October 1, 2021

He ‘A‘ali‘i Kū Makani Mai Au: Developing a Cultural Framework for Advancing COVID-19 Related, Community-informed Health Policies

Martina Leialoha Kamaka MD; Sharde Mersberg Freitas JD; Sarah Momilani Marshall PhD; Michael Edward Walsh Jr., MA; Sarah Kamakawiwo‘ole, MPH; Jamee Māhealani Miller EdD; Kealohaku‘ualohaku‘upoki‘i Balaz DNP; and Halaevalu Vakalahi PhD

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

The Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community found itself on the front pages of national news when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States. By April 2020, the small, frequently overlooked community experienced the highest COVID-19 case rates in 5 states including Hawai‘i. In response, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander networks across the US were mobilized to address the crisis. In Hawai‘i, the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response, Recovery, and Resilience Team was created. Framed by Indigenous Pacific based cultural values, protocols, and practices, the team consists of multiple committees that examine policy; testing, contract tracing, and isolation; communications; social supports and resources; and data and research. Inherent in this work are the shared core values of pono (righteousness, goodness), aloha (love, compassion), laulima (cooperation), and imua (moving forward with strength) as well as an ‘ohana/aiga (family)-based, kuleana (responsibility)-centric approach that acknowledges, honors, and values ‘ike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge). With the burden of not only COVID-19 disparities, but also chronic diseases and socioeconomic disparities that place Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities at increased risk for adverse impacts from COVID-19, an effective response is critical. This article, authored by members of the Team’s Policy Committee, discusses the development of a cultural framework that guides its advocacy efforts. The Policy Committee’s work presents a cultural framework that grounds and guides their efforts for effectively promoting a strong voice in governmental and agency policies which would ultimately contribute to a healthy and thriving Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community.

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