Dr. May Sudhinaraset, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences, will lead a multi-year study focused on the sexual and reproductive health of Asian immigrant women in the U.S.

The $3 million study, designed to extend over a five-year-long period in California, New York, Texas, and Georgia, is funded by the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initial grant, for $640,606, was awarded by the NIH in September.

Dr. May Sudhinaraset

“Asian immigrant women report greater odds of unintended pregnancies and are less likely to use sexual and reproductive health care compared to their U.S.-born counterparts yet are often left out of policy solutions,” Sudhinaraset said. “Our goal in this project is to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health data among the most diverse sample of Asian immigrant women to date, which is critical to ensuring reproductive justice at a time when Asian women are facing assaults from multiple fronts.”

Today, there are more than 20 million Asian Americans and Asians in the U.S., 60% of whom are immigrants, and Asians are the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group. By 2055, this demographic is expected to surpass Latinos to become the largest immigrant group in the country. This includes 1.5 million undocumented Asians, who experience greater barriers to access than their documented peers.

“Asian Americans and Asians in the U.S. are very diverse, from Americans whose ancestors came to the U.S. in the 19th century to very recent immigrants; from citizens to the undocumented; and from the working poor to the very wealthy, and everything in between,” said Dr. Gilbert Gee, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor and chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences. “Historically, however, national health statistics often lump Asians into an ‘other’ category or exclude them entirely, so one of the issues we are trying to address is to disaggregate data, so public health experts can really address problems and provide solutions that are focused and effective.”

The research project, focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, is a joint effort of the UCLA Fielding School, UC Irvine, Rutgers University, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

“There is a serious lack of data on the unique and intersectional lived experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander women, especially the barriers immigrant women face when accessing sexual and reproductive health care,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, NAPAWF executive director. “NAPAWF is excited to collaborate with UCLA on this study to unmask the needs of AAPI subgroups which will strengthen the ability of AAPI organizations to best serve the realities and needs of our communities.”

Along with Sudhinaraset and Gee, UCLA faculty involved include Dr. Jessica Gipson, the Fred H. Bixby Chair in Population and Reproductive Health, and Dr. Catherine Crespi, professor of biostatistics.

Sudhinaraset, also a faculty affiliate with UCLA’s Bixby Center on Population and Reproductive Health, has taught at the university since 2017. She earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2011.

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public’s health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.

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