By Amanda Hinton
In a follow-up to my previous blog post about the dangers of data aggregation for Asian Americans in research, I would like to dive deeper into examining disparities among women. Asian American women experience distinct health outcomes compared to men and like overall Asian aggregated data, when we look more closely at subgroup differences among women, disparities emerge. We can observe differences in the prevalence of disease in various illnesses but in this blog, I will focus on diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease (CAD).
Research found that diabetes prevalence among all Asians aged 45 to 84 was 23.1 percent. When we break the data up by sex, women had a prevalence of 20.4 percent. Within that subgroup of women, once the data is disaggregated, the prevalence for Chinese women was 13.4 percent, 28.7 percent for Filipinas, and 31.1 percent for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women. These findings reveal a significant difference in prevalence rates for Asian American women depending on ethnicity. Additionally, Filipinas and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had higher disease prevalence estimates compared to Black women. Black women had a 23.3 percent prevalence estimate. This is a 7.8 percentage point difference in diabetes prevalence estimates between Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and Black women.
Regarding hypertension, the overall prevalence for all Asians was 42.8 percent and the prevalence for all women was 41.6 percent. The disaggregated data shows that Chinese women had a prevalence estimate of 32.1 percent, Filipinas had a 55.6 percent prevalence estimate, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had a 52.8 percent prevalence estimate. Both Filipinas and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had higher prevalence estimates than Hispanic women. Hispanic women had a 41.8 percent disease prevalence which is a 13.8 percentage point difference between Filipinas and Hispanic women.
When we examine prevalence estimates for coronary artery disease we come across the same pattern. The prevalence for CAD among all Asians was 5.4 percent and the prevalence estimate for Asian women was 3.3 percent. Chinese women had a disease prevalence of 2.5 percent, Filipinas had a disease prevalence of 4.3 percent, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had a 5.9 percent disease prevalence. That is a 3.4 percentage point difference between Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Chinese women. Prevalence estimates for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women were almost the same as Black women who had a prevalence estimate of 5.7 percent.
Overall, these findings reveal a significant difference in prevalence rates for Asian American women when we disaggregate the data. Subgroup data reveals that Filipino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women have significantly higher prevalence rates that are similar to and in some cases higher, than Black and Hispanic women. This data adds to the pile of evidence that already exists that ingroup differences are crucial to health research. Researchers must disaggregate data on Asian Americans to fully understand the health disparities prevalent among Asians, especially women. Better data leads to better policies developed and implemented to reduce disparities and improve health among vulnerable populations.