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A $600,000 grant will help the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) build on its efforts to strengthen communities against COVID-19 and reduce health disparities. The three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded through the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) will provide technical assistance and program evaluation for Community Health Workers for Public Health Response and Resilient Communities, a CARES Act initiative.

“We believe that the collaborative strategies and activities planned for this grant are critically needed to support the training, deployment and engagement of community health workers (CHWs) statewide,” said Associate Professor Catherine Pirkle, OPHS project lead at the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health. ”Our team is pleased to provide our evaluation expertise to support DOH.”

OPHS researchers have a long-standing dedication to community health workers. In the past four years, they have conducted several research evaluation projects to support statewide efforts to bolster the community health worker workforce. This includes projects on combating high blood pressure and prediabetes, decreasing high blood pressure through self-monitor blood pressure support, engagement of CHWs to promote community clinical linkages, a scoping review describing CHW roles and responsibilities in Hawaiʻi, and a CHW document library.

CHWs are well-positioned to reach communities, especially those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Their intervention efforts can improve uptake and access to health care services (e.g. testing, contact tracing, health behavior education), and improve communication between community members and health providers.

This funding is a component of an overall $2.2 million U.S. Center for Disease Control grant awarded to DOH to train, deploy and engage CHWs as part of its public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this initiative, CDC plans to highlight the integral role of CHWs in increasing resiliency, and response efforts in the hardest hit communities.

This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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