Hawaii News

$2 million award supports UH’s work on Indigenous health disparities, health equity

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CIIHE team at MAʻO Organic Farms. Photo Courtesy: UH

A new $2-million award will help the University of Hawaiʻi address Indigenous health disparities and advance health equity in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

The award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health supports UH’s Center for Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity (CIIHE, pronounced: cheeee heee), which has the potential to receive an additional $8 million from the Office of Minority Health over the next four years.

The five-year initiative places an emphasis on implementing innovative and culturally derived frameworks to prevent and improve disparities in chronic diseases, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, in partnership with Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, a federally qualified health center based in Honolulu.


“We are excited by the opportunity that this project provides us to continue to directly support our regional cultural practitioners communities in growing the evidence base for understanding traditional cultural practices as effective contemporary health interventions,” said Principal Investigator and UH Office of Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation Director Kamuela Enos.

UH’s effort will focus on supporting community-based efforts that increase Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander patients’ exposure to traditional cultural practices like lāʻau lapaʻau (plant medicine), cultural birthing practices, mālama ʻāina (caring for the land), lomilomi (massage) and ʻai pono (healthy eating). These practices can serve as a buffer against chronic diseases, specifically cardiometabolic diseases and mental health disorders, through collaborative service, education, research and policy initiatives.

CIIHE was launched by a $1-million grant in fiscal year 2021 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The Center was created through a vision between Enos and UH Office of Strategic Health Initiatives Director and CIIHE Co-Principal Investigator Aimee Malia Grace.


In early 2023, CIIHE received an additional $4.6 million through an anonymous gift that will fund the Center’s first endowed chair and provide funding for programs and activities to advance their work.

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