Collage of healthcare scenarios

Hawaiʻi is often ranked as one of the healthiest states, with health insurance coverage and life expectancy higher than national averages. However, there are significant challenges in the state’s health sector, including health disparities, especially among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; prevalent chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes; behavioral and oral health issues; a rapidly aging population; and health workforce shortages.

The University of Hawaiʻi System, through its 10 campuses, has many resources that can provide meaningful solutions to these challenges. UH has strong programs in health sciences, nursing, medicine, public health, social work, pharmacy, dental hygiene, cancer research and more. UH also has numerous successful units and programs that address health in social sciences, education, engineering, law, business, agriculture/nutrition and more.

UHealthy Hawaiʻi is a new initiative to leverage UH programs to improve health and healthcare in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. It is one of UH President David Lassner’s top initiatives and is led by Aimee Grace, a pediatrician with significant federal policy experience.

UHealthy Hawaiʻi was forged through numerous listening sessions across the UH System and focuses on four primary areas.

Ensuring a robust statewide health workforce
Utilize UH’s strong health sciences programs and its faculty, staff, graduates, and students to address the state’s healthcare and service needs to include a diverse workforce.

Discovering and innovating to improve and extend lives
Build on UH’s successful, culturally-sensitive research and innovation to improve the lives of Hawaiʻi’s multi-ethnic population, indigenous Pacific communities, and the increasingly multi-cultural population of the continental U.S.

Promoting healthier families and communities
Champion prevention and wellness activities, establish a Healthy Aging Initiative, tackle persistent health disparities, foster global health engagement, and promote social connections that support emotional wellness and resilience.

Advancing health in all policies
Drive meaningful health policy and advance health in all policies, by applying UH’s analytical and educational leadership. Address pressing health policy and economic issues in Hawaiʻi, the Pacific and nationwide.

The UHealthy Hawaiʻi initiative has been focusing its early efforts on optimizing Hawaiʻi’s health workforce. The UHealthy Hawaiʻi team has been working with State Rep. John Mizuno and State Sen. Roz Baker on an upcoming legislative briefing on August 21, entitled “Hawaiʻi’s Health Workforce Development for the 21st Century.”

The August 21 legislative briefing will feature national experts on health workforce; explore data and trends from the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center and the Hawaiʻi State Center for Nursing; and present details about the UHealthy Hawaiʻi initiative. Presenters will also share potential solutions to optimize Hawaiʻi’s health system, address shared workforce challenges and address workforce issues in various sectors (including entry-level health professions, nursing, medicine, social work, behavioral health and public health). The briefing aims to drive toward consensus on shared priorities for Hawaiʻi’s health workforce needs.