Papa Ola Lōkahi: Improving Native Hawaiian health and well-being

Supporting the practice of Hawaiian healing traditions

Sponsored by Papa Ola Lōkahi

Native Hawaiians are among those with the greatest health disparities here in Hawaii, which is why Papa Ola Lōkahi has dedicated itself to improving the health and well-being of its people. HI Now host Kanoe Gibson is with Executive Director Sheri-Ann Daniels. In this role, she leads efforts to improve the overall health and well-being of Native Hawaiians and their families, through strategic partnerships, programs and public policy.

In 1988, U.S. Congress passed a law called the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act. Papa Ola Lōkahi was born shortly after to provide the oversight of that congressional law. From that act, five native Hawaiian health care systems were created to provide direct health care services and health promotion and education on five islands.

The act also made The Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program possible. Since 1991, 284 scholarships have been granted to Hawaiians in 20 health and allied health professions. The program offers generous support to Native Hawaiians pursuing degrees in medicine, nursing and other allied health professions. After their schooling, scholars serve in medically under-served areas for two to four years, depending on the amount of support they are awarded. To date, its scholars have filled positions on six islands, and many of the early scholars have risen to positions of leadership in the community.

“The greatest reward is building the capacity of the Hawaiian health community over 25 years,” Daniels says.

The staff at Papa Ola Lōkahi looks at policies on the national and local levels, research and data collection and dissemination, workforce development, traditional Hawaiian healing practices and councils of kupuna practitioners, and community engagement in Hawaii and abroad.

In June 2019, Daniels was appointed to a national advisory council. “It is an honor to represent the Native Hawaiian community on the Advisory Committee on Minority Health at the request of Secretary Azar,” said Daniels. “I look forward to serving with my new colleagues to address the unique needs of our diverse communities and ultimately improve population health outcomes.”

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