What a great day this is shaping up to be. We’re at the Dole Cannery with several hundred health care workers and public health professionals sharing and learning at ho’ōla: The Hawai‘i Health Care Conference. There is energy everywhere. Right behind me, two attendees are discussing social determinants of health. Another group has come to a standstill not far from our table to discuss varying points of view on delivering health education while respecting community tradition. Educational posters are everywhere; a few are posted above so you get the idea.

This morning, we heard from former Obama-era U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on health care in the era of Trump, how social and emotional wellbeing impacts physical wellbeing, and about how all this has impacted the opioid epidemic in America. Perhaps the most important takeaway from Dr. Murthy’s speech is the need to create a culture of prevention. As Bev Brody said after the session, “I would rather have to live with diabetes than prevent it in the first place… said nobody ever.

Dr. Murthy’s presentation also reminded us that other nations put a higher percentage of their health care dollars into prevention, live with less disease and pain, and even live a little longer because of it. We have started down that road with the Public Health and Prevention Fund under Obamacare and early results are promising. But Republicans in Congress have made it enemy #1 and are determined to return us to days of solely treating disease, while ignoring proven strategies to prevent it. More money to drug companies… less health for us.

A lot of discussion here is about built environment and access to services. We know that a person is more likely to be physically healthy if they live in a community where their needs are met. In other words, social and emotional wellbeing, as Dr. Murthy mentioned, are directly connected to physical health.

One of the closing sessions really captured our attention. It was about Pilinahā and the connections framework, born out of a collaboration between KKV and Islander Institute. The framework — based on connections to place, others, past, and our better self — uses ‘talk story’ sessions to help communities address challenges specific to health.

We know that there are clinical measures for health, but when you ask the community how they measure health, the answers are quite different. Community members see health in terms of changes to their environment, such as access to fresh fruits and vegetables, well-designed sidewalks, bike lanes, and parks. This can create a disconnect between health practitioners and patients, but also presents an opportunity for public health professionals to bridge the divide.

A gentleman in the audience asked, “when applying Pilinahā, has there been conflict in clinical settings?” Puni Jackson, from KKV, responded that when you approach conflict with fear, you’re going to struggle to compromise or find a solution. When you approach conflict with love, compromise is possible and solutions present themselves. We agree wholeheartedly!

Listening to these experts and hallway discussions is firing us up. And it’s reassuring to have this reminder that we are never fighting alone!

Onwards to day two!

– Brian, HIPHI Communications Director