October 1, 2021

Addressing Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Data Deficiencies Through a Community-based Collaborative Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Martina Leialoha Kamaka MD; Lisa Watkins-Victorino PhD; Awapuhi Lee BA; Sharde Mersberg Freitas JD, MPH; Kara Wong Ramsey MD; Joshua Quint PhD, MPH; Tercia L. Ku BS; Kau‘ionalani Nishizaki LMSW; and Joseph Keawe‘aimoku Kaholokula PhD

Hawaii Journal of Health & Social Welfare

Early evidence of disproportionate COVID-19 infection and death rates in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in the continental US raised concerns for similar disparities in Hawai‘i, where these communities make up 25% of the state’s population. Representatives from more than 40 different government, academic, institutional and community-based organizations partnered to form the Hawai‘i Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response, Recovery, and Resilience Team. The team consists of 5 committees including the Data & Research Committee. This committee is tasked with examining issues regarding the acquisition, quality, public reporting, and utilization of race/ethnicity-related health data used to inform priorities and guide resource allocation. Problems addressed by this committee include: inconsistency across agencies in the use of race identifiers, defaulting to the Office of Management and Budget standards which aggregated Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and methods of data collection and reporting by the Department of Health. Outcomes include: 2 forms with race categories that reflect the population of Hawai‘i; the reporting of disaggregated data by the Department of Health; and conversations with testing sites, laboratories, and health institutions urging a standardized form for race/ethnicity data collection. The collection and reporting of disaggregated race/ethnicity data is critical to guiding organizations in addressing underlying inequities in chronic disease and social determinants of health that can exacerbate the adverse effects of COVID-19. The Data and Research Committee’s network offers a community-based model for collaborative work that honors culture and ensures Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other minority populations are recognized and counted.

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