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Local health plan AlohaCare now covers Native Hawaiian healing practices

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Hula, lomilomi, and ʻai pono or Native Hawaiian nutrition are now covered under a local health plan.

Kealoha Fox, senior manager of social health integration at AlohaCare, says the Ke Aloha Mau Program uses traditional, cultural, and spiritual approaches to health and healing. All the services are offered at no cost to members.

"Finally, right? Finally, thereʻs a local organization that sees this as a benefit to our health. We know that making sure that having services like Native Hawaiian healing services accessible to our communities is a great investment not just for our Native Hawaiian members but all members from across the Hawaiian Islands," Fox told HPR.

AlohaCare provides health care coverage for Hawaiʻi’s Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries.

Francoise Culley-Trotman, CEO of AlohaCare, says the pandemic made it really difficult to ignore health equity issues and the need for culturally responsive services.

"It’s been proven that if we’re successful in creating and delivering culturally responsive services, it really improves our ability to successfully engage with individuals and to help drive making their health and health care decisions, and that ultimately affects outcomes, right?" Culley-Trotman said.

Culley-Trotman says developing sustainable solutions like the Ke Aloha Mau Program takes time and a bit more resources, but it is achievable and worthwhile.

"I think the evidence exists to support the decrease in disparities, decreased overall health care costs, etc. These services have existed for centuries, we know that. And their value has been proven for centuries. I think what’s new is that health plans don’t typically cover these types of services," she said.

Open enrollment begins in October. For more information, visit AlohaCare.org.

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 khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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