US Reps. Jayapal, Wilson introduce South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act


United States Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Representative Joe Wilson introduced the bipartisan South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act, landmark legislation to raise awareness about the alarming rate of heart disease for South Asians across the United States and also to put resources and strategies toward reversing this deadly trend for all communities. U.S. Senator Cory Booker plans to introduce companion legislation later this year. In the 117th Congress, this legislation was passed by the full House of Representatives before being blocked in the Senate. The bill is also supported by President Biden.

Studies show that South Asians in the United States – people who immigrated from or whose families immigrated from countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – are experiencing a dramatic rise in heart disease and face four times the risk of heart disease compared to the general population. Despite making up 25 percent of the world’s population, South Asians account for a disproportionate 60 percent of the world’s heart disease cases and over 50 percent of the world’s cardiovascular deaths.

Almost two-thirds of middle-aged South Asian Americans are at intermediate or high risk for heart failure within the next 10 years, and because research agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) do not disaggregate medical data for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it is nearly impossible to examine data on South Asian Americans. One person in America dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease, and heart disease costs the United States more than $363 billion each year.

The legislation directs the HHS Secretary to submit a report to Congress on the grant activities and any data gathered related to heart disease in disproportionately impacted communities and authorizes funding for these programs through 2028. The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act would authorize the HHS Secretary to make grants available to states to promote awareness of the increasing prevalence of heart disease in South Asian communities.

“I have seen the devastating impacts of heart disease on our community firsthand, and as the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, I’m fully committed to increasing understanding of heart disease and the unique risk factor in the South Asian community while ensuring that all those living with it get the resources, treatment, and support they need,” said Rep. Jayapal. “No community should face disproportionate health outcomes because of lack of research, understanding, or awareness. I won’t stop fighting for this legislation to make sure we have the research resources and treatments to prevent heart disease cases and deaths in the South Asian community and across the world.”

The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act is also sponsored by Ami Bera (CA-06), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Judy Chu (CA-28), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Grace Meng (NY-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Adam Smith (WA-09), Mark Takano (CA-39), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07).

“Heart disease disproportionately affects certain populations such as the South Asian community, and this bill will expand research and education to benefit those communities. I am grateful that this bipartisan bill passed the house in multiple previous Congresses, and I look forward to its final passage into law,” said Rep. Joe Wilson.

“The heightened prevalence of heart disease in the South Asian community demands urgent attention and resources,” said Sen. Booker. “This bipartisan bill will be an important step to promote critical research on heart disease and support organizations involved in heart health promotion through the development of new, culturally sensitive materials.”

The legislation has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, American Medical Women’s Association, ASANA Voices, Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Indian American Impact, MASALA Study, South Asian American Voter Empowerment Texas Education Fund, South Asian Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, and South Asian Public Health Association.

“For too long, South Asian Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the devastating effects of heart disease,” said Neil Makhija, President of Indian American Impact. “We’re grateful for Representative Jayapal’s leadership as this bill is a significant step towards safeguarding the well-being of millions in our community. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill so we can generate new research, raise awareness, and save lives across all communities.”