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The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Health Policy Initiative (HPI), which aims to improve health care in Hawaiʻi, was launched thanks to a $10 million multi-year commitment from the Med-QUEST Division of the state Department of Human Services.

Housed in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences, HPI will facilitate public impact research in health analytics under the direction of the Social Science Research Institute, led by Jack Barile. HPI is a cornerstone of the university’s UHealthy Hawaiʻi initiative that leverages UH programs to improve health and health care locally and in the Pacific.

Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region offer many unique factors that positively impact an individual’s quality of life, from cultural strengths and strong community bonds to access to nature and greenspace,” said Denise Eby Konan, College of Social Sciences dean. “At the same time, our residents experience high rates of health disparities, illness and vulnerabilities. This funding is key to addressing these emerging and chronic health issues and is the focal point of our partnership with Med-QUEST.”

Goals for HPI include:

  • Fostering collaboration among UH Mānoa and government agencies (e.g., the Hawaiʻi departments of health and of human services) to address emerging and chronic health issues via rapid translation of faculty research and participation in working groups.
  • Advancing understanding of the causes and consequences of poor health and wellness in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region using diverse research methods.
  • Evaluating existing health and social programs to identify and recommend best practices.
  • Crafting innovative, research-supported policies and initiatives aimed at improving health and decreasing costs.
  • Building the capacity of the state’s workforce and developing future health leaders to work directly with state departments and agencies.

“The Med-QUEST Division is excited to further our partnership with the College of Social Sciences. Working together will enable us to conduct critical research and influence health policy for the State of Hawaiʻi,” said Judy Mohr Peterson, Medicaid director and Med-QUEST administrator.

The Med-QUEST funding will also establish two faculty positions in the College of Social Sciences to lead and direct HPI, adding valuable research expertise and maximizing research efforts, as well as a number of staff positions to support the initiative’s efforts.

This public impact research 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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