Inquirer Global Nation (The Philippines) (02.12.13)
According to a recent health survey, Filipinos in Northern California’s Alameda County have a disproportionately high TB rate. One-third of the 328 Filipinos ages 18 to 84 surveyed in Union City, Calif., had latent TB infection (LTBI), and only half of them had been treated. This means that a large group of people with LTBI could infect US-born Filipinos later. Filipinos make up 20 percent of Union City’s residents.
The Filipino Advocacy and Organizing for Health Project, a joint effort of Asian Health Services (AHS) and Filipino Advocates for Justices, conducted the survey to identify priority health concerns of Union City’s Filipino population. The survey took one year to complete. Results also confirmed a finding by the Alameda County Public Health Department that between 2009 and 2011, Asians/Pacific Islanders had the highest average TB case rates in the county. Filipinos made up 18.3 percent of the TB cases among Asians and Pacific Islanders in Alameda County over the last 20 years.
According to AHS Physician Assistant Christine Araneta Ignacio, director of the joint project, the disease does not come from recently arrived new immigrants—a popular misconception—but from longtime immigrants who have been infected or have had LTBI for many years. The disease becomes active as their health declines and is transmitted to others in the family. She notes that LTBI is easily treated, but many people are not aware of screening and treatment. Also, the stigma and discrimination connected with the disease make Filipinos reluctant to admit that they have LTBI.
The AHS-Filipino Advocates for Justice study also revealed other areas in which Filipinos neglect their health, including: 75 percent of women ages 18 to 24 have never had a Pap smear; fewer than half of men ages 40 or older have ever been screened for prostate cancer; and only 60 percent of respondents over age 50 have received some type of colorectal cancer screening. Language proficiency, financial hardships, and lack of insurance coverage are some of the reasons suggested for the inability to take advantage of the medical system. Ignacios hoped that the study would be replicated in other areas since Filipinos are the largest Asian group in California. The results would provide a bigger sampling from which to draw more meaningful conclusions.