Temple Magazine

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HOLD THE SALT

STORY BY CHRISTINE MORA


Video by Megan Chiplock

The Center for Asian Health, in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Asian Community Health Coalition and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, is spearheading an initiative to reduce salt consumption—and therefore, hypertension—in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative aims to decrease hypertension–related mortality rates by working with Chinese takeout restaurants in the city to reduce the amount of sodium in their food by 10 to 15 percent. The program includes training chefs to cook menu items to both preserve taste and reduce sodium, often a major ingredient in the sauces used in Chinese food.

Excess sodium intake increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, which affects nearly 40 percent of adults in Philadelphia. Additionally, the average American consumes twice the recommended daily amount of sodium, mostly from processed foods and foods made in restaurants. Funding for the initiative is provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Get Healthy Philly, a part of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Grace X. Ma, director of the Center for Asian Health and professor of public health in the College of Health Professions and Social Work, is leading the initiative.

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

To date, 221 restaurants have been recruited to participate. Ma says the program´s preliminary results are promising. “Our first cohort shows a 20–percent decrease in sodium content after six months of intervention,” she explains. “We follow up at each participating Chinese takeout restaurant three, six and 15 months after training.” Ma added that the Center for Asian Health is “honored” to be involved in an initiative to promote healthful living. “By reorienting people to different approaches, we can give them the tools and knowledge to make positive choices about their health.”

To read more about the Center for Asian Health, click here.