South Asian Health and Research Group (SAHARA)

South Asian Health and Research Group (SAHARA)
SOUTH ASIAN HEALTH AND RESEARCH GROUP (SAHARA)

South Asian Health and Research Group (SAHARA)

A pipeline for research in health disparities.
Fostering collaboration and research on the health needs of migrant South Asians, an underserved community in the U.S. with many health disparities.

About the Lab

The South Asian Health and Research Group (SAHARA) based at the NYU School of Global Health was established in 2019 to expand our knowledge on the health needs of South Asians (both those in NYC and across the country). We are committed to address and reduce South Asian health disparities through research and build capacity through multi-disciplinary collaborations and a focus on student-mentorship to innovate in this field. The overarching goals of SAHARA are:

  • To expand our understanding of and better intervene in the health needs of South Asian populations by developing research that is innovative, interdisciplinary, and impactful
  • To enhance the advocacy of the health needs of South Asian populations through collaboration and communication initiatives
  • To mentor and train the next generation of researchers in the necessary tools and culturally sensitive skill set to meet the health needs of South Asian populations

 

SAHARA Logo

 

Joining SAHARA has given me the ability to expand my professional skills while also honing my quantitative and qualitative analysis skills. I was able to contribute to a study that examined food intake among South Asians living in the United States, gain experience in primary data collection and participate in various conferences. As a recipient of two of SAHARA’s seed grants, I helped develop quantitative and qualitative datasets that emphasize the needs of South Asian and Asian American health, which has given me the opportunity to write multiple journal manuscripts, abstracts, and data briefs. Most importantly, I have had the pleasure to meet, learn and connect from a diverse group of faculty and students at NYU GPH, none of which would have been possible without SAHARA. Deciding to join SAHARA is easily the best decision I have made while being an MPH student at NYU GPH!
- Farhan Mohsin, MPH Student

A Letter from SAHARA’s Faculty Director

Introducing the SAHARA Group

I was inspired to conduct South Asian health research after finding a dearth of research in the field, particularly among a population group with higher non-communicable disease risk in the United States. With my training as a dietitian, I was immediately drawn to the South Asian diet, one that is rich with herb and spice use, but also understudied in the United States. Working with Dr. Niyati Parekh, I was provided the opportunity to develop and build on research questions, apply for an NCI summer grant, and work with a team of MPH students to conduct a study examining food intake among South Asians in the United States.
- Bridget Murphy Hussain, Doctoral Student

Faculty Mentors:

Faculty Mentors

Niyati Parekh

Professor of Public Health Nutrition; Associate Vice Provost of Faculty Initiatives, Office of the Provost

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Ralph DiClemente

Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Associate Dean of Public Health Innovation; Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Nina S Parikh

Clinical Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Farzana Kapadia

Associate Professor of Epidemiology

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Joyce A O'Connor

Director of Public Health Nutrition; Director of Advanced Certificate in Public Health; Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition

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Danielle C Ompad

Associate Dean for Education; Associate Professor of Epidemiology

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Alexis A Merdjanoff

Clinical Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Andrea L Deierlein

Assistant Professor of Public Health Nutrition

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Ananda Dasanayake

Professor at NYU School of Dentistry

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Rumi Chunara

Associate Professor of Biostatistics

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Yesim Tozan

Assistant Professor of Global Health

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Group Members:

 

Ajay Brar Undergraduate Student at New York University
Avni Gupta PhD Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Biswadeep Dhar PhD Student at University of Florida
Bridget Murphy Hussain PhD Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Fahad Farooqui MPH Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Farhan Mohsin MPH Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Gurket Kaur Undergraduate Student at New York University
Konya Badsa MS Student in Applied Statistics at NYU Steinhardt
Maham Tariq MPH Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Mahathi Vojjala PhD Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Pooja Yerram Undergraduate Student at New York University
Priyanka Nalkar MPH Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Priyanshi Sharma Undergraduate Student at University of California, Berkeley
Ravi Parekh Undergraduate Student at The University of Texas at Austin
Reet Kapur MPH Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Roshan Parikh Undergraduate Student at Brown University
Rushi Penikalapati Undergraduate Student at New York University
Shahmir Ali PhD Student at NYU School of Global Public Health
Sian Auer Undergraduate Student at New York University
Srishti Gupta Undergraduate Student at New York University
Suman Razi Ansari Undergraduate Student at New York University
Supriya Lal Program Administrator at NYU School of Global Public Health
Youmna Mohammed Undergraduate Student at NYU Abu Dhabi
Zhong Chen Tan Undergraduate Student at NYU Abu Dhabi

 

South Asian Perceived Intergenerational Cultural Experiences (SPICE) Study

  • A quantitative online survey to understand intergenerational differences of perceived racism and discrimination among South Asians living in the United States.
  • Data collection currently in-progress; analysis to be completed in Fall 2021 

Project SAATH: South Asians Advocating for Therapy and Health

  • Survey to understand attitudes and beliefs around mental healthcare seeking among South Asian adults residing in the US
  • Data collection currently in-progress; analysis to be completed in Fall 2021

South Asian Food Inventory Technology System (SA-FITS)

  • Creation of a dietary assessment instrument that can be used to assess the food intake of South Asians living in the United States, inclusive of both westerns and traditional food items,  such as herbs and spices and mixed dishes.
  • Food list created and to be tested in focus groups in Fall 2021

 

Diet and eating behaviors

  • Exploring drivers of typical eating behaviors among second-generation South Asian Americans
    • Qualitative study involving primary data collection
    • Completed data collection (Nov-Oct 2020), currently analyzing data
  • Exploring perceived family member influence on specific healthy eating behaviors of young Asian Americans 
    • Qualitative study involving primary data collection
    • Currently conducting data collection (to be completed Nov-Dec 2021)
  • The role of connectivity to community-based organizations in healthy diet and exercise behaviors among South Asian Americans: Findings from the MASALA study
    • Quantitative study involving secondary data analysis
    • Ongoing (to be completed Sep-Oct 2021)

 

Social connectedness

  • Understanding family interaction among young Asian Americans through interaction quality, influence, and related activities
    • Quantitative study involving primary survey data collection
    • Completed data collection (Mar 2021) , currently analyzing data
  • Characterizing the involvement and impact of family members as part of Asian American health interventions
    • Systematic literature review
    • Ongoing (to be completed Nov-Dec 2021)

 

Comparisons with South Asian global diaspora

  • Exploring health challenges and food behaviors of young South Asian migrants living in the UAE in contrast to those in the US: a mixed-methods study
    • Mixed methods study involving primary data collection
    • Currently conducting data collection (to be completed Nov-Dec 2021)

Peer-reviewed manuscripts

  1. Murphy, B., Talegawkar, S., O’Connor, J., Kandula, N., Kanaya, A., Allison, M., & Parekh, N. (2020). Association between dairy product intake and body composition among South Asian adults from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-10. doi:10.1017/S0007114520005061
  2. Ali SH, Misra S, Parekh N, Murphy B, DiClemente RJ. (2020). Preventing Type 2 Diabetes among South Asian Americans through community-lifestyle interventions: a systematic review. Preventive Medicine Reports, 20, 101182. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101182.
  3. Ali SH, DiClemente RJ, Parekh N. Changing the landscape of South Asian migrant health research by advancing second-generation immigrant health needs. (2020). Translational Behavioral Medicine, Online first. doi:10.1093/tbm/ibaa084.

Manuscripts under review/in-progress 

  1. Ali SH, Merdjanoff AA, Parekh N, DiClemente RJ. Development of an integrated approach to virtual mind-mapping: methodology and applied experiences on enhancing qualitative health research. Under review at Qualitative Health Research.
  2. Ali SH, Gupta S, Tariq M, Vasquez-Lopez X, Penikalapati R, Auer S, Hanif C, Parekh N, Merdjanoff AA, DiClemente RJ. Disentangling drivers of second-generation South Asian American eating behaviors using a novel integration of qualitative and network analysis methods. Under review at Journal of Mixed Methods Research.
  3. Hussain BM, Talegawkar SA, Shivakoti R, Parekh N. Commentary: A need for diet assessment technology of South Asians Living in the United States. Under Review at Translational Behavioral Medicine
  4. Ali SH, Mohsin FM, Parekh R, Dhar B, Kaur G, Parekh N, Islam NS, DiClemente RJ. Family engagement within Asian American health interventions: a systematic review to identify pathways for innovation. In progress.
  5. Ali SH, Talegawkar SA, Shah NS, Kandula NR, Fujimoto K, Schneider J, DiClemente RJ, Parekh N. Association between organizational affiliation, dietary behaviors, and physical activity: Findings from the MASALA study. In progress.
  6. Mohsin FM, Ali SH, Chong SC, Parikh RS, DiClemente RJ. From WhatsApp to WeChat: Deconstructing Asian American family interaction patterns involving social media and mobile applications to inform interpersonal health interventions. In progress.

Conference Presentations

  1. Ali SH, Misra S, Parekh N, Murphy B, DiClemente RJ. (2020). Preventing Type 2 Diabetes among South Asian Americans through community-lifestyle interventions: a systematic review [C182]. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 54(Suppl 1), S568. doi:10.1093/abm/kaaa009.
  2. Murphy B & Parekh N. The association between diet and body composition among South Asian adults from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study. 2nd International Conference on Public Health and Well-being. Sri Lanka, virtually hosted. January 2021.
  3. Murphy B, Mohsin F, Lal S, Harris S, Blatt M, Parekh N. (2021). Development of a web-based Food Inventory Technology System (FITS): Integration of qualitative methods to generate a novel food list for South Asians living in America. International Conference on Diet & Activity Methods. Hosted by Wageningen University & Research, February 8-12, 2021.
  4. Ali SH, Merdjanoff AA, DiClemente RJ, Parekh N. Enhancing qualitative assessment of complex food behaviors through free-listing informed mind-mapping: development and feasibility analysis. Oral presentation at: International Conference on Diet & Activity Methods (eICDAM); February 8-12, 2021; Virtual (web-based conference).
  5. Ali SH, Gupta S, Hanif C, Tariq M, Vasquez-Lopez X, Penikalapati R, Parkeh N, Merdjanoff AA, DiClemente RJ. Exploring the drivers of second-generation South Asian American eating behaviors using a novel qualitative methodology: virtual free-listing informed mind-mapping. Poster presentation at: American Society of Nutrition (ASN) NUTRITION 2021 Annual Meeting; June 7-10, 2021; Virtual (web-based conference).
  6. Murphy B, Talegawkar SA, Kanaya A, Deierlein AL, Gadgil M, Kandula NR, O’Connor J, Parekh N. DASH diet concordance among adults in the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study (2010-2013). American Society for Nutrition Conference. June 7-10, 2021.
  7. Murphy B, Talegawkar SA, Mohsin F, Lal S, Harris S, Blatt M, Parekh N. Health behaviors, food purchasing, and meal preparation in a sample of South Asian adults in America: a pilot study. American Society for Nutrition Conference. June 7-10, 2021.
  8. Parekh N, Ali SH, Murphy B, DiClemente RJ. An inter-generational Research Incubator to navigate students into public health careers: The South Asian Health and Research (SAHARA) Group. Oral presentation at: 2021 Transforming Institutions Conference; June 9-11, 2021; Virtual (web-based conference).
  9. Parekh N, Ali SH, Murphy B, DiClemente RJ. An inter-generational Research Incubator to navigate students into public health careers: The South Asian Health and Research (SAHARA) Group. Oral presentation at: 2021 Transforming Institutions Conference; June 9-11, 2021; Virtual (web-based conference).
  10. Parikh RS, Mohsin F, Ali SH, DiClemente R. Exploring family interaction patterns among LGB+ Asian American young adults. Poster presentation at: 2021 American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference; Oct. 24-27, 2021; Denver, CO.

NYU GPH SAHARA SEED Grant

A fund to support faculty and students on their ongoing research related to the SAHARA group

 

NYU GPH SAHARA SEED Grant Awardees:

Exploring Mental Health-Seeking Behaviors in South Asian Americans 

Recipients: Konya Badsa, Reet Kapur, and Priyanka Nalkar led by Farzana Kapadia, PhD MPH

The study aims to understand perceptions of mental health care seeking and willingness to seek mental health care among adult (≥18 years old) South Asians residing in the U.S.

South Asian Perceived Intergenerational Cultural Experiences (SPICE)

Recipients: Mahathi Vojjala, Farhan Mohsin, Pooja Yerram, Fahad Farooqui and Maham Tariq led by Nina Parikh, PhD MPH

The SPICE study aims to better understand generational differences between first-generation and subsequent generations, and perceived racism in the U.S. Additionally, the study will evaluate the association between perceived racism, acculturation, and generational status among South Asians in the U.S.

Understanding family interaction among young Asian Americans through interaction quality, influence, and related activities

Recipients: Shahmir Ali, Roshan Parikh and Farhan Mohsin led by Ralph DiClemente, PhD ScM

The study aims to develop and validate a Family Interaction Quality and Activities scale to capture  how involved young South Asian and other Asian Americans are in the daily lives of their family members. The study will also aim to identify popular online and social medial platforms used by young South Asian and other Asian Americans to interact with family members. Lastly, the study will evaluate the association of the type and quality of interaction between young South Asian and other Asian Americans and specific family members with the degree of perceived influence on lifestyle behaviors.

 

National Cancer Institute Grant Awardee:

Development of a food list to assess diet of South Asians living in the United States

Recipient: Bridget Murphy, Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Populations (CEESP) NCI Fellow

Summer 2021, Grant #R25CA112383

Accepted as a 2020 CEESP fellow (deferred to 2021 due to COVID-19), which provides funding for students to complete cancer-related public health research from May through August of the year awarded.

"I have had the pleasure of watching the growth of SAHARA over the last two years from its conception in late 2019. As a PhD student with a strong interest in addressing the health needs of diverse Asian communities living in the US, SAHARA has been phenomenal in connecting me with other students and faculty with similar research interests and developing research teams to embark on new projects. Through SAHARA I have had the pleasure of working with close to 20 undergraduate and masters students across 4-5 distinct projects spanning both the US and the UAE. The seed grant program has also been such a blessing in actually joining efforts in developing rigorous qualitative and qualitative datasets through primary data collection focused on South Asian and Asian American health needs, which our teams have used to produce multiple journal manuscripts, conference presentations, and data briefs. Looking forward to all that lies ahead with this group!"
—Shahmir Ali, Doctoral Student

 

"I’m a first-year MPH student who has been involved with SAHARA for 5 months, and it’s been an eye-opening experience. Within a few days of signing up, I was part of a research team, the recipient of a research grant, and getting to know a group of incredible mentors and colleagues — and I’ve come to find that that is exactly the kind of learning and opportunity SAHARA fosters all the time. I am currently working on a study designed to assess mental healthcare-seeking behaviors among South Asian Americans, and I’ve already learnt so much. We’ve filed IRBs, dabbled (and gotten comfortable!) with Qualtrics, and done extensive literature searches — and we haven’t even gotten to the data analysis and results part! Needless to say, I’m excited for what’s to come and to continue working as a researcher with SAHARA."
– Reet Kapur, MPH Student

 

"I joined SAHARA as a wide-eyed first-year undergraduate student, and I haven't looked back since. While I had almost no prior research experience, the SAHARA team taught me so much about how knowledge gained in the classroom can convert into applicable research skills. I am currently working on a project aiming to study how family interactions can affect food and dietary habits among young-adult Asian Americans, for which I received an NYU DURF FAST grant as a result of support and guidance from everyone at SAHARA. In a few short months, we've already gone through methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis, stumbled through R, designed countless logos and flyers, and written a good number of abstracts. I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned these past few months, and I can't wait to see what's next for SAHARA."
—Roshan Parikh, Undergraduate Student

Get Involved

To get involved, please email SAHARA Lab Coordinator, Farhan Mohsin at mfm425@nyu.edu to express your interest.