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South Asian people are four times more likely to experience coronary disease and diabetes due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. (iStock)

An institute to better understand the health needs of South Asians has been established in B.C. in hopes that chronic diseases such as diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes.

The Fraser Health Authority has launched the South Asian Health Institute in Surrey, B.C., home to the third-largest South Asian population in Canada.

South Asians are also more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.

The authority's president, Dr. Nigel Murray, says the institute's goal is early intervention and management of chronic conditions in a culturally appropriate way.

Dr. Arun Garg, the institute's medical director, says the cost of late intervention is significant for individuals, families and the province's health-care system.

He says the focus will be on preventing chronic diseases rather than fixing them.