Research Projects

OPHS policies and procedures place a high priority on research activities. Through long-standing and well-developed collaborative research relationships with community and government organizations, OPHS faculty are involved in numerous research projects that span a wide range of public health issues. Select topics of ongoing OPHS faculty research are illustrated below. The topics are classified broadly by subject, but the categories are not mutually exclusive and in some instances the research is related to more than one field.

Infectious Diseases

  • Collaboration with the CDC and US Department of Agriculture to assess the role of feral swine in human leptospirosis (Katz)
  • Collaboration with CDC and Hawai‘i State Department of Health (HDOH) to follow trends in antibiotic resistant gonorrhea (Katz)
  • Collaboration with HDOH State Laboratories Division and JABSOM Department of Tropical Medicine investigating transmission patterns of seasonal and pandemic influenza (H1N1) in and through the State of Hawai‘i (Nelson-Hurwitz)

Chronic Diseases

  • PBI factors in back pain (Hurwitz)
  • Development of Protocols for Studying Oral Precancerous Lesions and Other Health Risks Among Betel Nut Users in Micronesia (Hurwitz)
  • SAFETY NET: An Academic and Professional Partnership Building a Culture of Safety for Spinal Manipulation Therapy (Hurwitz)
  • Assessment Tools for Contextual Factors in Interactions in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Hurwitz)
  • Risk factors for idiopathic Parkinson's disease (Grandinetti)
  • Developing and testing a cancer patient navigation curriculum (Braun)

Health Policy and Management

  • Fiscal federalism and intergovernmental transfers for health in populous, federal countries -- India (Fan)
  • Value for money in global health -- the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, GAVI Alliance, and the World Health Organization (Fan)
  • Financial incentives for maternal, newborn, and child health -- Nepal, South Korea, India (Fan)
  • Effectiveness of health aid in fragile or conflict settings -- Haiti, Afghanistan (Fan)

Social/Behavioral Sciences

  • Innovative technology-driven research interventions that have included: websites, text messaging, tailored telephone counseling, and in-home technology such as a television connected to the internet (Albright)
  • Studying the development of partnerships in community-based participatory programs (Buchthal)
  • Evaluation of community-based obesity-prevention programs for Hawaii’s low-income communities (Buchthal)
  • Evaluation of community food systems in both Honolulu and Hawaii counties (Buchthal)
  • Interpersonal youth violence, gender violence, school connectedness, suicide, and child abuse and neglect through primary prevention efforts and strength-based approaches (Chung-Do)
  • Testing the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change (Nigg)
  • Fun 5 – Promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in children (Nigg)
  • Using exercise to help college students quit smoking (Nigg)
  • Obesity prevention in hotel employees (Nigg)
  • Examining stage of change for physical activity among several nationally funded projects (Nigg)
  • Improving direct measurement of sun protective behaviors (Maddock)
  • Factors associated with leisure-time physical activity in public parks in diverse communities (Maddock)
  • Evaluation of interventions to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and decrease tobacco use in Hawai‘i (Maddock)
  • Underage tobacco compliance surveillance and enforcement (Williams)
  • Evaluation of implementation of Hawai‘i Falls Prevention State Plan 2013-2018 (Yontz)
  • Evaluation of implementation of Hawai‘i 2025: State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (Yontz)
  • ‚ÄčImproving community engagement and coordination for HIV/AIDS Planning, Advisory, and Cascade Groups for Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s STD/AIDS Prevention Branch (Yontz)

Environmental Health and Related Topics

  • Cell-based drug delivery into the Central Nervous System (Lu)
  • Monitoring of Hawaii beach waters quality using human enteric viruses as a new indicator (Lu)
  • Screening and identify new antiviral drugs from marine microorganisms in Hawaiian waters (Lu)
  • Marine biotechnology based development of shrimp strain with viral resistance (Lu)


  • Replicating evidence-based programs for healthy aging (Braun)
  • Tracking capacity building efforts in the Aging Network (Braun)

Health Disparities

  • Social context of food choices in families and communities, cultural practices to promote health, identity and sovereignty & qualitative research approaches and mixed methods (Delormier)
  • Food security, family food choices, indigenous peoples’ food systems, conceptual development to study food choice practices (Delormier)
  • Utility and validity of health information for racial minorities (Taualii)
  • Perceptions of bio-banking for research among Native Hawaiians (Taualii)
  • Reducing health disparities for underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly with respect to interventions to reduce behavioral risk factors in both healthy populations and cancer survivors (Albright)
  • Racial/ethnic differences in preventable hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations (Sentell)
  • Maternal quality information for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, especially those with limited English proficiency and low health literacy (Sentell)
  • Disparities in cancer screening among Asian Americans by health literacy and English proficiency (Sentell)
  • Differences in the contribution of obesity and diabeties in survival among obesity-related cancers between Native-Hawaiian and other participants in the MultiEthnic Cohort (Nelson-Hurwitz)
  • Ethnic comparisons of 5-year breast cancer survival in Hawai`i (Braun)
  • Ethnic comparison of population structures and longevity in Hawai`i (Braun)
  • Hawaiian-Caucasian differences in nasal ciliary motility (Braun)
  • Assessment of cancer knowledge, attitudes, practices, and outreach preferences in Waimanalo (Braun)
  • Assessing needs and preferences for long-term care among Native-Hawaiian elders (Braun)
  • Institutionalizing recommended tobacco-cessation treatment guidelines in the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems (Braun)
  • Ethnic differences in smoking behavior (Grandinetti)
  • Supports and barriers of young adult Native Hawaiians to living a healthy lifestyle (Braun)

The OPHS graduate and adjunct faculty, as well as faculty in other departments and programs, encourages students to participate in ongoing research projects. This provides students with valuable research experience and the opportunity to contribute to professional publications and conference presentations. Positions as graduate research assistants are offered by a select number of OPHS research projects. Student-involved research may also be the result of an independent field practicum conducted through an outside agency.

Examples of student research follow:

  • Analysis of hepatitis C virus prevalence among clients in community-based health settings in Hawaii.
  • First authored American Journal of Public Health peer-reviewed article.
  • Worked with a team of researchers in China to examine parents’ perception of the effects of poor air quality on their children’s health.
  • Presented a national conference poster presentation at the Society of Behavioral Medicine in 2012 and followed it with a podium presentation later that same year at an international conference in Australia.
  • Have given numerous local and national presentations on suicide prevention and safe messaging to community groups, youth leaders, and health professionals across the State for the HCCI project. They also recently presented at the Statewide Suicide Prevention and Healing Conference 2013 where they presented to over 100 people about safe messaging and community awareness on suicide prevention. 
  • Collaborated with God’s Country Waimanalo to conduct a small-scale CBPR project by coordinating focus groups with youth and families using aquaponics systems in their homes. They presented the findings of this project to the other families and community members who are part of God’s Country Waimanalo, at the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board meeting, and as a conference poster at the Pacific Health Global conference 2012. 
  • Conducted a needs assessment to identify the research and practice needs of multiple behavior change research. 
  • Worked on the Fun 5 cohort study, a five-year follow-up of elementary students on physical activity, nutrition and sedentary behavior to investigate if children’s health behaviors track into adolescence and if they predict academic, and general health indicators in adolescence.