On Oct. 10, 2009, the Asian-American Women’s Coalition (AAWC) hosted a seminar, the Survival Guide to Good Health for “Smarties” at Drexel University in Philadelphia. This free seminar was open to the public and attracted some 200 attendees. Several physicians led the discussion.
The problem of addiction to gambling, an ill that has plagued parts of the Asian-American community, received the most attention during the seminar. UCLA gamble researcher Dr. Timothy Fong said, “Gambling often leads to bankruptcy and breaks families.” Dr. Fong told the story of a Korean immigrant who lost $200,000 by gambling. He was so distraught by exorbitant interest rate on his staggering debt that he killed his 5-year-old daughter before committing suicide.
To help the attendees determine whether they or their friends or relatives are addicted to gambling, Dr. Fong described the symptoms. They include lying to one’s family and friends about gambling activities, placing a very great importance on gambling, and the willingness to disrupt any other activity to continue gambling. Also according to Dr. Fong, many addicts know that gambling is wrong and disruptive to their normal lives, but they are unable to refrain from gambling. To obtain money for gambling, addicts would resort to fraud, robbery, and violent crimes.
Dr. Fong said that many Asian immigrants, especially newer ones, resort to gambling as a stress-relieving entertainment. Others see gambling as a potential source of revenue and still others want to test their luck.
Although the odds of winning in gambling are very low, many people would like to believe that they are lucky. However, almost all gambling addicts end up bankrupt.
Dr. Fong said, “Research shows that Asian-Americans, especially Chinese-Americans, have an increased propensity for gambling.” As for Philadelphia Chinatown residents’ recent, united efforts and success in resisting the establishment of a casino, Dr. Fong agreed that opening a casino there would lead to a myriad of social ills. Dr. Fong said that those Chinese-Americans who are prone to a gambling addiction might not be able to refrain from a casino’s lure, and gambling could destabilize the Chinese-American community.
Dr. Fong said, “Chinese-Americans [need] to maintain communication with the larger community, be aware of the gambling industry’s latest moves, and respond [accordingly].” Dr. Fong believes that such action would contribute to the Chinese-American community’s resistance to gambling. He also hopes that gambling addiction would not afflict Philadelphia.
Gambling addiction leads to frequent family problems, yet many Asian-Americans choose to resort to help from within the family to save face, but this approach is often ineffective, according to Dr. Fong. Dr. Fong said that ending a person’s addiction to gambling is a community effort and may require physician help. Dr. Fong said, “As long as we are confident, the addiction to gambling can definitely be ameliorated or solved.”
Dr. Arthur Evans, a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, suggested a basis for gambling addiction from a behavioral-science perspective. Dr. Evans and his colleagues answered questions and gave advice to attendees after the seminar on understanding, preventing, and ending gambling addiction.
This health seminar also covered other topics, including Asian-Americans’ increased risk for strokes, services available to encourage healthy living and psychological wellness, special programs for seniors, and how to seek medical care in general. Organizers of the event hoped to convey to the attendees that both a healthy body and a healthy mind are required for healthy living.