south asian health institution
Submitted by Susan Seto, Communications and Public Affairs

This team has worked closely with gurdwaras, temples, schools and businesses to design new ways to help Fraser Health's South Asian population eat healthier meals.

People of South Asian decent make up 15 per cent of the Fraser Health population. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases, are two to three times higher among the South Asian population compared to the overall Fraser Health population.   

In response, the South Asian Health Institute (SAHI) team developed the Sehat program to reduce the risk of chronic diseases by working with gurdwaras, temples, schools and businesses to design new ways to help South Asian people eat healthier meals. 

The goal of the Sehat program is to build a healthier future for South Asian people through collaborative partnerships, health promotion and education by reaching out to the community.

Collaborative partnerships have been a key factor in the success of the Sehat program. The SAHI team began their work in the community by establishing the ‘Sehat Cooks’ initiative with gurdwaras and temples. The SAHI team visits different locations monthly, hosts hands-on activities that engage and educate – everything from taste tests of their easy-to-make South Asian recipes, to digital media campaigns on temple monitors and websites, to interactive food displays – with a goal of helping people understand what’s in the food they are eating. 

The program has created partnerships with twelve places of worship in Surrey, Delta, New Westminster and Abbotsford, logged more than 17,000 participant interactions and distributed over 37,000 resources. Through collaborative work with the gurdwaras, the SAHI team has helped kitchen staff, who serve up to 500 people per day, reduce the amount of added sugar in their daily meals by up to 30 per cent. SAHI volunteers have been integral to the success of the program and have dedicated over 700 hours engaging with the community.

“As a result of the Sehat program connecting with the community, we are seeing people make positive changes to their health,” said Deljit Bains, South Asian Health Institute leader. “Our goal is to engage the community to manage their own health and make simple changes to their diet and lifestyle to prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.”

The SAHI team also collaborates with local schools to help families make healthier lunch choices. They are currently active in two schools with over 700 students and work closely with school administration, partners and students to promote healthy eating. Along with schools, the team actively works with businesses to educate their staff on ways to reduce sugar consumption. 

“I am very impressed with the amazing community engagement that our team initiated, the strong relationships that were forged, the transformation of how nutrition is perceived by South Asian communities, and by how the Sehat program led to many concrete actions and significant change in those communities,” says Dr. Martin Lavoie, executive medical director and medical health officer.

In addition to activities focused on healthy eating, the SAHI team collaborated with local pharmacies to provide vaccinations to the South Asian community. Since 2016, local pharmacies, through partnership with SAHI, have provided over 800 flu, pneumonia and tetanus vaccinations to the community.  

“The South Asian Health Institute through the Sehat program has successfully engaged the community to live healthier lifestyles. Engagement of the community is the foundation for success of building healthy communities and the South Asian Health Institute is very happy to see the Sehat program is recognized by Fraser Health,” said Dr. Arun Garg, program medical director, South Asian Health Institute.

Engagement of the community is the foundational principle of the South Asian Health Institute team, which includes many clinical dietitians; program and volunteer coordinators, assistants and specialists in public health and clinical prevention. 

“I am proud of our team’s commitment and level of collaboration in helping the South Asian community make changes to their diet and overall health,” Bains shared. 

“Together we have been able to improve access to culturally appropriate health information and encourage healthier lifestyle choices for the South Asian community.”

The team includes: Deljit Bains, Ravinder Kaur Bassi, Roman Bhangoo, Amren Dhahwar, Gurleen Dhessi, Preeti Dhillon, Rachel Erika Douglas, Harjeet Harjeet, Gagan Kurrha, Jasbinder Karin Rai, Virendra Sharma, Gurvir Thind.

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