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student interns selling produce
MAʻO Organic Farms UH interns Liona Elwin, Elerina Henry and Emilin David, participants in Alika Maunakea’s Maoli Ola Study.

When you bring smart, innovative people together you can see success happen in areas you did not expect. The minds leading the University of Hawaiʻi Office of Indigenous Innovation and UH Office of Strategic Health Initiatives are powering such advancements.

UH Office of Indigenous Innovation Director Kamuela Enos presented to the UH Board of Regents Committee on Research and Innovation on October 6, about the successes and goals of a newly launched health and innovation program.

The Center for Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity (CIIHE) is a new federal initiative launched by a $1 million grant in fiscal year 2021 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. The center was created through a vision between Enos and UH Office of Strategic Health Initiatives Director Aimee Grace.

Enos shared the successes of the center’s first year, which included:

  • Establishing an Indigenous framework through workshops and formal agreements
  • Issuing a landscape analysis survey and workshops to understand what types of Indigenous innovations in health are occurring
  • Onboarding four staff members

Enos also described the goals the center has for year two:

  • Ongoing landscape analysis and literature review
  • “Deep dives” with core community partners including Hoʻoulu ʻĀina and MAʻO Organic Farms
  • Integrating students into the Mauli Ola internship program
  • Establishing a research incubator to invest in pilot projects
  • Advancing policy levers at the federal, state and local levels
  • Exploring economic development initiatives
  • Creating a national conference with CIIHE’s Native American/Alaska Native partners
  • Exploring to create a satellite campus at the University of Guam
  • Hiring a director and fiscal support

Enos told the BOR Committee on Research and Innovation that the center will know if the initiative is working if “at the community level, investment is being driven into community organizations; at the university level, research is co-designed with community and supports ancestral practices done in contemporary application; and at the government level, Indigenous communities are repositioned as spaces of innovation and their practices and people are thriving.”

—By Marc Arakaki

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