Hawaii Pursues Health Equity

February 21, 2011, 8:02 PM HST
* Updated February 23, 3:02 PM
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By Robin G. Pilus

A group of 185  professionals concerned about public health gathered at the first Department of Health Chronic Disease Summit on Thursday February 17,  at the Japanese-American Cultural Center in Oahu.   This was the first Summit of its kind in Hawaii.

According to Susan B. Hunt, Executive Director of Hamakua Health Center on the Big Island and Summit speaker, “To truly improve health outcomes, it is necessary to improve both access to health care and access to the neighborhood conditions and life opportunities that support healthy choices and good health.”   

However, health inequities continue to be significant in Hawaii.  Health inequities are defined as unfair, avoidable, systematic differences in health status, mortality rates, distribution of disease and illness rates across population groups.

Within communities, environmental factors such as safe and affordable housing and transportation, good air qualkity, fresh and nutritious food and safe recreational areas are increasingly being recognized as vital to good health.

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According to Earl Bradbury of the Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Management and Contol Branch,  “Choices we make are shaped by the choices we have.   Health is tied to the  distribution of resources and we all pay the price for poor health in our community.”

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In Hawaii 75% of healthcare costs are related to management of chronic diseases.  Five common chronic conditions account for 64% of all deaths in our state.

At the Summit, small groups were convened to discuss the root causes of health inequities in Hawaii.  The groups were further challenged to develop appropriate strategies for embracing the concept of health in all public policy including agriculture, transportation, edcuation, houseing, land use and economic policy.

A synoposis of the discussion will be made available through the DOH Branch.  A second Summit will likely be planned for 2012.

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