South Asian Public Health Association SAPHA Quarterly Newsletter

Spring 2015

In This Issue
SAPHA is the premier South Asian-related public health organization in America, in existence since 1999. SAPHA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of South Asians and the communities in which they live in America.
Join Our Mailing List
Become a SAPHA Member! 

We invite you to join us in our work! You can start by becoming an active part of our free listserv, joining and asking your colleagues to join SAPHA as a member, and volunteering to help one of SAPHA's committees. 


Being part of SAPHA is an opportunity to network with other professionals invested in the health of South Asians in the United States and to promote the health of South Asian communities. Be sure to visit our membership page at to get more information on how to become a member of this exciting organization.

Join a SAPHA Committee!

Business Meeting
SAPHA is currently seeking dedicated professionals to join one of SAPHA's Committees: 




Membership/ Nominations

Partnerships/Local Groups



SAPHA Committees meet regularly via conference call to discuss how to advance the mission and goals of SAPHA and to better serve the South Asian community. For more information visit SAPHA'S committee's page!

SAPHA 2015 Board Members

Neelum Aggarwal
(Communications Chair )
Nazeera Dawood
(Local Chapters/ Partnerships
Vaibhav Jain  (Secretary)
Memoona Hasnain (Research Chair)
Dhara Thakar Meghani 
(Membership Chair)

Punam Parikh Modha 
(Vice President)
   Yousra Yusuf
Ami Shah

Newsletter prepared by Melanie Wathugala


SAPHA New Logo
Dear SAPHA Friends,


It's been an exciting year already!!  The new SAPHA Board has taken the bull by the horns and is accomplishing many SAPHA goals!


First, we have launched the SAPHA Blog with several fascinating stories from contributing members on refugee health and infectious diseases.  Additional topics are soon to come and we welcome your experiences and encourage your feedback.  The blog serves as an excellent platform to share everyday stories from the field, respond to current policies and research, and continue to CONNECT PEOPLE, IDEAS and RESOURCES.  If interested in blogging, contact Pavitra Krishnamani at:


We are also excited to participate in the SAALT National Summit in Washington, D.C. from April 10-13, 2015.  As a member of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), SAPHA Board members Nazeera Dawood and Yousra Yusuf will present two posters highlighting SAPHA's local partnerships and forthcoming SAPHA Book.  SAPHA brings a health lens to NCSO members and the SAALT summit, and we are honored to be participating.

This quarter we present exciting work and opportunities presented by NHLBI
welcome a new SAPHA intern, Sweta Gopalan, and spotlight Narika from the Bay Area.

As always, we welcome your participation and are looking for committed individuals eager to join SAPHA's fundraising workgroup, to launch a social media campaign for SAPHA, or to support plans for our Alumni Board.  Join the listserv, as a member or volunteer and support SAPHA's work.


Happy Spring,


SAPHA Board 2015 

Meet the New SAPHA Board of Directors!

Please join us in welcoming the new 2015 SAPHA Board of Directors! This new and exciting Board includes diverse professionals with backgrounds that will undoubtedly help move SAPHA forward.


The following new Board members will serve a term from 2015-2017:

  • Vaibhav Jain, BDS, MPH - Research Associate for American Institutes for Research
  • Shipra Singh, MBBS, MPH, PhD - Assistant Professor at University of Toledo
  • Phani Veeranki, MD - Assistant Professor at University of Texas 
  • Isha Weerasinghe, MSc - Senior Policy Analyst for Association for Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
  • Yousra Yusuf, MPH - Project Coordinator for NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health

The following 2014 SAPHA Board of Directors will continue their term into 2015:

  • Neelum Aggarwal, MD 
  • Nazeera Dawood, MD, MPH 
  • Bindu Garapaty, Psy.D
  • Memoona Hasnain, MD, MHPE, PhD
  • Punam Parikh Modha, MPH
  • Ami Shah, MPH
  • Dhara Thakar Meghani, PhD

For complete bios of all our Board members, please visit

Spotlight On: Our Newest Intern 

Sweta GopalanSweta
Currently studying at: Rutgers University New Brunswick campus
Major: Exercise Science
Minors: Psychology and Public Health
Sweta was born in India and moved to the tri-state area when she was seven years old. The past fourteen years in Jersey City has given her a chance to experience a melting pot of culture and diversity. Oldest in her family, she took on the responsibility of her younger sister and holds family as her closest priority.

In the next couple of months Sweta is planning on taking her GRE's and applying to Physical Therapy school around the nation. Her interests vary from dance to traveling and is open to trying new things and is very receptive to change. Sweta is very active in her sorority, Delta Phi Omega and has held multiple chair positions including Social and Recruitment Chairs and one day hopes to be on the Executive Board for Delta Phi Omega as well. Public Health is something that recently caught Sweta's interest after taking an introductory course at in public health at Rutgers and learning more and more, she could not wait to get involved and decided to look into SAPHA, and other clubs at Rutgers, which can help her get more involved. Now, she is SAPHA's Local Partnerships intern.
Spotlight on: NarikaNarika


This quarter we want to spotlight Narika, an organization that promotes women's independence and economic empowerment by

helping domestic violence survivors with  advocacy, support, information, referrals, and education. 


We spoke to Ruvani Fonseka who is just finishing up her internship for Narika through UC Berkeley's Master of Social Welfare program. She initially joined Narika because she is passionate about gender equity and health in South Asian communities. Before this, she has screened clients for domestic violence in a women's community clinic in San Francisco, helped do data analysis for a public health initiative in Bangalore training health care workers to support survivors of domestic violence, and conducted her MPH thesis research on the links between adverse childhood experiences and intimate partner violence perpetration among Sri Lankan males. She says, "Narika is the perfect place for me to develop my skills in the field of domestic violence prevention in South Asian communities while finishing my studies at Berkeley."


Ruvani has helped coordinate Narika's Self-Empowerment and Economic Development (SEED) workshops with recent immigrants, secure funding for trauma-informed support for children of survivors, and develop the staff and board members through trainings. She is really proud of the SEED program for recent immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Financial dependence on others is a major risk factor for domestic violence, along with the linguistic isolation that many immigrants face when they first arrive in the US. The SEED program works to prevent domestic violence by both developing new immigrants' ESL skills and also preparing them for careers in the US through financial management training, career coaching, and skills development. Ruvani commented, "It has been really rewarding to see the amazing progress that people make over the 12 weeks in the program, and to hear the success stories of those who find employment and can support themselves."


Narika plans to continue to develop partnerships with other domestic violence and immigrant support agencies in the community. Narika is a small organization, and its clients are most supported by a network of community allies coming together.


To get involved, visit, or email for more information. There are multiple ways to get involved, from donating, volunteering in-person, serving as a board member, or volunteering virtually (such as website design). 

Feel free to contact Ruvani about her work/research at


NHLBI's Strategic Visioning: Opportunity to Voice South Asian Research NeedsNHLBI

The National Heart, Lung, and 
Blood Institute (NHLBI) 
recently launched its Strategic Visioning initiative - a process to develop the scientific priorities for the next decade . The success of the Initiative depends greatly on active  engagement and participation from diverse individuals and communities. This is a prime opportunity for South Asian researchers, public health professionals, and advocates to ensure that the research needs of the South Asian community are part of the broader conversation at the national level.


For decades, NHLBI research has been stimulating groundbreaking scientific discoveries and translating them into better prevention and treatment interventions, enhanced health outcomes, and dramatic contributions in longevity and quality of life around the world. In order for heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) research to continue to contribute toward enhancing lives and improving public health, the Institute has launched this Strategic Visioning initiative. This initiative will help NHLBI identify scientific priorities, ensure the NHLBI community and partners have a shared understanding of the future direction, and shape how the Institute makes strategic research investments to achieve scientific breakthroughs in the decade to come. The NHLBI seeks to engage everyone with an interest in HLBS research, from health professionals and researchers to patients and the general public, to collect the most innovative and pressing ideas.


The NHLBI's mission and research portfolio spans some of the most pressing health issues faced by the South Asian community. Visit the NHLBI Strategic Visioning website at to learn more and participate. The deadline to submit initial ideas is May 15, 2015.  



More SAPHA Happenings
  • CDC'S REACH program

    SAPHA has proudly joined over 200 national, state, territorial and U.S.-affiliated Pacific Island organizations to sign a letter sent to the Senate Appropriations committee requesting for continued funding for the CDC's REACH program. REACH is a critical federal program aimed at addressing racial and ethnic health disparities in the US. Through the letter, we urged the Congress to restore REACH to the funding level provided in the FY 2015 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill at $50.9 million. See letter attached here

  • AMWA Annual Meeting
    SAPHA is proud to announce that Vivek Murthi, MD will be at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Medical Women's Association in Chicago 
    April 23- 26th. For more information or to register, please go to the website or click here.
  • SAALT Summit Poster Abstractssaalt

    1) "Integrating Health in all Policies: Shifting from Illness to Wellness"

    In response to deteriorating trends in public health with increasing disparities and health care costs, we will introduce the concept of social determinants of health and their multiple impacts on the health status in the South Asian (SA) community. SAPHA realizes that movement toward addressing health disparity has been founded upon interagency collaborations with current and future community partnerships. Our target audiences are South Asians and agencies that serve SA. SAPHA will be able to provide common oversight and direction to alliances covering health issues in SA such as diabetes, smoking and heart disease.

    2) SAPHA Book book2
    "Health of South Asians in the United States: An Evidence-Based Guide for Policy and Program Development"
    To be published by the South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) in the fall 2015, the book synthesizes the most current evidence on cutting edge heath issues facing South Asian Americans.
     The book is comprised of 16 chapters written and reviewed by experts in South Asian health on chronic diseases, lifestyle and health, mental health, intimate partner violence, and highlights health issues of certain population subgroups. Questions? Please contact


Health Events




    For a more complete list of these conferences, please check out our website hereThe events listed in this section are for informational purposes only. SAPHA does not necessarily endorse the organizations or events listed.  

    Email SAPHA if you would like an event or research posted here!