Public Health Pulse (news, events, announcements)

Events Calendar

October 2020

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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 9 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 5 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 5 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 7 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: https://www.hawaii.edu/emergency/important-health-information-novel-coronavirus/. 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 (ophsas@hawaii.edu) 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: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf Or this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) office: https://afsp.org/taking-care-of-your-mental-health-in-the-face-of-uncertainty/

    Travel

    For travel guidance please see https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2020/03/10/covid-19-spring-break-travel/

    Stay Informed

    UH COVID-19 web page: https://www.hawaii.edu/emergency/important-health-information-novel-coronavirus/ UH Travel FAQs: https://www.hawaii.edu/emergency/important-health-information-novel-coronavirus/travel-faq/ Protect yourself from COVID-19: https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2020/03/07/covid-19-practical-tips/ If you have questions specific to our public health program, please contact Tetine Sentell, Director of OPHS, tsentell@hawaii.edu.  If you have questions for the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, please contact Ms. Theresa Kreif, Assistant to the Dean, kreif@hawaii.edu

    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 10 months ago

Events (upcoming)

News (recent)

  • 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

  • UH Mānoa commencement speaker's steep, slow climb to a PhD

    Amalie ʻAlohilani Monlux described her experience to earn her PhD at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa as a “steep and slow ascent to the top of a mountain” that almost made her turn back several times during her arduous five-year journey. However, her tenacity, a supportive network and a fateful phone call from a concerned program chair, encouraged the mother of four to achieve her goal. Next week, she will celebrate with nearly 2,000 fellow graduates when she earns her PhDin public health. 

    Monlux was selected as the UH Mānoa fall 2020 commencement speaker, and is the first PhD candidate to be chosen for that role.

    Born and raised on Oʻahu, Monlux is a Kamehameha Schools graduate and previously earned her master’s in public health from UH Mānoa and a bachelor’s in exercise science from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. 

    Growing up as a Native Hawaiian and mindful of health disparities the community faces with chronic issues at a younger age and at a higher rate than other racial groups, Monlux had a passion for health and wellness and pursued her PhD in public health to “become part of the solution.” She said, “Because I’m a mom, I’m especially invested in the health of Native Hawaiian children.”

    Overwhelming obstacles

    Monlux began her PhD studies in fall 2015, but after successfully completing three semesters, she felt too overwhelmed to continue and took a leave of absence in the spring 2017 semester. “The feeling of disappointment was heavy. I really thought I could do it, but that day I gave up,” she said.

    Monlux described the next few months as blissful, not having to worry about papers, tuition or deadlines. When the fall 2017 semester approached, she felt recharged to continue her studies. She completed the semester but felt overwhelmed again when spring 2018 rolled around. 

    “I decided to quietly disappear by not enrolling for any classes, which would cause me to get dropped from the program,” she said. “I was more than embarrassed that after using a leave of absence I still couldn’t handle the pressure.” 

    It was the last day to enroll in classes when Monlux received a call from Office of Public Health Studies Graduate Chair and Professor Kathryn Braun. Braun was concerned that she had not registered at all. Monlux explained her situation, and Braun suggested enrolling in a one-credit course to keep her good standing in the program.

    “This was my saving grace. I saw that even minimal forward progress was progress,” Monlux said.

    “I gave myself a pep talk and made the commitment to see it through. I had to do some major soul searching and really questioned why I was pursuing my PhD. My passion in Native Hawaiian health and wellness was what fueled me throughout, to one day being able to make a positive impact in my community.” 

    A grateful graduate

    Monlux stressed the importance of support, asking for help, and giving thanks to those who helped her and expected nothing in return. She said her PhD journey would not be possible if not for her supportive network of professors and her family. She credits her professors, like Braun, for “caring about my education and goals, and at times holding my hand so I could persevere.” Her husband, siblings and parents also played a big role to provide care for her children so she could focus on her studies.

    “I auditioned to become a student speaker because it has been a labor of love by so many people for me to earn my degree, and I wanted to acknowledge them for believing in me and cheering me on during these last five years,” she said. “It’s so important, especially for a college student, and especially for a mom, to have a support system.”

    Monlux said she celebrates with her fellow graduates who have overcome their own obstacles, especially in a year where they faced a “tumultuous election and a global pandemic,” to make that climb to the top of the mountain.

    UH Mānoa will post recorded speeches from Monlux and PBS Hawaiʻi CEO and President Leslie Wilcox, Mahalo Messages from graduates, and a PDF of the commencement program on Monday, December 21. Visit the UH Mānoa commencement website for more information.

    —By Arlene Abiang

    - Posted Monday, December 14

  • TikTok challenge promotes multi-language COVID-19 messaging

    To provide COVID-19 information and recommendations in Ilocano, Marshallese, Chamorro, ʻōlelo Hawai‘i and other languages, a group of young public health ambassadors are creating videos to help keep Hawaiʻi healthy during the pandemic. The effort arose from the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response, Recovery, and Resilience Team, and is supported by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies, Papa Ola Lōkahi and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health.

    The TikTok-style video challenge was launched by Next Gen Hawaiʻi, a collaboration of organizations involved in the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

    Many UH Mānoa public health students and graduates have participated.

    “The public health ambassadors bring creative energy to public health messaging around topics such as mask wearing, staying together over distances and flu shots,” said Tetine Sentell, director of the Office of Public Health Studies.

    “They are social influencers with important information to share. We believe this is key to leveraging community strengths and trusted relationships within intergenerational households to promote well-being and healthy behaviors during this stressful time,” Sentell added.

    Next Gen Hawaiʻi

    Next Gen Hawaiʻi public health ambassadors are teens and young adults who create social media content focused on public health awareness and resources in multiple languages spoken in Hawaiʻi. For the remainder of 2020, Next Gen Hawaiʻi will host two TikTok challenges monthly, which will be shared widely.

    “The goal of the Next Gen Hawaiʻi project is to amplify voices of the youth of Hawaiʻi in their languages to support better health in their communities, especially in Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, and other communities that have been so impacted by COVID-19,” said Momi Tolentino, communications and community relations assistant at Papa Ola Lōkahi, who is helping run the program.

    “We want to bolster health, a sense of belonging, and in-language outreach to Hawaiʻi communities during COVID-19,” Tolentino added.

    For more information about Next Gen Hawaiʻi, email hawaiinextgen@gmail.com.

    - Posted Friday, November 20

  • New research reveals key steps to fight flavored tobacco

    Restrictions on flavored tobacco products are a great way to promote public health, and these restrictions work best if public health experts form partnerships with tobacco retailers, run intensive media campaigns and advocate for comprehensive bans on the products. That’s according to a study published in Tobacco Control from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies researchers.

    For the study, UH researchers interviewed experts from across the U.S. and Canada who had firsthand experience in passing, implementing or evaluating bans on flavored tobacco products. The researchers then analyzed the interviews for common themes.

    “We wanted to identify the best ways to implement flavored tobacco policies,” said lead author Katey Peck, who was a UH Mānoa public health graduate student at the time of the study. Peck and her co-authors asked experts about the economic impacts, lessons learned and unforeseen consequences of implementing restrictions.

    Study findings

    One key finding was that comprehensive bans on the products were more effective and easier to enforce than partial bans. Partial bans might allow sales of menthol flavored products to continue or sales to proceed at retailers located within a certain distance from schools.

    “The experts agreed that comprehensive bans are better because the rules are simpler. The sale of flavored tobacco products is not allowed, period,” Peck said. “With comprehensive bans, tobacco retailers don’t wind up in situations where they are trying to answer questions from customers.”

    Another important finding was that media campaigns that raise awareness of the health impacts of flavored tobacco products and educate the public on the details of any new policy proposals were essential to successfully implementing new policies.

    “Flavored tobacco products are risky, and the experts we talked to emphasized the importance of providing accurate, factual information to the public about the known risks of these products,” Peck said.

    The experts also said public health advocates should treat tobacco retailers as partners in establishing new policies, rather than as businesses that need to be regulated. Moreover, tapping the knowledge held by retailers, who encounter the tobacco-buying public every day, can help public health advocates to create appropriate educational materials for their local populations.

    “The regulation of flavored tobacco products is a new and growing area of public health,” Peck added. “Our study showed that gathering information from experts and asking them to identify and share their ideas about best practices has potential to improve the implementation and efficacy of flavored tobacco policies.”

    Peck’s co-authors on the study included Rebekah RodericksTetine Sentell and Catherine Pirkle, of UH Mānoa’s Office of Public Health Studies; and Lola Irvin, Lila Johnson, Jill Tamashiro and Lance Ching, of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health.

    - Posted Tuesday, November 10