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Temple’s Center for Asian Health Joins Forces with Area Chinese Restaurants to Battle Hypertension

Temple University’s Center for Asian Health is spearheading a collaborative effort to prevent hypertension in Philadelphia.

Grace X. Ma, PhD, director of the CAH and a professor at the College of Public Health’s Department of Public Health, is the principal investigator for the Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative.

In partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Asian Community Health Coalition, and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, Dr. Ma and the CAH will be addressing the interrelated issues of excess sodium consumption and hypertension.

The study aims to decrease hypertension-related mortality rates by working with Chinese take-out restaurants in Philadelphia to reduce the amount of sodium in their food by 10 to 15 percent. Funding for this initiative is provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Get Healthy Philly, part of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

“There are more than 400 Chinese restaurants throughout the city of Philadelphia,” said Dr. Ma.  “Many are located in communities that have a particularly high incidence rate of hypertension. By targeting these areas in our overall study, we can have a strong impact on at-risk communities.”

To date, 221 restaurants have been recruited to participate in the initiative. Preliminary results are promising, according to Dr. Ma. “Our first cohort shows a 20 percent decrease in sodium content comparing the lab results of pre- and post-tests six months following the intervention,” she said.  “We have three time points of follow up compliance check for each participating Chinese take-out restaurant at 3, 6 and 15 months post the training intervention.”

Excess sodium intake increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, which affects nearly 40 percent of adults and 47 percent of African Americans in Philadelphia. The average American consumes twice the recommended daily amount of sodium, mostly from processed and restaurant foods.

The initiative is comprised of several approaches, and includes working with Chinese restaurants and training chefs to cook menu items in new ways that preserve taste and reduce sodium. Chinese restaurant dishes contain large amounts of sodium mainly due to the sauces used in food preparation and cooking.

“We are honored to be spearheading a program that can guide people on the path to healthier eating, and healthier living,” Ma said. “By reorienting people to different approaches, we can give them the tools and knowledge to make positive choices about their health.”