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Smoking, obesity rates high among Pacific Islanders

Nearly half of Pacific Islanders reported being smokers, a rate that was three to four times higher than for other Californians, according to research released Monday by the University of Michigan.

About 46% of Pacific Islander adults said they were smokers, compared to about 13% of other California adults. Among teenagers, 23% of Pacific Islanders said they had tried smoking, compared to 3.5% of all California teenagers.

The study, the first to measure the health of Pacific Islanders living in the United States, was based on interviews with Tongans in the Bay Area and Samoans in Southern California. The results were presented at a conference in Los Angeles on health disparities.

Obesity rates were also higher among Pacific Islanders: More than 80% of adults and more than half of teenagers were overweight or obese. Access to healthcare and preventive services were lower among the population as well.

Advocates and experts said they hope the data will help in designing programs to improve the health of Pacific Islanders living in the U.S.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


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