Research & Evaluation

Ka HOLO Study

Native Hawaiians (NH) have higher rates of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancer. Hypertension (HTN), an important modifiable risk factor for CVD, is 70% higher in Native Hawaiians (NH) than in Whites.

In fact, NH are 3–4 times more likely to develop CVD conditions, such as stroke and coronary heart disease, and at a younger age. In addition to prescribed medication, improvements in HTN can be achieved through increased physical activity (PA) and self-management education (e.g. stress management, reduces sodium intake, weight-loss, and smoking cessation). Yet, many commonly prescribed PA, such as jogging and use of treadmills, are difficult for NH to initiate and maintain because of socioeconomic barriers and lack of alignment with NH preferred modes of living and cultural values (i.e. familial interdependence, group-based PA, cultural PA).

This research study uses hula, the traditional dance form of NH and hallmark of NH culture, as the PA basis for a culturally relevant and sustainable CVD prevention program targeting HTN management. Hula training is popular, not only Hawai‘i, but across the U.S. through the 784 hālau hula (hula schools) found in most States. Using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) framework, a hula-based CVD health intervention was strongly endorsed by Kumu hula (hula experts and guardians of hula traditions), NH individuals, and communities. Further, hula was determined to yield metabolic equivalent of energy expenditure as a moderate and vigorous intensity PA. Data from our pilot CBPR randomized control trial (RCT) study found that 60 minutes of hula training twice a week for 12 weeks reduced systolic blood pressure (BP) by 7.5 mmHg (SD=16.5) more than the control group, but the long-term effects were mixed and the study did not assess CVD risk. Click here to see KITV News “Aging Well” featuring Ola Hou and our KaHOLO study.

Interestingly, the pilot intervention also improved social functioning, reduced physical pain, and perceived racial discrimination, suggesting a possible psychosocial and socio-cultural mechanism by which the intervention affects BP. In this study we offer a CBPR guided RCT of 250 NH with physician-diagnosed HTN in Hawai‘i and Washington State. We will compare the effects of a 6-month intervention that combines hula training and brief culturally-tailored HTN self-management education delivered by peer educators and Kumu hula to a wait-list control group in reducing systolic BP and CVD risk scores. We will also determine the mediating effects of health behaviors (e.g., smoking), self-regulation, and psychosocial (e.g., social support), and socio-cultural factors (e.g., perceived racism) on blood pressure reduction. Our goal is to build on the existing widespread infrastructure of hālau hula and NH organizations to deliver a sustainable, culturally-preferred CVD prevention program.

This R01 study has recently been funded by National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (NHLBI). Study recruitment will begin the Fall of 2015.

For further information or questions, please contact the University of Hawai’i John A Burns School of Medicine, Department of Native Hawaiian Health, Mele Look
(808) 692-1051