Public Health Pulse (news, events, announcements)

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Events Calendar

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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 1 year ago

  • The Hawai‛i Chapter of Delta Omega invites all interested OPHS graduate and undergraduate students to submit an abstract for the National Delta Omega Poster Contest Display.  It will take place at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting, scheduled for October 23rd through 27th, 2021 (“hybrid” this year, so both in Denver, Colorado, and virtually).  Each chapter is able to select no more than 2 abstracts for the graduate student competition, and 1 for the undergraduate competition.

    Students whose work is selected by Delta Omega’s national committee will receive a $350 cash prize from the national Delta Omega Honor Society, which the OPHS will match, for a total of $700.  National awards will be presented during the Delta Omega Social Hour at APHA.  In addition, students will have the opportunity to present their poster during the APHA scientific poster sessions, and abstracts will be published on the National Delta Omega webpage.

    All abstracts must be submitted via email for consideration to jsugimot@hawaii.edu by 4/30/2021, 5:00 p.m.  Submissions must use the attached form.  No late or incomplete submissions will be accepted or considered.

    Students from our department have been national Delta Omega student poster contest award winners for 11 of the past 13 years.  We look forward to your submissions.

    Please contact Dr. Sugimoto-Matsuda if you have any questions.

    - Posted 2 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 chroniccondCovid@gmail.com by midnight, October 9, 2020. We aim to publish the Special Issue next summer. 

    Full details available in this PDF.

    - Posted 10 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: www.uhfoundation.org/MaryGuoScholarship. 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: https://www.cdc.gov/PCD/ISSUES/2015/15_0092.htmhttps://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-018-2597-8, and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6401201/.

    - Posted 10 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 1 year ago

Events (upcoming)

News (recent)

  • UH Regent Michelle Tagorda honored for years of service, advocacy

    University of Hawaiʻi Regent Michelle Tagorda was honored by the Board of Regents for her seven years of service to the university with a proclamation of appreciation. Tagorda’s term ends June 30, 2021.

    - Posted Thursday, June 10

  • Suicide-prevention effort targets 60K underserved Hawai‘i youth

    Rural, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth and communities have greater needs with respect to suicide prevention and mental health support. Now, with a new $3.5-million grant, University of Hawaiʻiat Mānoa researchers in public health and psychiatry will aim to reach at least 60,000 of these young people in Hawaiʻi with suicide prevention efforts.

    Researchers Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda of the Office of Public Health Studies in the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health and Deborah Goebert of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, along with their colleagues, were awarded the federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant will fund the Hawaiʻi‘s Caring Systems Initiative for Youth Suicide Prevention.

    “Our approach is to offer hope, help and healing to youth in Hawaiʻi‘s rural and underserved areas,” Sugimoto-Matsuda said. “This grant will fund our efforts to reach youth in their schools, communities and health care facilities, and to also improve the effectiveness of these systems.”

    This effort 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. 

    Fostering collaboration across systems

    The initiative uses a strengths-based approach, meaning it will work to enhance existing programs and tap into the resiliency and relationships in Hawaiʻi families and communities. The researchers selected four best practice programs that will be involved: 

    • The Connect Suicide Prevention and Postvention Curriculum
    • Sources of Strength
    • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Suicide Bereavement Support Group Facilitator Training 
    • Zero Suicide (including Continuity of Care)

    Sugimoto-Matsuda and Goebert’s initiative will foster collaboration across these various systems and communities, and integrate their work so that more youth can be reached. The initiative will impact teens, young adults, parents and families, healthcare and education providers, community members and professionals who work with youth.

    “We want to work across all of the systems that serve the youth in our state—education, health care, and other social services systems—in partnership with our communities,” Goebert said.

    Despite the adversity faced by today’s youth, most do not develop suicidality or self-harm behaviors, she noted. The team’s long-term partnerships with community organizations, including the Prevent Suicide Hawaiʻi Taskforce, will help them to strengthen the capacity of the systems and improve prevention of youth suicide deaths and attempts.

    “When we strengthen the systems that serve our youth to better prevent suicide and build resiliency, we strengthen all of Hawaiʻi,” Sugimoto-Matsuda said.

    Help is available

    If you are having thoughts of suicide, or you are worried about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), or text “ALOHA” to the national Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Additional resources are available online.

    Story originally posted at UH News.

    - Posted Tuesday, April 13

  • Prestigious national maternal, child health award for UH professor emerita

    A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa public health professor emerita has won a national award for her lifelong work in maternal and child health. Gigliola Baruffi was awarded the Maternal and Child Health Lifetime Achievement Award by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration for her impact in the field.

    Baruffi joined UH in 1984 and became lead of the maternal and child health training grant at the School of Public Health. She served as a professor, researcher, mentor and role model for 21 years at the university.

    “Dr. Baruffi has been a truly inspirational leader to many health professionals, across the globe, across decades, and across cultures,” said Tetine Sentell, director of the Office of Public Health Studies (OPHS). “The award was given to Baruffi for her distinguished service, inspirational leadership, and positive impact on the field of maternal and child health.”

    “I’m thrilled to win this recognition,” Baruffi said. “Studying and taking care of women and children and training other professionals have been the centerpieces of my life’s work.” 

    Baruffi attended medical school in Italy in the 1950s. Her work in public health began when, as a young physician in India, she realized that she kept seeing the same children return to her clinic to be treated. “It just clicked—we needed to do something to prevent these kids from developing these illnesses, rather than just continue treating them,” Baruffi said. 

    The experience spurred her to pursue her master of public health at Johns Hopkins University. Later, she traveled to Bangladesh and worked for the World Health Organization and the World Bank in maternal and child health and family planning before joining UH.

    Inspiring the next generation

    “Dr. Baruffi created a pipeline for future health professionals to enter the maternal and child health workforce in the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, including Guam, Micronesia, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands and Palau,“ said Elizabeth McFarlane, an associate professor in OPHS and one of Baruffi’s many mentees. “Graduates of Dr. Baruffi’s training program have become directors and ministers of health throughout the Pacific.”

    A key part of her work was recognizing the disadvantaged environments in which maternal and child health professionals in the Pacific operated. Baruffi showed them that they belong in national discussions and are an important part of the professional community. She developed culturally appropriate materials and taught them the skills necessary to implement grant-based programs in their communities.

    Now retired, Baruffi knows that the next generation of public health and medical professionals will carry on her work. “The best of this work is inspiring others to take on important research in women’s and children’s health and work towards greater health equity around the world,” she said.

    Story originally posted at UH News

    - Posted Tuesday, April 13

  • Local restaurants offer few options for healthy kids' beverages

    Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of sugary drinks, yet prior to a recent law aimed at improving healthy options for Hawaiʻi’s keiki, it was rare to find healthy beverages as a “default” option with kids’ meals in Hawaiʻi restaurants.

    University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa public health researchers researchers found that among a random sample of 64 restaurants across the state that offered kids’ meals, just two restaurants listed only healthy drinks such as water, low-fat milk or 100% juice as a default beverage option with the meal. The researchers conducted their study prior to the enactment of a law requiring restaurants to offer a healthy drink as the default choice.

    “The hope is that Hawaiʻi‘s new law will nudge customers into healthier choices by making the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Meghan McGurk, who led the study and works as a researcher with the Office of Public Health Studies in the Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health. The paper is published in the Journal of Healthy Eating and Active Living (JHEAL).

    Pandemic challenges 

    McGurk and her co-authors focused on restaurants that offered children’s meals in which the food is bundled together with a drink. Since January 1, 2020, Hawaiʻi restaurants offering such meals have been subject to the new law. The researchers conducted their study during November and December 2019 because they wanted to know how many restaurants were complying with the law before they were required to do so.

    “Shockingly, sugar-sweetened beverages were offered as a default option for keiki by more than 60% of restaurants in the sample,” McGurk said. “This makes the success of this law more important.” Unfortunately, however, the pandemic has created challenges for the new law’s implementation. McGurk and her co-authors discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on the new law, and other health promotion efforts, in a separate paper also published recently in Global Health Promotion.

    “There are many reasons it’s become more difficult during the pandemic for restaurants to offer healthy drink options,” McGurk said. “In order to even remain open, restaurants have had to spread out their tables and change employee procedures. They may be reluctant to change children’s items because kids’ meals do not generate much revenue and many restaurants are currently struggling due to the pandemic.”

    In addition, many restaurants have turned to third-party delivery services to maintain their business, which adds fees that cut into restaurant profits. It is also unclear whether the menus posted on third-party sites fall under the scope of healthy beverage law.

    Positive effects of pandemic

    “However, the pandemic may also have positive effects on health promotion efforts,” McGurk said. Self-service beverage stations, which allow customers to refill cups with sugary drinks many times, are being discouraged to prevent viral spread. Also, new technology being used to social distance, such as tableside ordering apps, could help ensure healthy options are consistently offered as the default beverage for keiki.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of policies that improve access to healthy foods to prevent and manage chronic disease,” McGurk said. “We now have a great opportunity to improve restaurant and menu design and promote healthy food environments.”

    McGurkʻs co-authors on the JHEAL paper include: Stephanie L. CacalUyen VuTetine Sentell and Catherine M. Pirkle of the Office of Public Health Studies, and Toby Beckelman, Jessica Lee and Alyssa Yang of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH). Her co-authors on the commentary include Pirkle, Beckelman, Lee, Yang, Sentell and Katherine Inoue and Heidi Hansen-Smith of DOH.

    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 Monday, April 12

  • 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