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A recent study highlights significant health disparities between Pacific Islander Americans and Asian Americans, with Pacific Islanders experiencing notably higher risks of obesity and hypertension. These findings stress the importance of disaggregating health data to expose differences and critical needs within the broader Asian and Pacific Islander American communities.

  • Pacific Islander Americans show higher obesity and hypertension risks compared to Asian Americans.
  • Health disparities may be overlooked due to the aggregation of Pacific Islander and Asian American data.
  • The study emphasizes the need for more targeted public health attention for Pacific Islander Americans.

The Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) category covers a wide range of diverse individuals. Aggregated data often hides the significant health disparities within these communities. A recent study, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, aimed to expose these hidden disparities by directly measuring body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage (%BF), and blood pressure (BP) among Pacific Islander and Asian Americans attending health fairs in Los Angeles, California from 2011 to 2019.

Findings Revealed Through Objective Health Measurements

Upon analysis of data from 4,832 participants, researchers found Pacific Islanders faced significantly higher risks for obesity compared to all Asian American subgroups studied, including Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. Pacific Islanders also had a lower probability of maintaining normal blood pressure compared to Chinese and Thai attendees.

Notably, about 67% of Pacific Islanders fell within the obese range according to their BMI, compared to 12 to 30% among Asian subgroups. Additionally, 36.9% of Pacific Islanders had stage 1 hypertension, and 21.4% had stage 2 hypertension. These findings underscored the striking health disparities hidden within the broad APIA category.

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Empowering Healthcare Practices Through Disaggregated Data

The study’s findings highlight the critical health issues facing Pacific Islander Americans compared to their Asian American counterparts. Such disparities could be overlooked due to data aggregation, emphasizing the need for more focused attention and targeted public health interventions for Pacific Islanders.

For healthcare providers, recognizing these differences could inform more personalized care strategies for Pacific Islander patients, including earlier screening for obesity and hypertension, and tailored health education initiatives.


Yang, H., Dhanjani, S., Chwa, W. J., Cowgill, B. O., & Gee, G. C. (2022). Disparity in Obesity and Hypertension Risks Observed Between Pacific Islander and Asian American Health Fair Attendees in Los Angeles, 2011–2019. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 10(3), 1127–1137. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-022-01300-y