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UH medical school to study Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander disparities

Casey Harlow
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine is part of a new national study that focuses on why some ethnic groups are underrepresented in clinical research trials.

As part of the $20 million project, which began in April, JABSOM is one of 10 universities and health care systems surveying marginalized communities.

While local researchers will spotlight Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, other programs will work with Native American, Asian, Latino and Black communities across the country.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Keawe Kaholokula, chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine

Keawe Kaholokula, chair of JABSOM’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health, which is spearheading the local effort, said the inclusion of NHPI and other communities in clinical trial research is vital to ensure that health treatments and interventions are safe and effective for all.

“Yet, there is a well-founded mistrust and concern about participating in scientific and medical research because of historical and contemporary discrimination and mistreatment,” Kaholokula said in a release. “We need to seriously address these concerns and wrongdoings to ensure that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders can benefit from clinical research.”

During the four-year study, researchers will conduct clinical trials and use smartphones to communicate with participants.

JABSOM officials say this engagement with NHPI communities would help researchers design and executive clinical trials in ways that “respect and empower” communities.

Their goals are to identify barriers to participation and create mobile technology-based interventions that help to address these concerns.

Jayna Omaye was a culture and arts reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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