Public Health Pulse (news, events, announcements)

Events Calendar

January 2020

Announcements (recent)

  • We are excited to welcome Tetine Sentell as the new Office of Public Health Studies director. Mahalo to Kathryn Braun for her leadership of OPHS over the past five years.

    - Posted 5 months ago

  • We are pleased to announce that our Public Health Program has been reaccredited by CEPH for a seven-year term, extending to July 1, 2022.

    - Posted 4 years ago

  • We are pleased to announce that Kathryn L. Braun has been appointed as Director/department chair of the Office of Public Health Studies.

    - Posted 5 years ago

  • On May 9, 2014, Dr. Jay Maddock stepped down as director/department chair of the Office of Public Health Studies. The faculty is working with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs to elect a new director. A new director/department chair will be announced soon.

    - Posted 5 years ago

  • Best wishes to our spring 2014 graduates!

    - Posted 5 years ago

Events (upcoming)

News (recent)

  • UH Public Health Students Respond to Measles Outbreaks With Donations

    In just six weeks, a measles outbreak has killed more than 60 and infected 2 percent of the population in Samoa. In response to this emergency, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies’ graduate Hui Ola Pono will be collecting medical supplies and monetary donations to support response efforts.

    The idea for a supply drive was sparked by public health graduate student Preciousz Savusa, who has familial roots in Samoa. This past summer, Savusa participated in the Pacific Experience program, which gave her the opportunity to work in American Samoa and meet Kenneth Kuaea, executive director at American Samoa Community Health Centers (ASCHC). 

    When she learned about the toll of the current outbreak, Savusa felt compelled to take action.  She reached out Kuaea, and learned that ASCHC is helping to administer relief to Samoa by providing medical assistance and supplies.  

    “It’s simply not enough to feel sympathy for our families back home. As a UH Mānoa public health student of Samoan descent, it is my responsibility to lend a helping hand to my community, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone,” said Savusa. “I am grateful for the partnership of public health graduate student Dejah Faʻasoa and the graduate Hui Ola Pono who are helping to move this initiative forward.”

    Princess Visconde, president of graduate Hui Ola Pono, also saw an opportunity. “It really is our kuleana to promote health, not only in Hawaiʻi but the Pacific region as well.”

    Medical supply donations

    Anti-bacterial soap, hand sanitizer, medical face masks, Clorox wipes, hand wipes, latex/non-latex gloves and reusable bags will be accepted at drop off points at the following locations and times on the UH Mānoa campus:

    • Biomed D-204: Daily between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Gartley Hall Room 203: Daily between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Campus Center: December 10 between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Monetary donations

    Ongoing via Venmo: @UHM_SupportOurSamoa. One hundred percent of the donations will be used to purchase medical supplies in bulk.   

    All supplies will be shipped directly to ASCHC, who will send these supplies to Samoa. The goal is to send an initial shipment before Christmas.

    “We want to thank the UH community for coming together to respond to this urgent public health crisis. We hope to make a difference this holiday season!” said Office of Public Health Studies Director Tetine Sentell.

    Questions about the supply drive can be directed to Preciousz Savusa at

    - Posted Thursday, December 5

  • Waimānalo health-research project success due to community participation

    A health research project connecting Waimānalo community members with public health and food-system researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has proven successful because of strong community participation, according to two new publications. Rooted in relationship building, participatory research and Native Hawaiian values, the Waimānalo Pono Research Hui (WPRH) could serve as a model for other research efforts, according to the authors.

    “There is a long history of ‘helicopter research’ by scientists considered outsiders to communities that has led to exploitation and ethical breaches,” said Jane Chung-Do, co-founder of WPRH and associate professor in the Office of Public Health Studies in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work.

    “The WPRH has provided a space for academics to learn how to listen to the community and appreciate the wealth of cultural knowledge that shapes the experiences of that community,” added Samantha Keaulana, current PhD student in public health and a WPRH member.

    Building capacity and relationships

    In one of the studies, Chung-Do and her co-authors described the development of WPRH in the predominantly Native Hawaiian community of Waimānalo. Established in 2017, the hui built on a decade-long relationship between Chung-Do and a community leader from Waimānalo, Ilima Ho-Lastimosa. Ho-Lastimosa is the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ community coordinator at the Waimānalo Learning Center, which hosted the early WPRH meetings and continues to serve as a venue for the group.

    Through a series of community gatherings, WPRH identified three interconnected priorities: lāʻau lapaʻau (traditional medicine), ʻai pono (healthy eating) and limu (seaweed) restoration. These priorities have since evolved into several community-driven initiatives, and today the hui has more than 50 active members.

    In the new paper, published in the American Journal of Community Psychology, the researchers identified trust building, creation of shared values and spaces, self-reflection and a focus on families as critical to this success.

    Protocol to support pono research

    In the other study, Keaulana and her co-authors described how they created protocol to support transparent research efforts within the hui. A collaborative process between academic and community participants helped to develop a research proposal and determine data ownership.

    The researchers noted that their work resonated with research approaches in other indigenous communities. The paper was published in a special issue of the British Journal of Social Work that focused on indigenous peoples and the social determinants of health and featured community-academic and inter-disciplinary research. The issue included studies that used participatory methods that wove indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing with contemporary innovations. Lana Kaʻopua, formerly a professor with Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, was a guest editor on this special issue.

    “The history of Waimānalo’s colonization and militarization is shared by Native Hawaiians statewide and indigenous people globally. Every step in the development of the WPRH and its protocol and rules of engagement aimed to be pono,” Ho-Lastimosa said.

    All co-authors on the studies are members of WPRH and include Ho-Lastimosa, Phoebe Hwang and Theodore Radovich of UH; Kenneth Ho Jr. of the University of Southern California; and Luana Albinio, Ikaika Rogerson, LeShay Keliʻiholokai and Kirk Deitschman of Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo.

    - Posted Wednesday, November 20

  • Aging Well: Delaying menopause improves women's health

    A new medical study sheds more light on menopause. It studied the age women were when they started this hormonal shift, and how that affected their health in later years. 

    Staying fit is a key part of aging well for people of all ages, but a new study finds it's especially important for women.

    University of Hawaii Office of Public Health Studies associate professor Catherine M. Pirkle, PhD says, "If you come into older age in better shape, with more muscle, and better cardiovascular health, that just helps you through the aging process. For women, this is critical. Often, we're told don't build muscle." She's extensively studied the subject.

    Dr. Pirkle is part of an international team that tracked nearly 10,000 women in Canada. She says women in high-income nations like Canada and the US start menopause at around age 50 to 52. The study says women who started it in their 40s or even late 30s were weaker and had more health issues as they aged. "When we have menopause, we see estrogen decline, and that puts us at risk for things like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease," she explains. 

    That's why, she says, women need to build their bone density and muscle mass before menopause. "You want to have later ages at menopause, and you can help yourself to have later ages at menopause by doing things like not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight," she adds.

    Doctors say the age at which women start menopause varies, based on genetics but also on lifestyle. So, women can put off menopause just a little longer by doing something as simple as taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day.

    If you've already entered or completed this phase of life, there's still something you can do. Dr. Shandhini Raidoo, a women's health provider and clinical instructor at UH JABSOM's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, advises, "I don't think it's ever too late to change your lifestyle to try to be healthier."

    Even if you never work out, Dr. Raidoo says start small. "Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Walking a few blocks instead of driving," she urges.

    And lift weights. It can still help with osteoporosis and bone health, which can happen even after menopause. Adjustments now - to make life easier before or after that period of life known as 'The Change.'

    - Posted Monday, November 18

  • Fewer years of healthy life for Native Hawaiians

    According to public health researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi have a shorter life expectancy compared with other racial/ethnic populations in the state. New findings, published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, show they also spend fewer years in good health than other groups.

    Yanyan Wu, lead author of the study and an associate professor with UH Office of Public Health in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, calculated the healthy life expectancy (HALE) of the major racial/ethic groups in Hawaiʻi. HALE is a measure of the number of years that people live in a healthy state, and provides a more complete estimate of population health than life expectancy.

    “Our results highlight the disparities faced by Hawaiʻi’s indigenous people,” said Wu.

    For the study, Wu and her colleagues first calculated overall life expectancies for Native Hawaiians, white, Filipinos, Japanese and Chinese people in Hawaiʻiusing data from death records from the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health and population estimates from the U.S. Census.

    The researchers then adjusted those overall life expectancies using data from a health survey called the Hawaiʻi Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. One question in the survey asked, “Is your health excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?” The number of years that people spent in “fair” or “poor” health were subtracted from the overall life expectancies to find the healthy life expectancies.

    Native Hawaiians had lowest healthy life expectancy

    Results showed the greatest gap in HALE was between Native Hawaiians and Chinese Americans. Chinese Americans had a HALE of 75.9, compared with 62.2 for Native Hawaiians, a gap of 13.7 years.

    The HALEs for Japanese is 74.8, Filipino is 73.3 and white is 72.1. In 2010, the overall HALE for people in the U.S. was 68.5 years, the researchers noted. Hawaiʻi has the longest life expectancy of all 50 states.

    “Numerous factors affect the HALE for any group,” said Kathryn Braun, a UHMānoa public health professor and the senior author of the new paper. “Socioeconomic status, access to healthcare services, individual behaviors such as diet and physical activity and genetics can all affect HALE. In general, people with higher socioeconomic status have better health.”

    Understanding concepts of health necessary to raise HALE

    Collectively, Native Hawaiians have the lowest levels of educational attainment, lowest mean household income and highest prevalence of poverty of any group in Hawaiʻi. They also have the highest rates of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer. For all age groups, Native Hawaiians had higher mortality rates than the other race/ethnicities the researchers examined.

    “To raise the HALE of Native Hawaiians, it is essential that public health professionals and researchers understand indigenous peoples’ concepts of health, knowledge, science and research,” Wu said.

    “Government policy makers in Hawaiʻi need to expand access of indigenous peoples to excellent education, well-paying jobs with health insurance and home ownership,” Braun said. “Ultimately, health status is a function of financial stability.”

    The researchers noted that a limitation of the study was that people’s cultures influence how they answer questions about their health. For example, research has shown that Chinese Americans tend to report worse health status than other groups, which could cause an underestimation of their HALE.

    - Posted Wednesday, November 6

  • One of Our BAPH Students Featured in the BlueZones Newsletter


    Meet Blue Zones Project – Mānoa-Maikiki-McCully-Mō‘ili‘ili (4M) intern Lauren Smithers! She is an undergraduate student at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in the Public Health program, works at Banán, is a trainer at F45 Training, and practices real estate.

    What's your dream job?
    I don’t necessarily have a dream job, but I would love to find a way to encompass all of my passions into a career. I want to combine health, nutrition, exercise and sustainability into one field. I would love a career that allows me to travel often and learn about the different people and ecosystems around the world. 

    What is your favorite Power 9® longevity lesson and why?
    My favorite Power 9 is Right Tribe. I love to surround myself with friends that are going to push me to be the best version of myself. I am easily inspired and a huge people person. This brings me the most joy in life and is essential to my personal well-being. I am so grateful for the amazing humans I have surrounded myself with and know that they can provide laughs, love, and endless support whenever I need it.  

    What inspired you to become a vegan?
    I have been on and off vegetarian since around 2014. I have never been a huge fan of meat and only ate chicken. Playing sports my whole life, I feel very in tune with the way my body feels after consuming food. Around my senior year of high school, I started training a bit more seriously in my sports and noticed the sluggishness brought on by meat and decided to test out the way my body reacted to cutting out dairy and a vegetarian diet. I felt my strength and stamina begin to improve and decided that it was time to really pay attention to what I put in my body. Being a health nut, vegetarian was an easy option in college. Often the school cafeteria only offered unhealthy options, leading me to consume mostly vegan. Upon moving to Hawaiʻi, I started working for Banán. Being surrounded by such like-minded people, I noticed how simple it would be to go fully vegan. I had already cut out so many harmful foods to my health leaving me with only eggs to cut out. I also started to learn the very real environmental impacts animal products have and decided that I did not want to contribute to that. Also, the benefits it has had on my body and energy feel so good I can’t imagine going back.  

    What is your favorite recipe and why? 
    My favorite recipe is vegan chickpea bites. They have a really delicious fresh basil flavor and have a hearty texture to them. 

    Vegan Chickpea Bites


    • 1 can of chickpeas
    • 1½ cup rolled oats
    • 1 cup zucchini
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
    • Salt and pepper
    • Handful of fresh basil
    • ½ a lemon (juiced)


    • Blend all ingredients in a blender
    • Scoop into muffin tin
    • Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes

    Why is eating plant-based important to you?
    Eating plant-based is important to me because it is how my body functions best. My energy is much better and I hardly feel sluggish. I also realize the impact it has on our Earth. There must be a harmonious balance of care for the Earth and the Earth caring for us. 

    Any advice for folks who are trying to eat healthier and add more plant-based foods into their diet?
    The best advice I have is do what you can. Any bit will help and will only provide positive impacts. Also, just try it, I promise you can change your mind at any point, but give it a shot. I can almost guarantee that if you give it enough time to reset your body, you won’t want to go back. You can also make it a fun activity. Try cooking a vegan meal once a week and if anything use it as a time to switch up your typical menu. 

    What have you learned so far as a Blue Zones Project intern in the 4M area?  
    Being a intern with BZP has shown me the push for healthier lifestyles. It seems that everyone wants to be healthy, it is just a matter of how. I really loved seeing how much interest there is and being able to provide resources that making these choices easier. Support systems are the best way to make change and creating a whole community of healthy choices allows this possibility to grow.

    Article originally posted at Blue Zones Project

    - Posted Wednesday, October 23