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Why We Support Asian Americans Living With Diabetes

shutterstock_112727437Asian Americans are at high risk to develop Type 2 diabetes. As with many health disparities faced by Asian Americans, the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center provides specialized care for our diabetes patients. We talked to Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator Daniel Wong, RDN, CDN, CDE, about our diabetes care program—and what having a patient-centered medical home means for our community.

DN: What is your role in supporting our patients managing diabetes?

DW: I am referred both patients who are pre-diabetic and those who have diabetes. Some of our patients manage their diabetes well; some do not manage diabetes well at all. I support them on insulin injection and blood sugar checking skills, creating exercise plans, and managing their diet through meal planning, portion control, and reading food labels. I also educate them on foot care, eye care, and dental care, which is all affected by diabetes.

DN: What are barriers that diabetic Asian Americans face to manage diabetes?

DW: There are socioeconomic reasons that make it difficult. Many of our patients are Chinese American immigrants, who work long hours and have difficulty making time to go to the doctor. Some are under-insured or have no insurance. Some do not visit a doctor for decades, and at that point they may not know they have diabetes or that their diabetes is uncontrolled.

I also find that there are cultural barriers. Chinese Americans don’t like to take medicine—they think it is unnatural and often think medications damage their bodies.  When our patients are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, they turn to herbal medicine and traditional Chinese remedies. After a few years of this, their pre-diabetes turns into diabetes.

Like in many cultures, diet can be difficult to change for Asian Americans. Cutting down on starches such as rice, noodles, and bread is hard when it is a staple part of their diet. Also, Asian Americans have a lower BMI cut-off to be considered at risk for diabetes. If a doctor is not familiar with this, their Asian American patients at risk for diabetes can easily be overlooked.

DN: Can you tell us about a patient who you had success in breaking through these barriers?

DW: We had a patient in his 30’s who came in with pre-diabetes. We didn’t see him again for three years. When he finally came back, his pre-diabetes developed into uncontrolled diabetes. His blood sugar was alarmingly high. His absence was due to being incredibly busy, and feeling like he didn’t have symptoms worth visiting a doctor. This is very typical for my diabetes patients. He came to see me to learn how to take his insulin, to check blood sugar at home, and how to manage his diet better. After learning about the severity of his diabetes, he cut out starch completely and experienced low blood sugar symptoms. This isn’t necessarily good either. He lost a lot of weight in a very short period of time. We worked together on medication management, meal plans, a balanced diet, and integrating exercise into his lifestyle. Within a month his diabetes was controlled and managed.

 DN: Charles B. Wang Community Health Center is a patient-centered medical home. What does that mean for our diabetes patients?

DW: Charles B. Wang Community Health Center truly does have comprehensive services, especially for those with chronic conditions that need extra care. Most people living with diabetes have a doctor who treats their condition.  In addition to our clinical team, we have case managers and a dietitians, like me, who educate and support our patients to manage their diabetes.  We have certified diabetes educators who host diabetes support groups, workshops, and provide individual counseling. We have social workers that will work with our patients to get health insurance, if that is an issue.  Some of our diabetes patients have depression as a result of their diagnosis. We have therapists to support those patients.  All members of our team provide language and culturally appropriate care.

As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), we are held to a very high standard of care. Having improved health indicators is both important to us and expected of us. As a result, we provide top quality services to community members who really need them—like those living with diabetes.

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Summer Fun in the Sun – UV Safety Tips

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Written by Erica Wan

Though summer is a great opportunity to unwind and spend some time with family on the beach, it is important to remember that more time outdoors means more sun exposure. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, but ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can also damage your skin, causing premature aging, wrinkles, and an increased risk of skin cancer. UV rays can even be a concern even on cloudy days, as up to 80% of UV rays can pass through clouds. Here are some tips for having a fun, relaxing summer without the sunburn.

Monitor UV levels. It’s a good idea to check how high UV levels are in your area for a better idea of how to prepare and what activities to plan for a given day. You can find the UV index for your local area in the weather forecast or on epa.gov.

Use sunscreen. Sunscreen is one of the best ways of reducing UV exposure. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.  Broad spectrum means it protects against the major types of UV rays that cause damage (UVA and UVB). Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your sunscreen, and consider using a water-resistant sunscreen if you will be in the water. Since sunscreen can wear off, it’s important to reapply throughout the day, especially if you swim or exercise.

Cover up. Wearing clothing such as long-sleeved shirts or long pants will help protect against UV exposure. Tightly woven fabrics offer better protection against UV exposure.

Accessorize with sunglasses and a hat. A wide-brimmed hat can help protect the sensitive parts of your face, neck, and ears from too much sun exposure. UV rays can also damage your eyes, increasing your risk of developing cataracts. Opt for UV-absorbent sunglasses to protect your eyes; most sunglasses sold in the U.S. offer broad-range protection against UV rays.

Limit exposure, and stay hydrated!  Generally, UV rays are the strongest from 10am to 4pm. If you have to be out in the sun during this time, don’t forget to take breaks in the shade. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so you lessen the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Check out our tips for healthy summer drinks. Keep drinking, even when you’re not thirsty.

Now that you’re all summer ready, get out there and have some fun!

Written by Erica Wan. Erica is currently a health education intern at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She is studying Biology, and Culture, Health & Science at Smith College, with an interest in immunology and medicine.


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Have a Smoke-Free Home

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Written by Michelle Chen

We all need clean air to live healthy lives. This includes the air inside your home, not just what you breathe in outside. To protect your and your family’s health, don’t smoke at home. Secondhand smoke, which comes from cigarettes and the air smokers breathe out, is toxic. It has thousands of deadly chemicals, including ones that cause cancer. Non-smokers who live with secondhand smoke are more likely to get sick or die from serious illness such as cancer and heart disease. Secondhand smoke is especially bad for children. At the Health Center, we see kids with family members who smoke that come in with asthma and ear infections.

Secondhand smoke is a special problem in big cities like New York, where many people live in apartments. Much of the air inside a building is shared. Smoke in one unit can move through a whole building and into other units, even if they are far apart. Smoke can get trapped almost everywhere, including walls, floors, doors, and furniture. It can also stay on your clothes and hair. No fan, room spray, or open window can get rid of lingering smoke. Just because you can’t see it or smell it doesn’t mean it’s not there!

Make your whole home smoke-free (not just a few rooms). Moving to another room or opening a window does NOT protect your loved ones from the smoke. Don’t just stop at your home – make your car smoke-free, too. Here are some tips:

  • Get rid of ashtrays, lighters, and matches.
  • Tell your friends and family that you don’t allow smoking in your home.
  • Have gum or fruit as an alternative to smoking.
  • Be polite but firm. If people must smoke, insist that they do it outside.

We know quitting can be hard, but your health improves the moment you stop. Your loved ones will be thankful for it, too. Are you ready to take the next steps, but don’t know where to begin? Check out our posts on tips and why you should quit.

At the Health Center, we can help patients quit or cut back on smoking:

You can also get free patches and help from:

This post is made possible with funding from the RCHN Community Health Foundation and adapted from NYCDOHMH’s Health Bulletin.

Michelle Chen is a Health Educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a B.A. in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Barnard College. She is interested in the intersection of public health and Asian American activism.


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Get the Flu Shot!

Written by Dr. Perry Pong

Cooler weather is coming back, and so is the flu. Now is the time to get your flu vaccine before flu season (usually from November until April). The flu virus changes every year and this year’s flu shot is different than last year’s.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone aged six months or older. It is especially important for people over the age of 50, children ages six months to 18 years, pregnant women, health care workers, and people working or living with the elderly or young children.

Even after you get the flu shot to keep you and your family healthy this winter, take these everyday steps to protect yourself from getting the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Get your shot early—protect yourself from the flu and avoid spreading it to your family and friends. Make an appointment with us to get your flu shot today. For open house dates and to see if you qualify, click here.

Written by Perry Pong, MD. Dr. Pong is the chief medical officer at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He received his medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and completed his residency training at Veterans Affairs Medical Center New York. Dr. Pong is board-certified in internal medicine.


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Beat the Heat with Healthy Summer Drinks

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What better way to beat the heat than a tall, cold summer drink? We should drink about 8-9 cups of fluids every day to stay healthy—especially in the summer. Many bottled and store-bought drinks are packed with lots of sugar. It is hard to cut out sweet drinks completely, and you don’t always have to. Here are some ways to cut down on your sugar intake while still staying hydrated in the heat.

  • When ordering drinks, ask for less or no sugar in your order.
  • Limit the number of sweet drinks you buy each week.
  • Infuse water with fresh fruit or mint.
  • Make your own drinks. You can control how much sugar to put in—the less, the better.
  • Use water or seltzer water to dilute sugary drinks.
  • Learn to read food labels so you can control the amount of sugar in your diet.
  • Remember that water is the best option: it has 0 calories and 0 sugar!

Remember to drink liquids all the time, not just when you feel thirsty! Choosing unsweetened or low sugar drinks will keep you cool and healthy during the summer.


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Fireworks Safety Tips & 4th of July Fun

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With the 4th of July just around the corner, fireworks season is finally here! If you’re in the state of New York, remember that while sparklers and party poppers are legal, any type of fireworks that leave the ground such as firecrackers or Roman candles are illegal. Here are a few safety tips to make sure you get the most out of this weekend.

  1. Always ignite fireworks outside, and keep away from brush, leaves, or other flammable substances.
  2. Be cautious if you let your children play with sparklers – they can heat up to 1,200°F which results in many adolescent injuries every year.
  3. Have a bucket of water nearby to soak the fireworks in after you’re done and to quickly put out any emergency fires.

If you’d rather leave the fireworks to the professionals, we’ve picked out a few firework shows and other events going on this weekend. Some of them will be familiar and others unfamiliar, so if you don’t have any plans then choose one of these!

Travis Parade
If you’re near Staten Island, stop by for this big-time parade in a small-town atmosphere. One of the oldest parades in US history, this annual event is a celebration of the rich history of Travis that spans as far back as the Revolutionary War. Featuring local music groups, county dignitaries, and prominent community members, the parade begins at noon in front of PS 26.

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks
Celebrate the 4th of July with the most anticipated fireworks display of the year! This iconic event returns to the East River this year with viewing available along the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn Heights Promenade. With performances by Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Meghan Trainor, and many more, come early to watch it in person or tune in to NBC at 8pm.

Harlem Children’s Parade
This one’s just for the kids – come early for Yoga for Kids by Land Yoga at 10am, decorate bikes and scooters to win prizes, and start lining up for the parade by 10:45am. Stay after the parade to get sprayed by firetrucks, so don’t forget your swimsuit! The parade begins on Morningside Drive at 115th St.

Coney Island
If you’re looking to get out of the city this weekend, come drop by the boardwalk and beaches of Coney Island this weekend for fireworks and of course, Nathan’s World Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The fireworks will take place this Friday night at 9:30pm on the beach between W 10th and W 12th. Joey Chestnut returns to defend his world record of 69 hot dogs and will look for his 9th straight title this year. The contest begins at noon on Saturday at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues.

Whatever your plans this holiday weekend, we wish you a happy and safe 4th of July!


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Getting Through Allergy Season

To help you make it through the allergy season, Holly Lee, FNP and clinical director of our Flushing site and one of our family nurse practitioners, shares some tips on how you can limit your contact with pollen and reduce your allergy symptoms.

Fighting your allergies can be a difficult battle, especially during this year’s allergy season. As grass, plants and trees grow and bloom at the same time, they will release a surge of pollen that will cause many people to sneeze, cough and tear endlessly.

Many of us suffer during allergy season because our bodies treat pollen as a foreign substance. Our bodies will then trigger protective responses known to us as allergy symptoms. These symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, itchy throat, sneezing and runny nose.

There are also over-the-counter medications like loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) to help relieve allergy symptoms. If you have severe allergies, your doctor can prescribe you stronger medications like nasal sprays and eye drops. You can also ask your doctor if you may benefit from an allergy vaccine.

Power through –– allergy season is almost over!

Written by Bonnie Tse. Bonnie Tse is a health educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Hunter College.