Public Health Pulse (news, events, announcements)

Events Calendar

March 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
(All day) Spring Recess

Announcements (recent)

  • Please join us on Wednesday (4/29) and Thursday (4/30) to support our students at the Spring 2020 Summit offered via Zoom. Contact Dr. Nelson-Hurwitz via email for complete schedule and Zoom links.

    - Posted 10 months ago

  • The Healthy Hawaiʻi Initiative Evaluation Team, in collaboration with leadership from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute, and the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, are pleased to announce a Special Issue addressing the intersections between chronic diseases and Covid-19 in our state. 

    The Special Issue, entitled “Roadmap to a healthier and more equitable Hawaiʻi: Solutions to root causes at the intersections of chronic disease and Covid-19” seeks article submissions that make contributions toward systems, environmental, and policy changes, as well as those that discuss or target root causes of health disparities in chronic disease. We are looking for all types of articles, including original articles, reviews, viewpoints, and editorials. Students are also highly encouraged to contribute. 

    To be considered for the Special Issue, please send an unstructured 350-word, or less, abstract to by midnight, October 9, 2020. We aim to publish the Special Issue next summer. 

    Full details available in this PDF.

    - Posted 6 months ago

  • Our public health ‘ohana lost an amazing person recently. Mary was a stellar student, researcher, and person. She earned her Master of Public Health from OPHS in 2013 where she was active in the Hui and in community service. She was research faculty in our department and later worked as a GRA as she pursued her nursing degree. A UH scholarship fund has been created to honor her legacy in public health and nursing: Gifts in memory of Mary Guo can also be made payable to “UH Foundation” with a note or cover letter indicating “Mary Guo Scholarship” which can be sent to UH Foundation, P.O. Box 11270, Honolulu, HI 96828-0270. Some of her research publications can be found here:, and

    - Posted 6 months ago

  • Public health is more important than ever during the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to announce that we have opened applications for Spring 2021 for all of our graduate programs. We will be holding a Graduate Program Information Sessions via Zoom on June 17, July 15, and August 12. It is important that those who plan to apply for Spring 2021 attend one of the information sessions prior to submitting an application.  Please visit our Admissions page for information on how to apply. We look forward to receiving your application!

    - Posted 8 months ago

  • Aloha Public Health Students, You should have received notification from University of Hawai‘i President Lassner about the move to online classes starting Monday, March 23 and the plan to resume in-person classes on Monday, April 13. His message, as well as information on the University’s response to COVID-19, can be found here: You probably have many questions! Please know that the Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS) is actively engaged in contingency planning to support student learning and other key functions in response to COVID-19. To this end, the following information is being provided for your reference. However, as noted in President Lassner’s email, “given the extreme fluidity of the COVID-19 situation, this guidance is subject to change as the situation evolves.”

    The UH Mānoa campus will remain open and housing, library, dining and recreation centers will continue normal operation. This includes OPHSAS and the OPHS Computer Lab. For now, the Hui Lounge will remain open to students as well. You should expect to hear directly from your instructors about what to do for each class and the link to use to access their online courses. Online classes may be synchronous (students and instructor online at the same time) or asynchronous (independent work) or a combination of both. Zoom will be the platform most faculty will use in offering their courses online. Further instructions for using Zoom will be provided shortly. You do not need a Zoom account to join a Zoom meeting/class. If you do not have access to a computer or high speed Internet, please let your instructor or advisor know. Note that a smartphone will work for Zoom. OPHSAS has access to four (4) online Zoom “rooms” that we can use to schedule virtual capstone presentations and dissertation defenses should this become necessary. When not in use for online classes, students may request to reserve these Zoom rooms to meet virtually for group projects or capstone practice sessions through OPHSAS ( following a similar model to our room reservation system. Students scheduled to graduate this spring will practice their capstone presentations online via Zoom in PH 789 to ensure you are prepared to use this format.  Doctoral students graduating this spring should coordinate with their committee chair or faculty advisor to arrange their dissertation defense and/or practice sessions via Zoom.   Please check your email regularly for updates and communication on next steps as the situation continues to be reevaluated and assessed. This uncertainty can be distressing. The following resources are available to you:  The University’s Counseling & Student Development Center (CSDC) offers support to all UHM students to assist with personal, academic and career concerns. All services are confidential and free of charge. For more information, you can visit the CSDC website or call (808) 956-7927.  For COVID-19 specific information, the World Health Organization offered the following guide: Or this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) office:


    For travel guidance please see

    Stay Informed

    UH COVID-19 web page: UH Travel FAQs: Protect yourself from COVID-19: If you have questions specific to our public health program, please contact Tetine Sentell, Director of OPHS,  If you have questions for the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, please contact Ms. Theresa Kreif, Assistant to the Dean,

    Thanks to the OPHS Leadership Committee and the DSW leadership team for help in crafting this message! 

    Tetine Sentell, PhD Professor and Director Office of Public Health Studies

    - Posted 11 months ago

Events (upcoming)

News (recent)

  • Now is the Wrong Time to Defund Public Health Infrastructure

    In this pandemic, we have seen clearly how the health of individuals and communities are connected. We are at a critical junction for the public’s health, with real opportunities for better, more equitable lives. But if we make the wrong choices, we risk further threatening community health now and into the future. We also risk increasing the inequities in our societies that COVID-19 has so vividly illuminated.

    The choices we make now, both inside and outside of the health sector, will have reverberations for years to come. Now is the wrong time to defund public health infrastructure.

    A History Of Neglect And Interference

    One reason the pandemic has been so devastating in the United States is because our public health infrastructure has been gutted for decades. The media widely covered the 2018 disbandment of the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense.

    This organization’s entire mission was to prevent the next disease outbreak. Its elimination is only the tip of the iceberg, as over 100 rules and policies to protect health were dismantled or rolled back.

    In the U.S., public health’s share of the approximately $3.6 trillion in annual health expenditures is under 3%, a figure that has been declining for nearly two decades.

    Most health dollars go to the treatment and management of disease, much of it directed to a vast, complicated and fragmented health care system. This is despite evidence that a robust national public health system could save billions of dollars annually by reducing the burden of preventable illness and keeping people healthy.

    Governments Forced To Make Cuts

    State and local governments are the main sources of public health dollarsSpending for state public health departments has declined by 16% per capita since 2010 and 18% for local health departments. As their budgets get cut, so do the employees and programs dedicated to preventing disease and promoting health.

    Despite many working extraordinary hours throughout this pandemic, typically at low salaries, and with gutted infrastructure from the years of cutting public health dollars and services, public health workers have frequently been maligned, ridiculed and harassed. Many are leaving their jobs because of this, taxing already limited capacity.

    In 2000, the Institute of Medicine warned that the infrastructure of America’s public health system was eroding. Over 40,000 state and local public health jobs have been lost since then.

    It is no surprise that we were ill-equipped to address the COVID-19 pandemic. If we do not urgently reinvest and rebuild public health, the next pandemic may be worse. The pandemic has inspired tremendous interest in study and practice in public health. We can leverage this for an engaged, diverse and skilled public health workforce nationally and specifically to identifyunderstand, and meet Hawaii’s unique needs.

    Hawaii Has Reason To Be Proud

    Compared to the rest of the U.S., Hawaii has fared well through the pandemic in many respects. Our positivity rates, numbers hospitalized and total deaths have been among the best in the United States.

    American life expectancy dropped by a full year in the first six months of 2020, representing the largest drop since World War II. Across the U.S., nearly 20% more people died this year compared to last, but in Hawaii, our death rate remained largely the same.

    Our comparative success has been explored elsewhere and attributed to our geography, strong early control action, community response and a mutual sense of vulnerability and commitment to each other.

    Our public health infrastructure should be lauded and further supported. Hawaii leads the U.S. in many critical measures of the public’s health, including the longest life expectancy in the nation. One key reason for this is our long-term focus on theory-based efforts to prevent chronic disease with systems and policy change along with promoting healthy individual behavior.

    While COVID-19 has reignited the world’s interest in infectious diseases, most people still die from chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. These conditions also increase one’s risk of death from COVID-19.

    Threats On The Horizon

    Despite the biggest global health crisis in over a century, several bills proposed in this legislative session threaten core public health programs that have contributed to Hawaii being one of the healthiest states in the nation.

    Tobacco is an excellent example. Smoking is the second-leading cause of early death and disability worldwide. Hawaii has been a leader across the U.S. in tobacco prevention and control policies. One of the foundations of Hawaii’s leadership in tobacco control is dedicated funding for prevention and cessation, but this is now being threatened.

    These dedicated funds support programs like the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline and smoking prevention programs for children. We are one of the few states that actually spends our tobacco revenue on tobacco programs. We should continue this practice and support prevention for the good of our communities, especially our youth.

    In response to the previous economic crisis, we cut core programs in public health and services for vulnerable communities. Instead of being recognized as a health leader, we were belittled by the Associated Press who noted: “Public schools in Hawaii are closed most Fridays, rats scurry across bananas in an uninspected market and there may not be enough money to run a Congressional election.”

    Let us learn from 2009. Cheap activities of prevention, like mask-wearing, mean we are less likely to get sick and to sicken our neighbors, friends and family. Similarly, preventive programs that allow opportunities to exercise, reduce diabetes risk, stop smoking, address mental health and avoid sexually transmitted disease save costs and lives.

    It can be hard to see things that don’t happen, but the lack of crisis is when public health prevention and planning are working.

    Hawaii is lauded for our excellent COVID outcomes and our high percentage of people with health insurance. As the vaccine rolls out, agencies plan ahead and our Legislature deliberates, let’s not cut budgets and programs that prevent disease and promote wellbeing.

    About the Authors

    Tetine Sentell

    Tetine Sentell is the director/chair of the Office of Public Health Studies at UH Manoa and a professor in Health Policy and Management. She is currently co-lead of the Healthy Hawaii Initiative Evaluation Team, which evaluates chronic disease prevention efforts for the Hawaii Department of Health.

    Catherine Pirkle

    Catherine Pirkle is an associate professor at the Office of Public Health Studies at UH Manoa. She is co-lead of the Healthy Hawaii Initiative Evaluation Team.

    Originally posted at Civil Beat

    - Posted Friday, February 26

  • Loved ones essential in Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander health care

    For many Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders with chronic health conditions, health interventions should include their family members or close friends, according to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa public health research. The paper is published in Chronic Illness.

    Researchers led by Tetine Sentell, director of the Office of Public Health Studies in the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, interviewed 22 adult patients who were hospitalized at The Queen’s Medical Center. The researchers asked the patients about the people in their lives who they turned to when they needed help with their health. Most patients were of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander heritage.

    “The patients in our study generally preferred to have family members or close friends involved in their care, to improve their health and reduce expensive hospitalizations,” said co-author Joy Agner, who worked on this study as a UH Mānoa graduate student. “We concluded that it is important to develop appropriate interventions that include the people who are important to patients, rather than expecting patients to go it alone.”

    For the study, Sentell and her co-authors assessed each patient’s health literacy, which is their ability to understand and use healthcare information to make health decisions. Then, the patients answered questions about the people who helped them with their health, by doing things such as reminding them to take medications or assisting them in making health decisions. The researchers looked at the age, sex, education level and health knowledge of the people who helped the patients.

    All of the patients in the study were hospitalized for conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease—conditions that don’t usually require hospitalization if the patient receives high-quality, culturally-relevant primary care.

    Results showed that most patients had at least one person who helped them manage their chronic health condition. Many saw the people who helped them with their health frequently, and usually saw them in person. Maintaining these relationships is an important consideration in the time of COVID-19.

    “People’s social connections play a critical role in the management of their health,” Sentell said. “For Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, tapping into the power of these important connections can help to fight health disparities and build a strength-based approach.”

    Not all patients wanted family or friends in their care. Future research should examine these patients’ preferences for their care and look for ways to improve their health.

    Sentell and Agner’s co-authors include Deborah Taira, James Davis, Santhosh Mannem, Todd B. Seto, May Vawer and Thomas W. Valente.

    Story originally posted at UH News

    - Posted Thursday, February 18

  • Double-masking, tighter fit offers more COVID-19 protection

    Wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask, also known as double-masking, provides substantially more protection against COVID-19, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The research found that double masking with a cloth mask over a surgical mask, as well as knotting the ear loops of surgical masks with tucked-in sides, reduced exposure by more than 95%, compared to wearing no mask at all. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa public health studiesprofessor and graduate chair Alan Katz said this is important new information, especially with the new fast-spreading variants of the COVID-19 virus.

    “This is how to optimize the use of the mask,” said Katz in response to the CDC findings. “Besides what we all know about covering your nose and your mouth, this is going a step above that, looking at maximizing protection. What they are concerned about is loosening masks or single layered masks, which may not be that helpful.”

    Other proven options to improve mask fit according to the CDC include wearing a mask fitter and wearing a nylon covering over a mask. Katz said the key takeaway is that snug face coverings better prevent the spread of airborne COVID-19 droplets and that appropriate masking and social distancing continue to be the two most important COVID-19 prevention steps.

    “Even with the vaccine, individuals could potentially get an infection, not get sick, and still potentially infect others. Even as people are getting vaccinated, we want to make sure people who havenʻt been vaccinated are protected,” he added.

    More residents want to get vaccinated

    On the vaccine front, Katz said a recent statewide survey where 91% of respondents say they plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine is welcome news. The survey report (PDF) commissioned by the HawaiʻiDepartment of Health (DOH) showed that attitudes about the vaccine are rapidly shifting since vaccinations first began in mid-December. 

    “Nationally, the figures are way, way lower than reported in Hawaiʻi,” said Katz, citing a CDC survey released this week that found 49.1% of the people in the U.S. plan to get vaccinated. “Kudos to Hawaiʻi; that is so heartening to hear.”

    According to the state survey, 55% plan to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and 36% will wait before receiving their vaccinations. The survey also showed more than a third, or 37%, of Hawaiʻiresidents are less concerned about the impact the virus has on their health, and instead are now primarily focused on the pandemic’s economic and financial impact.

    The survey was conducted from December 30, 2020 to January 11, 2021, and included 445 adult Hawaiʻifull-time residents statewide.

    Story originally posted at UH News

    - Posted Friday, February 12

  • Native Hawaiian groups meet community need during COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened many of the problems faced by Native Hawaiian communities, but in a new paper, public health researchers detail the numerous efforts of Native Hawaiian-led groups that show these communities’ strength and resilience.

    Since the start of the pandemic, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have faced a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than other groups in Hawaiʻi. They also endured high levels of unemployment and economic insecurity.

    “This paper highlights the power of Native Hawaiian communities during these trying times,” said Jane Chung-Do, senior author and associate professor with University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Office of Public Health Studies within the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health. The paper is published in the Journal of Indigenous Social Development.

    Nonprofit efforts

    The nonprofit group Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo (KKNOW), whose aim is to promote health and support the self-sustainability of the Waimānalo community, has partnered with other nonprofits, businesses and governmental agencies to provide food for Waimānalo families. Since mid-March, the group has distributed 24,000 prepared meals and 3,550 boxes of fresh produce. KKNOW also delivered seeds and seedlings of traditional Hawaiian crops such as kalo (taro) and ʻuala (sweet potato) to families and community members who are vulnerable to food insecurity, economic instability and other social challenges.

    “The goal of KKNOW is to build community resilience by helping fellow Native Hawaiians grow their own food before further disruptions strike,” said Kirk Dietschman, president of Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo and a co-author of the paper.

    Other nonprofits have also pitched in. The meals were prepared by chefs and students in a culinary training program, coordinated by the nonprofit KUPU Hawaiʻi. Meal delivery was led by Aloha Harvest, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Waimānalo Market Co-Op, which provided the sites for the daily food distribution.

    “These efforts succeeded because these Native Hawaiian-led groups anticipated the needs of the community and leveraged existing resources and relationships to meet those needs,” said Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, the lead author of the paper and a community coordinator at the Waimānalo Learning Center of the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). “It is key that these organizations all have history with the community and have earned the trust of the members.”

    Producing long-lasting results

    Historically, efforts to address health disparities have used western-centric methods and have often failed to produce long-lasting results among Indigenous peoples, the researchers wrote in their paper. They concluded that place-based, culturally-grounded interventions show promising results with Indigenous peoples and will be needed to restore the health of Native Hawaiians.

    The co-authors on the paper also include LeShay Keliʻiholokai, Kaua Kassebeer, Hae Kassebeer, Joseph Awa Kamai, Ikaika Rogerson, Kenneth Ho Jr., Manahā Ho, Kamalei Ho, and Denise Kaʻaʻa, of Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo; Alexxus Ho, of the HawaiʻiPacific University College of Health and Society, and Theodore Radovich of CTAHR.

    This research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

    Story originally posted at UH News

    - Posted Tuesday, January 19

  • UH Mānoa's social work, public health programs celebrate new name

    To highlight the value of combined efforts between public health and social work in supporting the people of Hawaiʻi, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work is pleased to announce the change of its name to the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health. Since 2016, the Office of Public Health Studies has been part of the school of social work. The renaming provides an enhanced opportunity to embrace its vision of achieving social justice and health equity for the people of Hawaiʻi and citizens in a changing world.

    Most critically, the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health is training the future workforce of epidemiologists, social workers, gerontologists and other public health experts to help prevent and mitigate the effects of any future pandemics in our community. This effort is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success, one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan, updated in December 2020.

    “The efforts of social work and public health professionals improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities,” said William Chismar, interim dean for the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health. “Through its educational and research programs, the Thompson School trains and supports these professionals and public policy makers.”

    The renaming reflects the major units within the school and highlights the interdisciplinary strength as one school.

    “Renaming the school to the Thompson school will provide a revitalized opportunity to share the legacy of Myron B. Thompson and his significant contributions to the all the communities of Hawaiʻi, and to inspire future generations of social workers and public health professionals,” said Jing Guo, chair of the Department of Social Work.

    Social work and public health are responding in a holistic fashion to address the physical and social determinants of health and well-being, while honoring the people and communities that they serve.

    “Solutions to address the root causes of the pandemic and its collateral effects, and to build community well-being now and for the future, will come from the unique and shared perspectives of public health and social work,” said Tetine Sentell, director of the Office of Public Health Studies. “The name change to the Thompson school makes the role of public health in this critical synergy more visible.”

    During a time of multiple and interpenetrating crises of health and social welfare, the interdisciplinary alliance and professional leadership to advance social reform and public health are more urgent than ever. Social work and public health are essential to the workforce responding to the COVID-19pandemic and the long-term recovery from economic disruptions and drastic effects on people in Hawaiʻi, the nation and the global community.

    Story originally posted at UH News

    - Posted Wednesday, January 13