Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

A Comparison of the Sexual Risk Behaviors of Asian American and Pacific Islander College Students and Their Peers

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

A Comparison of the Sexual Risk Behaviors of Asian American and Pacific Islander College Students and Their Peers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have been neglected in health research. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to (I) describe the sexual risk behaviors of a sample of AAPI community college students using questions from the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey, and (2) to compare the sexual risk behaviors of AAPI study participants (n=138) to their non-Asian peers (n=328). Methods: Comparisons were made between AAPI and non-Asian study participants using a z-test. Results: AAPI study participants were significantly more likely than their non-Asian peers to practice abstinence, limit their number of sexual partners, and use condoms. An unexpected finding was that AAPI participants were more likely to report a history of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Discussion: Research suggests that mother-daughter sexual communication during adolescence is a crucial prerequisite to the practice of safer sex behaviors. A lack of sexual communication with parents during childhood may contribute to higher rates of STDs later in life. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health educators who work with parents, adolescents, and young adults should include effective sexual communication skills in health promotion programs designed to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancy.

BACKGROUND

Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are one of the fastest growing segments of the American population. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 10.6 million Americans--4% of the total population--fall in this category. By the year 2050, AAPIs are projected to reach 41 million residents, or 11 percent of the population. The city with the largest AAPI population in the nation is New York. (1)

Yet, even as the number of AAPIs living in the United States has been steadily increasing, this minority group remains one of the most neglected in health research. (2-4) Where data exists for AAPIs, it often provides a misleading picture of a "model minority" characterized by higher educational achievement, a higher percentage employed in management or professional occupations, and a higher median annual income in comparison with other racial/ ethnic populations. (1-4) Yet many recent AAPI immigrants live in poverty and struggle to overcome cultural and language barriers to upward mobility. (4)

The dearth of health research on the AAPI community suggests a "forgotten minority." (5) Chen's (3) recent analysis of the data tables in Healthy People 20106 found that AAPIs had the lowest percentage of baseline health survey data of any racial/ethnic group. (3) Dr. Chen noted that the AAPI health data columns in those tables were most often categorized as "data not collected," "data collected but not analyzed," or "data statistically unreliable due to small sample size or lack of a representative sample," (3) Similarly, in a recent review of the MEDLINE medical literature database, Ghosh found that less than one percent of the articles published in the past forty years focused on the AAPI population. (2) Thus, while the AAPI population has been called the "healthy minority"--with national statistics showing a greater life expectancy, lower rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and a lower relative risk for many of the leading causes of death compared to other racial/ ethnic groups--the available data may not be painting a complete picture of their health behaviors. (2-6)

It is therefore not surprising that very little research has been reported on the sexual risk behaviors of AAPI college students. (7-14) Understanding such behaviors is important to health educators because unprotected sexual intercourse places college students at risk for HIV infection, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy. (6) Despite this need, and despite the rising population of AAPIs nationwide, the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (NCHRBS) (15)--one of the largest surveys of college students--reported no results for AAPIs. …

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