Saahas in the field of research, innovation

Saahas has multiple programs that work to benefit the South Asian community, but one of the key initiatives that are important for all programs is research and education. In the fields of public health, intimate partner violence, mental health, and others, Saahas has dedicated countless hours to developing research, academic studies, and educational material. The goal is to harness these to highlight the issues South Asians experience, advocate for change, and foster healthy communities.

Saahas educating the South Asian community about the prevention of-

1. Covid-19
Saahas for Cause has been actively working in the community since the start of the pandemic. As COVID cases grew in the South Asian community, it became clear that there was a lot of misinformation regarding disease variants and prevention methods. Saahas collaborated with physicians and other healthcare professionals from the South Asian community to create educational material in English and other vernacular languages that debunk myths and provide scientific information about the disease.

Saahas also piloted the Aspire to Inspire video series where healthcare workers made PSAs on Covid-19. We also conducted educational sessions on Covid-19 with the community, in which Saahas staff, volunteers, and physicians would address the community at their social online forums. The physicians would also clear doubts about expedited approval for vaccinations. This education played a crucial role when Saahas rolled out its vaccination drive in March 2021. Saahas continued to address questions that community members presented at the vaccination clinics and educated them on issues such as vaccine safety for conditions such as pregnancy, lactation, etc.

Through the widespread educational efforts and outreach, Saahas has helped break down common barriers to healthcare access that many South Asians face, such as language barriers, healthcare system navigation, and cultural taboos. This culminated in our vaccination of more than 15,000 individuals, including children, disabled, undocumented, and other vulnerable members of underserved communities, but our work is still not done!

2. Intimate Partner Violence
Not only is IPV a widespread issue in the South Asian community, but it is a taboo topic among community members as well. Hence, survivors may not seek out help, and in many cases, they are not aware of the assistance available to them. Often, physical assault is solely considered IPV. Only a small percentage understand that emotional and financial abuse are also part of IPV, along with sexual abuse or marital rape.

It is crucial that our community is made aware of what all constitutes abuse and what the warning signs of abuse are. There is a need for education and advocacy for supporting victims of abuse, understanding the root causes of abuse, and empowering our community members to eliminate them while seeking assistance for those victims.

In addition to the much-needed intervention program, Saahas is also working at grassroots levels with community members to educate on different types of abuse, education on basics of finance, and resources available to them, such as MediCal and housing. The educational workshops are provided through interactive sessions on a weekly basis with both men and women in the South Asian community. The pilot workshop series is being conducted in Los Angeles County and will be replicated in Orange County as well. With the patterns and needs highlighted in these sessions, Saahas will curate future educational programs that can further shape equity around gender norms.

Saahas is also working with schools, colleges, students, educators, and mental health professionals to address the issue of Teen Dating Violence. The risk of TDV in the South Asian community is higher, due to the gap of education on cultural competency and lack of parent- child conversations around dating, as it is considered taboo. Saahas is engaging parents and mental health providers through education on hybrid parenting. We are also engaging students by providing them a platform to voice their concerns, learn from preventionists and through leadership opportunities to address the topic of TDV. Saahas is thankful for CalOES of the governor’s office for funding our programs. Without such, our education and prevention efforts would not be possible.

3. Public Health issues
The Saahas Public Health chapter has worked diligently for months to spread reliable and much-needed information to the entire community through social media.

Through our collaboration with the Tarika Foundation and a grant from the Department of Mental Health, we have been able to and will continue to produce a series of videos related to different mental health topics, such as autism, bipolar disorder, and cultural stigmas, and many more. For each video, we do thorough research, script each one in the most effective formatting, and then animate them in a way that we hope will convey all the important information about each issue. We hope to use these ways to raise awareness about what each mental health disorder is.

Another important topic that we chose to cover was Covid-19 resources and statistics. Saahas volunteers have participated in volunteering at many vaccination camps throughout the pandemic. We have also created a variety of posts, including Aspire to Inspire videos with the help of professionals involved in the Covid-19 efforts. LA County has also made it possible for us to share local statistics on Covid-19 numbers with the community. In addition, we also made many informative posts about the effects of Covid-19 and have had many discussions among the members on how we can continue to spread this reliable information.

1. Mental Health
Since the beginning of 2020, Saahas Youth has been dedicated to researching mental health and stress factors for high schoolers. Being a South Asian-focused organization, we noticed the underrepresentation of South Asians in this area of research and the large stigma against
mental health in the South Asian community. As high schoolers, we related to the stress that other teens were facing and based on the current climate focused on determining the impact of COVID-19 on high schoolers’ mental health. To achieve our goal, we created a survey targeting high schoolers to pinpoint their specific stressors.

At last year’s South Asian Mental Health Consortium, we presented our preliminary ideas of what the survey will include and hypothesized what the results would reveal. After months of preliminary research, a student-based survey of about 35 questions was created with the help of adult mentors. The questions were primarily aimed at understanding the impact of the COVID pandemic on stress, experienced by our peers. This questionnaire, created with guidance from Dr. Marcus Crawford at Fresno State University, was sent to high school teens from different states to receive a wide range of responses and perspectives. The main objectives of our study were to determine some key demographics (age, ethnicity, gender), parents’ education level and work life, etc. mitigated or contributed to the stress students were already feeling due to online teaching and other stressors related to the COVID pandemic. Some of our early findings indicate that responses between the two genders are significantly different.

Furthermore, we have received IRB approval to release our survey under the guidance of Dr. Shruti Khanna from UC Davis on teenage mental health during the pandemic.

2. Acculturation

[It has been known that the acculturation process for South Asians has been a hard process with many people having difficulty assimilating to the Western lifestyle.]
This process has been especially difficult on South Asian women, who are considered the primary transmitters of tradition, values, and culture to their families. As a result, the acculturation of women affects the acculturation of their families. Our SAAHAS For Cause team administered a study on South Asian acculturation/immigration to the United States, by women. This study was administered by Payal Sawhney, Kishen Bera, Marunmayee Gujar, and Fareen Najeeb. We utilized the online survey website, question pro, to collect data from
citizens across America. Using Berry’s Model of Acculturation, which looks at 4 factors (Integration, Assimilation, Marginalization, and Separation), we found that integration was the greatest factor for assimilation into US culture. Integration is characterized by a similar level of preference for South Asian and US cultures. In addition, immigrants that spoke English very well either assimilated or integrated into the culture. It is also evident that respondents who primarily spoke only English at home were more likely to be integrated than the participants that spoke Hindi only. A similar trend is seen between the respondents with respect to visiting a local physician for health concerns as well, which indicates that they were either extremely or very comfortable. This study is part of a long-term project intended to lay the groundwork for future research on acculturation and mental health among South Asian immigrants in the U.S. The findings of this research will help develop a framework and conceptual model for women's mental health and domestic violence prevention programs.

3. Hate crimes
SAAHAS For Cause has been looking at the growth of South Asian Immigrants in Los Angeles County and Orange County. This population includes both men and women aged 50 and older, many of whom struggle with English. They are relatively recent arrivals to the US, many having been brought to this country as dependents on their adult children’s’ visas. Their vulnerabilities include being isolated, uninformed about their rights, and unfamiliar with navigating daily life in America, and fearful about being in a new environment without the social structure they are used to. Some live alone and do not have family nearby. Those who live with family are heavily dependent upon them, with most being low-to middle-income.

Nationally, one in five AAPI have experienced a hate incident in the past year, with the majority of those incidents being verbal harassment, followed by shunning and assault. With the increase in racism and hate crimes towards the API community, such as the violent assaults in the subway and on the streets, or the Atlanta spa shooting that killed 6 Asian women, it is more imperative than ever to address these hate crimes against the Asian community. The time to stop these attacks on the API community is now.

Currently, SAAHAS For Cause is collaborating with Alliant University and is in the IRB approval stage to conduct a study that addresses hate crimes toward the South Asian community. We have seen a lack of published research on hate crimes targeted on the South Asian community, and considering the unknown history of South Asian Americans, it is important we study these hate crimes. It is crucial to understand the root causes so we can prevent them in the future.

The SPARC study administered by SAAHAS For Cause examined tobacco use during the COVID- 19 pandemic. We were interested in learning whether tobacco intake increased during the pandemic and because of what factors. We used an online survey website called “Question Pro” to collect data from citizens (primarily South Asian) in the United States. The questions centered on understanding what tobacco products people use, how often they use these products, and if they know the harmful health effects of tobacco use. We also looked at understanding why they use tobacco products and if they have tried to stop within the past year. We then held informational talks through zoom to educate tobacco users on the harmful effects of tobacco use and ways to seek help and quit. After these talks, we administered an additional post-info survey to see if this information had an impact on the behavior or understanding of tobacco users. Results showed that 96% of people were now aware of the various types of tobacco products and how they impact one’s health. In addition, 100% of participants said that they had a better understanding of the importance of reducing in the use of inhaled tobacco products. Most importantly, 78% of participants said they would be more likely, as a result of this information and engagement, to seek medical and behavioral help to
control their use of inhaled tobacco products.

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