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Lawmakers convene to receive landmark health report

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina Shelton, (808) 692-0897
Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Mele Look, (808) 692-1051
Director of Community Engagement, Native Hawaiian Health
Posted: Sep 23, 2013

Drs. Alika Maunakea, Nalani Blaisdell, Richard Blaisdell and Keawe Kaholokula.
Drs. Alika Maunakea, Nalani Blaisdell, Richard Blaisdell and Keawe Kaholokula.

Four committees of the state Legislature are recognizing the importance of a new assessment of health in Hawai`i by jointly sponsoring a public briefing to receive the data on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 329 of the State Capitol Building.

The University of Hawai`i John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and its community partners will present the “Assessment & Priorities for Health and Well-Being of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Peoples.” The study is the result of two years of work, and the most comprehensive collection of data focusing on what is working and what challenges remain in the health status of Native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Samoans, Tongans, Guamanian/Chamorro, Micronesians (Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) and Fijians, who collectively represent a significant portion of Hawai`i’s population.

The challenges for this population are enormous: Most of them have shorter life spans than other Hawai`i citizens. Thirty organizations across the state and in California identified the major health concerns, which include diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The positive news is that, over time, there has been improvement as a result of focused efforts. For example, Filipinos in Hawai`i now can be expected to live, on average, to nearly age 81—that’s slightly better than the overall Hawai`i life expectancy of 80.5 years.  Native Hawaiians, however, typically die six years earlier than other populations. (That does show a steady if slow improvement from 1970, when the life expectancy of Native Hawaiians was 13 years less than that of other populations.)

In short, what is working in these communities still generally beset by fewer providers of health care, less education, lower wages and higher rates of disease?

  • Health improvement programs in the community run by people the community knows and trusts.
    • Culture and science can blend for successful outcomes. A cardiac health improvement study incorporated hula, and saw as much as a 20-point drop in blood pressure among participants. (Hula Empowering Lifestyle Adaptation (HELA), sponsored by the UH medical school, The Queen’s Medical Center, Papakolea’s Kula no Na Po`e, Kōkua Kalihi Valley and hula experts from Halau Mohala `Ilima; funded by the National Institutes of Health.)
    • Focus on improving educational opportunities shows results. UH Community Colleges Pathways program has shined: almost doubled enrollment of Native Hawaiians from 1992-2007.

“Collaborations are difficult but they work,” said Mele Look, Director of Community Engagement for the JABSOM Department of Native Hawaiian Health. “If we focus on what the community wants, what they will participate in, and what works, we can make progress.”

The medical school and its partners emphasize that overall inequity in the health of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders persists and are “considerable and disturbing.”  The University of Hawai`i, including the medical school, endeavors to provide better education which researchers have determined is linked to better income and improved health.

The Informational Briefing before the House and Senate Committees on Health, Hawaiian Affairs and Marine Resouces and Hawaiian Affairs will be broadcast live on `Olelo public access channel 53. The link for the webcast is

Copies of the full report will be available at the hearing.

For more information, visit: