Santa Clara Co. looks at cancer risk for Vietnamese

December 12, 2011 11:42:12 PM PST
In the last few decades, the Vietnamese population in Santa Clara County has exploded and the county has spent the last 10 months trying to get a handle on health problems in that community -- issues that need more attention.

The Vietnamese community in Santa Clara County is one of the largest outside of Vietnam, with a local population of nearly 135,000. Now the county has the first of its kind report looking at health issues facing those residents.

"This helps give us a comprehensive view, data driven so there is a lot of credibility when we go tell people this is a problem in the Vietnamese population," said Ngoc Bui-Tong from the Vietnamese Reach for Health Coalition.

A news conference releasing the 112-page report highlighted one the big concerns -- cancer.

Cancer accounts for 32 percent of deaths in the county's Vietnamese community, more than any other ethnic group and higher than the 26 percent for all county residents. Lung cancer due to smoking is one contributing factor.

"In this county overall, we have low smoking among adult population, about ten the Vietnamese community, it's 25 percent in the males," said Marty Fenstersheib, M.D., the health officer for Santa Clara County.

Cervical cancer among women is also high and liver cancer, which is often linked to Hepatitis B, is a staggering four times higher than the population as a whole.

"If we were to do much more Hepatitis B screening and treatment, we could substantially lower the rate of liver cancer in our Vietnamese population," said Dan Peddycord, R.N., the public health director.

The comprehensive report now gives the county, medical professionals and community agencies a clear direction a clear where to focus their efforts. Cancer is just one of numerous. Another concern is a cultural reluctance to seek help with mental health problems.

"People are concerned accessing services because they don't want to have the label, so I think they fear the worst and so we have a lot of work to do to help decrease the stigma," said Tiffany Ho, M.D., from the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

In taking the pulse of the Vietnamese community, the county also found some big health pluses, including low obesity and infant mortality rates.

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