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mask-wearing app screen
Photo courtesy: UH Applied Research Laboratory

Mikiala Maynard has been spending the past few weekends with her daughter observing and collecting data on public mask usage in her community on Maui. She is among 70 University of Hawaiʻi student volunteers who are learning about public health while serving their communities in a statewide project that tracks how well Hawaiʻi residents are adopting face mask-wearing behavior in public places. The project, expected to run until January 2021, is still seeking volunteers on all islands.

Mikala Maynard with daughter wearing mask
Mikiala Maynard and daughter, Kanoelani Kipi-Maynard

“I hope to gain more experience in the community setting, which will allow me to better address future patients based on their unique needs,” said Maynard, a UH Mānoa nursing student who is currently studying remotely on Maui. “It has allowed me to instill the importance of community service to my daughter and reinforced the need to continue wearing masks properly, to lead by example. It has become a ritual we both enjoy and look forward to.”

Launched in late August, the collaborative project was developed by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (HIDOH) and faculty at UH Mānoaʻs School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH). Once a week, volunteers throughout the state gather mask-wearing data from residents of Honolulu, Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island counties using a smartphone app developed by the UH Applied Research Laboratory. The data is then submitted to HIDOH where weekly reports are generated as a community prevention metric for the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard.

girl wearing mask mask looking at phone
UH Mānoa graduate nursing student Daisy-Kristina Wong observes face mask usage.

“I think it’s important to let people see how our communities are doing in regards to wearing masks. Hopefully having this information available will encourage everyone to continue taking this simple step to keep each other safe,” said Gary Glauberman, program director of SONDH’s Advanced Population Health Nursing master’s program, who has been recruiting student volunteers from the UH campuses.

Information being collected include: “Wearing Face Mask Correctly,” “Wearing Face Mask Incorrectly,” or “No Mask.” Wearing a face mask correctly means that the face mask completely covers the person’s nose and chin. Volunteers collect data for two hours or until 100 individuals are counted.

The volunteers come from multiple UH campuses, including UH Mānoa, Kauaʻi Community College, UH Maui College and UH Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, as well as community groups such as the Hawaiʻi State Medical Reserve Corps and the Rotary Club.

Learning while serving

“We felt this project was an excellent opportunity for students to learn about public health and serve our community at the same time,” said Glauberman. “By participating as volunteers, students gain experience as data collectors in the field, contributing information that will be used to inform public health activity. I believe this to be an empowering experience for students, to see how their individual efforts can collectively serve to inform public health action in our state.”

Tatiana Strezoski wearing a mask
Tatiana Strezoski

Glauberman works in collaboration with HIDOH project lead and Kauaʻi District Health Officer, Janet Berreman. Glauberman gives online orientations for the volunteers prior to conducting observations. The orientations provide information regarding the aim of the project, how to record observations and use the app, and safety tips. Each volunteer is required to wear a mask while making their observations, both for safety reasons, and to serve as good role models for the community. In teams of two, they conduct observations at various sites across the state.

“When the idea about the project came out, I thought that it would be very interesting to see the statistics for Oʻahu,” said Tatiana Strezoski, a UH Mānoa nursing student expected to graduate in spring 2021.

“I observed and advised a friend of their incorrect mask usage and was surprised she declined to pull her mask up, even after providing her tips on correct usage and explaining its importance. That made me interested in how to present the information to people so that they will be motivated to properly wear the masks,” Strezoski explained.

For more information on how to volunteer, contact Glauberman at (808) 277-3542 or glauberm@hawaii.edu.

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