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$15M Grant to Fund Research on Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Filipino Health

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A new $15-million federal grant will help the work of local health researchers from the Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Filipino communities.

Each of these communities has disproportionately higher rates of physical ailments and mental health conditions compared to other ethnicities in Hawai‘i, as well as being underrepresented in the health sciences.

The grant will create a Center for Pacific Innovations, Knowledge, and Opportunities (PIKO).

The center will cultivate research of culturally relevant and community-driven health interventions to reduce those health disparities and advance health equity.

Professor Keaweʻaimoku Kaholokula, Chair of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine, says insights from researchers in these communities are crucial.

"We can only design better interventions if we have that kind of involvement and input," Kaholokula said. Then it becomes more relevant and sustainable in our communities, right?

"You know if we’re doing something that is not resonating with them, that’s not relevant to their aspirations, their modes of living, then these things are really not sustainable beyond the life of the research project. So its really about engaging our communities, and changing the way we do science traditionally from a top-down approach to a side-by-side approach with our investigators there with us."

The five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences will support junior researchers at Chaminade University, Hawaiʻi Pacific University and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Funding will go to pilot projects of community-engaged research and professional development in areas including community engagement and outreach, and epidemiology.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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