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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New UH center will study health disparities in Pacific

Advertiser Staff

A new center at the University of Hawai'i's John A. Burns School of Medicine established with a five-year, $7.3 million grant will focus on health disparities among people in the Pacific, including those involving Native Hawaiians.

The Center for Native and Pacific Health Disparities Research will conduct research, training, and engage communities to minimize health disparities, the school said.

Funding is coming from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institutes of Health. The center will be in the medical school's Department of Native Hawaiian Health and headed by Drs. Marjorie Mau and J. Keawe'aimoku Kaholokula.

The center will build upon earlier research by the Department of Native Hawaiian Health and focus on health disparities that include heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Native Hawaiians are twice as likely to have diabetes than Caucasians in Hawai'i and are almost six times more likely to die from diabetes or its complications, according to the medical school.

"This is a critical part of our mission, to address needs that might go unmet without a Hawai'i-based, Pacific-focused school," said Dr. Gary Ostrander, interim medical school dean.

The center has planned a number of projects, including investigating the impact of hula as a suitable cardiac rehabilitation activity for patients who have had coronary artery bypass surgery.

Other projects involve a look at the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in preteens and teens living in O'ahu's rural and urban areas; mitochondrial function in obese people who undergo a behavioral weight loss intervention and a study of bitter melon's possible role in ameliorating obesity and hyperlipidemia.

The center will also offer training for community health workers about diabetes and heart disease, as well play a role in two ongoing National Institutes of Health funded disparities studies within the Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

It also is forming research collaborations with an Alaska Native-owned healthcare organization and a Pacific Islander health partnership in Southern California.

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