The Feasibility of Using Electronic Health Data for Research on Small Populations. Filipino Americans

09/01/2013

Filipino are the third-largest Asian subpopulation in the United States (after Americans of Chinese and Indian backgrounds), with 2.6 million people and concentrations in California, Hawaii, Illinois and New York.50, 51 Reflecting a history of Spanish and American rule, Filipinos have a unique blend of Eastern and Western culture, including Hispanic surnames and English and Spanish as official languages. However, more than 120 languages are spoken among ethnic subgroups of the Philippines, and a substantial minority of Filipino-American’s speaks Tagalog, which is the 4th most frequently spoken language at home in the United States (2007), although most Tagalog speakers also speak English.52 Filipinos have migrated to the United States throughout the 20th century and earlier, many for economic opportunities in an English-speaking environment. Thus, the transition for Filipino immigrants may in general have been less severe than for Vietnamese immigrants.

Despite largely successful assimilation in the United States and the highest high school graduation rate of any Asian sub-group, Filipino Americans face a number of health issues. They have higher rates of diabetes53 and coronary heart disease 54 than whites. Filipino women also have greater risk of stroke.55 In addition, Filipino women have the highest rates of cancer, epilepsy, and rank highest in drug use and smoking among Asian-American women subpopulations. However, they also have significantly better self-rated mental health.56 Use of “traditional” medicine is particularly prevalent among first-generation Filipino Americans, particularly those who obtain care during visits to their home country. Examples of traditional medicine include touch/therapy massage, spiritual healing, and use of natural remedies such as herbs, oils and spices.57

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