The Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. The murder of George Floyd, and the fight against systemic racism and police brutality. The long-overdue recognition of racism as a public health epidemic, and the ever-volatile political climate. 

We at HIPHI have been asking ourselves, “How can we re-envision and rebuild Hawaiiʻs public health systems to do better for those our systems are not currently serving?”

Our commitment to equity. HIPHI nurtures a culture in which equity is one of our organization’s values, with justice as a core focus of our work. To us, this translates to moving beyond advocating FOR equity, but rather amplifying our work AGAINST inequity. This means calling out the systemic discrimination that continues to drive poor health outcomes in Hawaiʻi and directing our resources to change this narrative. 

Equity starts with us. During the past month, we took the time to pause and reflect on how we can strengthen equity work within our organization. We created an equity committee, and along with our peers, joined national workgroups further dissecting the issue. With over 30 staff and interns collaborating, we revisited how equity starts with each of us individually, and how it is interwoven into our programs. We are committed to sustaining this transformative work.

An equity-based approach to COVID-19. This pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in our healthcare systems which exacerbated the health disparities experienced in Hawaiʻi for decades. Data has shown that Pacific Islanders and Filipinos are experiencing significantly higher rates of COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi and our Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Filipino communities are more impacted by the consequences of COVID-19; Our rural communities face increasing challenges with access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE); hundreds of thousands of families remain unemployed, live in overcrowded housing and are at risk for homelessness. 

Over the last few months, HIPHI has intentionally pivoted some of our work to focus on COVID-19 response. We’ve sent out letters and calls to action to protect our most vulnerable communities. We formed a Public Health Action network that is growing with 200+ individuals and organizations. We organized weekly, and now bi-weekly webinars highlighting various aspects of pandemic response.  We continue to advocate that community and working families are prioritized in plans to reopen the economy. We pushed for neighbor islands to receive PPE by establishing community PPE hubs in Maui, Hawaiʻi Island, and Kauaʻi. We spoke with state agencies and identified opportunities in contact tracing, community health workers, PPE collection and distribution, better communication materials, workforce development, and long-term system assessment and improvement to increase resilience to the next challenge. 

All of us are called to rise to the challenge: to determine how we interrogate deeply-held beliefs and entrenched systems, and move forward with action and purpose. HIPHI commits to continuing this important work and to ensure our policies and actions are in the best interest of our most vulnerable communities.

 

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Jessica Yamauchi

 

 

 

Jessica Yamauchi
Executive Director

and the HIPHI ʻOhana