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UH Researchers Secure $3.3M Grant to Study Diabetes in Young Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders

Dr. Alika Maunakea with research staff in 2021
University of Hawaiʻi News
Dr. Alika Maunakea with research staff in 2021

A group at the University of Hawaiʻi has received a $3.3 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate Type-2 diabetes among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

Researcher Dr. Alika Maunakea says that in Hawaiʻi, rates of diabetes among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are 2.5 times higher than in the general population. They are also diagnosed at an average of 10 years earlier than other groups.

"Part of our mission is really to understand what drives these disparities so we can ultimately restore health equity. It’s been a challenge getting this through, but we’re so excited about it, and looking forward to starting the study," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

Maunakea and his team will be recruiting Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders between the ages of 20 and 50 for this study. Over the next several years, they will collect health data from healthy, pre-diabetic, and diabetic participants.

He says it's the first epigenome and microbiome study to engage a relatively young group of people in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population.

Click the "Listen" button to hear Alika Maunakea's interview from The Conversationon Aug. 9, 2021.

Corrected: August 10, 2021 at 4:21 PM HST
The University of Hawaiʻi released new information stating the grant was for $3.3 million, not $2.5 million.
Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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