University of Hawaiʻi Center for Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity (CIIHE)

A joint partnership of UH’s Offices of Indigenous Innovation and Strategic Health Initiatives. Co-Principal Investigators: Kamuela Enos, MA and Aimee Malia Grace, MD, MPH, FAAP                     


Indigenous populations of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) in Hawaiʻi and the United States, as well as other Indigenous populations, face pervasive health and socioeconomic disparities, including chronic disease burden, poverty, and other life stressors.[1], [2] NHPIs have a higher prevalence of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as a high death rate for cancer. [3]

The University of Hawaiʻi (UH) System Center for Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity (CIIHE) aims to advance Indigenous innovation (the application of traditional Indigenous knowledge, practices, and methodologies to contemporary problems) as a tool for health equity in NHPI populations.

Opportunities for Indigenous Innovation to Address Health Disparities

Many health disparities faced by Indigenous communities can be attributed to cultural loss of traditional practices.[1], [2]  There is increasing interest in supporting indigenous innovation, which is the application of traditional Indigenous knowledge, practices, and methodologies to contemporary problems, which has shown promising results in improving health. Examples include:

  • Engaging at-risk youth in sustainable Indigenous farming and educational opportunities in Waiʻanae, Hawaiʻi, was shown to decrease risk of type 2 diabetes by 60 percent.[3]
  • Implementing a health intervention based on hula significantly improved hypertension rates among Native Hawaiian participants.[4]
  • A culturally-centered online diabetes self-management program for Native Americans and Alaska Natives led to significant reductions in hemoglobin A1c levels and improved self-efficacy and patient activation.[5]

  • The Center seeks your participation in a Landscape Analysis Survey to identify and document
    Indigenous innovations with the potential for positive health impacts.
    • Examples may include organic farming to improve diabetes, hula to improve high blood
      pressure, restoration of Native languages to improve mental health, and more.
  • We invite you to participate in an upcoming 2-hour Landscape Analysis Workshop, which will
    provide you with an overview of the Center’s work as well as a facilitated session to assist you with
    survey completion.
  • Workshops are co-hosted by the Castle Foundation, the Consuelo Foundation, Hawaiʻi Mau Loa
    Foundation, Hawaiʻi Medical Services Association (HMSA) Foundation, Hawaiʻi Peoples Fund, and
    Kuaʻaina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA).
  • Workshop participants will receive hoʻokupu (an investment intended to provide participants with
    resources that will promote the growth of their organization) from Nā Mea Hawaiʻi.