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The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa will receive more than $23 million from now through 2022 for a specialized center focused on advancing health for citizens who suffer disproportionately from genetic, environmental and socio-economic related disparities in health and health-care access.

The Ola HAWAIʻI (Ola means health or to heal in Hawaiian, and HAWAIʻI stands for Health And Wellness Achieved by Impacting Inequalities) Specialized Research Center will support multidisciplinary teams of investigators and community collaborators as they conduct basic biomedical, behavioral and clinical research on the causes of health disparities and the most effective solutions to reduce those disparities among the underserved, multiethnic populations in Hawaiʻi.

The center will be based at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in collaboration with the Office of Public Health Studies and Center on Aging at the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, the UH Cancer Center, the College of Natural Sciences and the Pacific Biosciences Research Center.

“This is a broad-based academic endeavor and one that is strong because of the way it brings people together for common purpose even with differences in training and professional identity,” said JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges.

The proposed community-based pilot research projects include:

  • Backyard Aquaponics: Promoting Healthy Eating among Native Hawaiian Families in partnership with the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, see more images in the Flickr album
  • Exploring First Foods of Keiki on Oʻahu
  • Understanding resiliency and well-being among Native Hawaiian and Micronesian families who are exposed to the trauma and risk associated with being houseless
  • Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate nanoparticles for local prevention of HIV infection
  • Fatty Liver Disease in HIV infected Individuals
  • Development of a platform for translational Affective Neuroscience: functional MRI imaging of fear response in a mouse model of PTSD

“Overall, Hawaiʻi ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation, yet health disparities continue to exist with deadly impact for many populations including Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Filipinos,” said Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work Dean Noreen Mokuau. “With support from the U.S. congressional delegation and University of Hawaiʻi leadership, a talented assembly of interdisciplinary researchers successfully shaped a plan of research action to address the most serious of health disparities in Hawaiʻi.”

Read more about the grant and the project at the JABSOM website.

Tilapia growing in an aquaponics system at the Waimānalo Learning Center, one of several Ola HAWAIʻI grant-funded community pilot projects. Deborah Manog photos.

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