University of Hawaii Innovation Initiative

Hula to Health

Research impacts Native Hawaiians' well-being in multiple ways

By Kyle Galdeira
HI should benefit the Native Hawaiian community in a number of ways, including creating clear research pathways for budding professionals and scholars.

HI should benefit the Native Hawaiian community in a number of ways, including creating clear research pathways for budding professionals and scholars.

Hula’s graceful rotation of the hips may be just what the doctor ordered in terms of cardiac rehabilitation therapy. Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and its partners have found that the Native Hawaiian dance form can be effective rehabilitation therapy for heart-attack victims.

Mele Look, director of community engagement for JABSOM’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health, says, “What we found was that hula can match the cardiac workout of a pickup basketball game.”

The school has based its clinical translational research program upon assisting the development of investigators focusing on reducing health differences that disproportionately impact Native Hawaiians. Moreover, JABSOM is the only accredited medical school in the country with a clinical department aimed at improving the health of an indigenous people, in this case Native Hawaiians.

The University of Hawai‘i’s new research initiative should also benefit the Native Hawaiian community in several other ways, according to Maenette Benham, dean of the Hawai‘inuakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at UH Manoa. First, it promotes the health and productivity of Hawai‘i’s “thriving lands,” including watersheds, and agricultural areas that are essential to quality of living. Second, the initiative enhances the School of Knowledge’s mission to pursue traditional and modern forms of Hawaiian knowledge. Third, a host of partnerships stemming from the effort are expected to create clear pathways in the sciences, humanities, social sciences and economics, and health professions for budding Native Hawaiian professionals and scholars.

Courtesy: University of Hawai‘i

Courtesy: University of Hawai‘i

Those new scholars will be in good company. In September, Dana-Lynn T.

Koomoa-Lange, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy (CoP) at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, received a prestigious career-development award of $675,000 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the only award of this type from the NCI to be given to a Native Hawaiian in the entire UH System.

Benham says she sees HI2 as an effort that engages the work of scholars and researchers to address the social economic, environmental, health and educative conundrums of Hawai‘i and the Asia-Pacific region.

“Indeed, an initiative such as this has the potential to unleash cutting-edge collaborative research projects in areas as diverse as informatics, biotechnology, energy, health and well-being, and food safety, to name just a few, that can positively impact our Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) communities,” Benham says.

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