Disability Rates Higher for Asians

By Mark Rowe and Robert Mendick | The Independent (London, England), February 27, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Disability Rates Higher for Asians

Mark Rowe and Robert Mendick, The Independent (London, England)

CHILDREN OF Asian origin are almost four times more likely to suffer profound deafness and almost twice as likely to suffer cerebral palsy, according to a study of the state of health in the Asian community in Bradford.

The report raises the sensitive issue of whether the cultural tendency for first cousins to marry one another can offer an explanation for the wide disparity in health levels between the Asian and white communities. Genetic experts, including those at the Institute of Child Health, believe that, since disabilities such as deafness, cerebral palsy and poor eyesight can be caused by recessive genes passed from parent to child, the chances of inheriting a genetically determined illness are greater if the parents are related by blood.

Bradford has 392 children who are registered with serious disabilities. Of these, 145, or 37 per cent, are of Asian origin even though Asians make up just 28 per cent of the under-18 population. By 2011 it is predicted this figure will rise to 50 per cent.

A spokesman for the Institute of Child Health said: "Studies show relationships between uncles and nieces and first cousins have significantly high effects [on genetic disorders]."

Researchers stress that inter-cousin marriages - which are perfectly legal in English law - have raised health concerns among the wider population and other minority groups, such as Hasidic Jews who have a high incidence of Tay-Sachs syndrome, a rare hereditary disorder affecting the brain and spinal cord.

But such marriages are only one factor in the high prevalence of disabilities. Poverty, lack of exercise, bad housing and poor diet also play a role. "It is a bigger problem for Asian people than white people in Bradford," said Barry Malik, co-ordinator of Asian Disability Awareness Action in Bradford. "Because of poverty there are many families not eating healthy food."

The report from Bradford's social services shows a stark discrepancy in levels of serious illnesses among the Asian and white communities.

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Disability Rates Higher for Asians


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