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Hawaiʻi County Launches Health Literacy Project Aimed at Eliminating Disparities

October 28, 2021, 12:41 PM HST
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The County of Hawaiʻi announced last week that it has launched the Kuleana Health Project to lead a consortium of local health organizations focused on improving health outcomes through increasing health literacy. The initiative is in partnership with Community First Hawaiʻi and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

Health literacy is a person’s ability to find, understand and use information and services to help them make health-related decisions for themselves and others. A primary goal is to eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all.

“A thriving community is made up of individuals and families that are empowered to take responsibility for their health,” said Randy Kurohara, executive director of Community First Hawaiʻi. “The effort to increase health literacy is, at its core, about removing barriers between patients and providers so that every one of us can make informed health care choices for ourselves.”

The projects will also focus on underserved and rural communities by addressing chronic disease disparities through improved utilization of telehealth by community members. The Kuleana Health Project is also expected to leverage local data to identify racial and ethnic minority populations at the highest risk for health disparities, and low health literacy and populations not currently reached through existing public health campaigns.

“Through this islandwide consortium, we aim to address health disparities among Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, and Hispanics as well as individuals living in rural communities,” said the County of Hawai’i Department of Research and Development Director Doug Adams. “The Kuleana Health Project is currently in the process of formalizing consortium partnerships with local community health organizations.”

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This 2-year project is possible through a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) to the County of Hawaiʻi. In addition, Hawaiʻi County was selected competitively to be part of a $250 million, two-year initiative to identify and implement best practices for improving health literacy to enhance COVID-19 vaccination and other COVID-19 mitigation practices among underserved populations.

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“Securing these funds is critical to ensuring the health and prosperity of our community through the pandemic and beyond,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “By working diligently with all branches of government and the private sector to tackle the growing health disparities faced by many island-wide, we can and will create a sustainable county where our keiki and raise their keiki for generations to come.”

Under the County’s administrative leadership, Community First Hawaiʻi has initiated project activities while collaborating with the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on program evaluation and quality improvement. Over the next two years, the Kuleana Health Project will work with local consortium partners to develop a health literacy plan to increase the availability, acceptability, and use of COVID-19 public health information and services by racial and ethnic minority populations.

The consortium partners include:

  • Bay Clinic, Inc.
  • Kīpuka O Ke Ola Waimea
  • Hui Mālama Ola Nā ʻŌiwi
  • Kaʻu Rural Health Community Association
  • Hamakua-Kohala Health
  • West Hawaiʻi Community Health Center
  • District Office Hawaiʻi Department of Health
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The Advancing Health Literacy (AHL) to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 initiative is part of the Biden/Harris Administration’s National Strategy for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

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