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Grant to UH aims at improving health care for Pacific Islanders

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Gregg Takayama, (808) 692-0988
John A. Burns School of Medicine
Posted: Oct 13, 2006

The University of Hawaii‘s John A. Burns School of Medicine is receiving a federal grant of $400,000 to continue an interdisciplinary project aimed at improving the training of health care workers in the Pacific Islands, utilizing distance-education technologies where feasible.

A major UH Manoa partner participating in the four-year, $1.6 million project is PEACESAT, which enables the UH Medical School to coordinate long-distance health training via satellite and other distance-education technologies.

The U.S. Health Resources Service Administration award was made available in direct response to advocacy and the Institute of Medicine Report detailing great disparities in availability of continuing education for the full spectrum of the health workforce in the U.S. Associated Pacific Island entities.

Detailed needs assessments were performed in the first year of the project which showed a general lack of infrastructure to support continuing education opportunities for nursing and allied health and even for physicians, especially those in the Freely Associated States.

"We‘ve worked collaboratively with other national and international partners who currently provide educational opportunities for the health workforce in the region and have leveraged resources to help the jurisdictions move toward developing sustainable continuing education programs, including developing local and regional expertise. There remain great disparities in the amount of money spent toward educating the health workforce in the FAS or territories, compared to the United States," says Principal Investigator Neal Palafox, MD, MPH and Project Director Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, MD of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Pacific Islanders suffer disproportionately high rates of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and oral health problems and have life expectancies as much as 12 years lower than U.S. life expectancies.

The federally funded project covers the Territories of American Samoa and Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, and the Federated States Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.