Could backyard aquaponics promote healthy eating among Native Hawaiian families in Waimanālo? University of Hawaiʻi researchers will attempt to answer that question and more with a $23 million federal grant awarded in 2017 for the Ola HAWAIʻI Specialized Research Center. The center supports a team of investigators and community collaborators researching the causes of and possible solutions to health disparities among underserved, multiethnic populations in Hawaiʻi. The funding, through 2022, will support research and community-based activities focused on advancing health for citizens who suffer disproportionately from genetic, environmental and socio-economic related disparities in health and healthcare access.
The goal of the center is contained in its name: “Ola HAWAIʻI.” Ola, which means health or to heal in the Native Hawaiian language, and HAWAIʻI, in this case an acronym standing for “Health And Wellness Achieved by Impacting Inequalities”.
With its piko (center) based at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), the research activity will spread throughout the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) encompassing: The (UHM) College of Health Sciences and Social Welfare:
The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
The Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work (MBTSSW)
The Department of Social Work, Office of Public Health Studies and Center on Aging
The School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH)
Other UHM partners include The UH Cancer Center (UHCC), The College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and The Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC).
“This is a broad-based academic endeavor and one that is strong because of the way it brings people together for common purpose even with differences in training and professional identity,” said Jerris Hedges, MD, Dean of JABSOM.
UH Mānoa and its partners earned this significant, multi-million dollar national investment by their strong records of commitment to educating and serving underrepresented populations facing health disparities. Dr. Hedges and MBTSSW Dean Dr. Noreen Mokuau lead the grant, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“Overall, Hawaiʻi ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation, yet health disparities continue to exist with deadly impact for many populations including Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Filipinos,” said Dr. Mokuau. “With support from the U.S. Congressional Delegation and University of Hawaiʻi leadership, a talented assembly of interdisciplinary researchers successfully shaped a plan of research action to address the most serious of health disparities in Hawaiʻi.”
The Ola HAWAIʻI Specialized Research Center will support multidisciplinary teams of investigators and community collaborators as they conduct basic biomedical, behavioral and clinical research on the causes of health disparities and the most effective solutions to reduce those disparities among the underserved, multiethnic populations in Hawaiʻi.
More about the Ola HAWAIʻI Grant
The center will harness the power of diverse thought to determine the most appropriate, effective interventions for health disparities. There are three specific aims:
Bring together high-impact team-science research addressing health disparities
Strengthen and diversify the basic biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce focusing on health disparities
Enhance, consolidate and sustain core facilities and resources for health disparities research
UH Mānoa is one of only seven universities where these Specialized Research Centers are being funded. The others are located in Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona and Puerto Rico.
“Institutions with a historical commitment to diversity are essential to supporting scientific research and providing health care to underserved communities,” said NIMHD Director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable. “These institutions are uniquely positioned to engage minority populations in research, and in the translation of research advances into culturally competent, measurable and sustained improvements in health outcomes.”