Because Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans have often been aggregated in federal health surveys, we assessed whether they differ substantially in important health measures.
Retrospective analyses of the 2005–2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys.
A total of 2,609 Pacific Islanders, 17,892 Asians, and 894,289 whites over age 18.
We compared self-reported health risk factors (smoking, BMI ≥25 kg/m2, alcohol intake, physical activity, fruit/vegetable intake), chronic diseases (diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthma, hypercholesterolemia, arthritis, fair or poor health status), and access to care (insurance status, cost barriers, and regular physician) for Pacific Islanders relative to Asian Americans and whites. Logistic regression was used to adjust for sociodemographic factors.
Pacific Islanders were more likely than Asian Americans to report an elevated body-mass index (adjusted odds ratio 2.26; 95% confidence interval 1.80, 2.84), current smoking (2.15; 1.57, 2.93), and high alcohol intake (3.14; 1.60, 6.18), but also more likely to report adequate physical activity (1.62; 1.23, 2.14). Pacific Islanders reported higher adjusted rates of hypertension (1.50; 1.06, 2.13), diabetes (1.82; 1.25, 2.63), asthma (2.32; 1.65, 3.25), and arthritis (1.68; 1.20, 2.35). Pacific Islanders also more frequently reported having fair or poor health (1.46; 1.05, 2.04). Most differences in self-reported health status and chronic disease outcomes were mediated by higher rates of overweight and obesity, but not higher rates of smoking, among Pacific Islanders. Differences in smoking, hypertension, and diabetes were more pronounced among Pacific Islander women than men. Relative to whites, Pacific Islanders were more likely to report a diagnosis of diabetes (1.56; 1.13, 2.14) and less likely to report arthritis (0.61; 0.46, 0.82). All other outcomes measures were statistically similar for whites and Pacific Islanders.
Health surveys and policies should distinguish between Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans given the significantly higher rates of health risks and chronic diseases among Pacific Islanders.