Asian community in sports like kabaddi, rugby and cricket, which are more popular in the community."

The government also plans to have an intensive and culturally-appropriate campaign. This campaign, Falcon said, would have to be considerably done in Punjabi, the predominant language among British Columbia's South Asians.

Ajit Jain in Toronto