GOPIO Summit calls for action plan on Diaspora health

NYC Comptroller John Liu speaking at the Health Summit

NEW YORK: The Health Council of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) concluded a first-of-a-kind summit and conference addressing pertinent health issues of interest and concern to the global Asian Indian community, and honored five healthcare professionals and organizations during its inaugural Health Summit held Nov 12-14 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel LaGuardia, in New York.

GOPIO Health Council’s mission is to engage the People of Indian Origin (PIOs) to raise awareness of the factors contributing to chronic diseases affecting them, and influence them to take proactive action to improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

Collaborating organizations for the Summit were American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and Coronary Artery Disease among Asian Indians (CADI) Research Foundation.

On the Summit’s first day, Dr. Poonam Alaigh, Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, NJ commended the Health Summit initiative stating, “I look forward to the proceedings of this conference as blueprint for the issues we face, and need to take appropriate action to bring about the necessary changes.”

Dr. Binoy Singh, cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University School of Medicine, spoke about the urgent need for diet and lifestyle changes to reduce increasing risk factors, especially high cholesterol, diabetes and pre-diabetes among Indian Americans.

Five individuals and organizations – Rita Batheja, Dr. Suresh Khanna, Dr. Jatin Shah, SATHI and the SEVAK Project were recognized for their contributions in the health sector with focus on community service. New York City Comptroller John Liu gave away the awards.

On the second day, a panel of health practitioners shared their expertise on Disease Prevention & Health Management with focus on Cardiovascular Health/Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes, and Stress Management. They highlighted ways to identify the risk factors specific to the PIOs, practical ways to manage these chronic diseases, and included interactive sessions with audience participation and breaks for exercise and meditation.

According to Dr. Ranjita Misra, Professor & Research Director, Center for the Study of Health Disparities (CSHD) at Texas A&M University, “Asian Indians have a higher rate of diabetes than all other racial groups (African Americans, Hispanics, Whites, and American Indians) in the US. Hence, primary and secondary prevention can help curb this epidemic.”

Dr. Enas A. Enas, Cardiologist and Founder President of CADI Research Foundation said, “The good news is that heart disease has now become the most predictable, preventable, and treatable of all chronic diseases.

Over the last 30 years, heart disease death rates have decreased by 50 to 70 percent in Canada, the US and several other countries, whereas rates have increased 300% in India. We now have the knowledge to combat this epidemic and the alarming statistics among the Indian Diaspora and the Indian subcontinent calls for immediate action by the medical community, general public and the government.”

Modern age and life mentor, Master Del Pe synthesized the best of Eastern Wisdom and Western Practicality in his talk. He demonstrated practical tools to help participants boost their vitality, sharpen their minds and awaken the power of their souls. “If followed regularly, these techniques could help heal the past, transform the present and energize the future. They would result in a balanced life where one could experience not only success, but fulfillment as well,” said Master Del Pe.

Dr. Steven Horowitz, Cardiologist and Director, Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Stamford Hospital (Stamford, CT) said, “Much of the increased burden of cardiovascular disease in the South Asian community is related to the metabolic syndrome, a condition which is caused by a lifestyle out of balance interacting with genetics. Integrative Cardiology uses all the spiritual, physical and intellectual resources of the patient to regain energy balance and diminish and reverse the disease process.”

Dr. Pratibha Shah, Ayurveda Practitioner (Winchester, MA) spoke about the myths and facts about treatment of diabetes in Ayurveda and preventive home remedies to achieve and maintain low blood sugar levels. Dr. Lakshmi Prakash, Vice President of Innovation & Business Development, Sabinsa Corp. (East Windsor, NJ and Bangalore) said that over the last 22 years, based on Sabinsa CEO Dr. Muhammed Majeed’s founding principles of ‘Innovating for the Future from the Past’, Sabinsa Corporation has been developing dietary and cosmetic applications from standardized natural extracts, and educating consumers across the world on phytonutrients from the Ayurvedic tradition. The talk highlighted examples of nutraceuticals pioneered by the group, to address common preventive health maintenance needs.

Dr. Alexander Zachariah, Prof. Emeritus and Research Associates of Public Health Institute for Research in Excellence of Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in Illinois said, “The epidemic of obesity among Indian Diaspora needs urgent attention starting with eating heart healthy food and sweat soaking exercises.”

On third day GOPIO celebrated the occasion of ‘India’s Children’s Day’ to mark the birthday of late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru by offering a free event on children’s health and wellness, as well as a diverse set of entertainment that included dances of Indian, Caribbean and American origin.

This special health fair for children provided education on oral health and obesity amongst children, and was delivered by Dr. Asha Samant and Dr. Alex Zachariah in novel ways that included audience participation, games, prizes, hand and finger puppets, ventriloquism, songs and music, followed by a healthy box lunch.

“The Health Summit was successful in bringing the message of preventive care and health awareness to the Indian Community. We need to continue to make the information available to the people of Indian Origin so they can manage the risk factors involved with Diabetes and Heart disease,” said Sangeeta Ahuja, GOPIO Health Council chair, as she thanked the sponsors, supporters and the dedicated team of volunteers.

Dr. Vivian Rambihar, cardiologist and co-chair of the GOPIO Health Council, called for “an urgent Action Plan for change at all levels, including policy, politics, social, cultural and grassroots”, inviting everyone to become part of the global collaboration for health across the Indian Diaspora.

India Post News Service

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