News Release

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NCMHD Recovery Act Funds Support Obesity Disparities in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Basin Jurisdiction

The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), a part of the National Institutes of Health, awards a two-year planning grant totaling $600,000 to study obesity-related disparities among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. This is a portion of the NIH $5 billion of Recovery funds announced by President Obama on September 30th.

Rates of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Basin Jurisdictions are among the highest in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Native Hawaiians are more than twice as likely to be obese than Whites or Filipinos living in Hawaii. Rates of obesity for Native Hawaiians, Whites, and Filipinos in Hawaii are 39 percent, 19 percent, and 17 percent, respectively. By comparison, approximately one in three people living in the United States is considered obese. Obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index of more than 30, is associated with several chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The study is an expansion of the Partnership for Improving Lifestyle Interventions (PILI) 'Ohana Program, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine, funded through the NCMHD Community-Based Participatory Research program. The project is led by Dr. Joseph Keawe'aimoku Kaholokula, assistant professor and associate chair in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health, and a participant in the NCMHD Loan Repayment Program. The program is aimed at building a diverse workforce of scientists and health professionals. It offers educational loans of up to $35,000 per year for qualified individuals from healthy disparity or disadvantaged backgrounds with doctoral degrees, who commit to focus their work on health disparities research or clinical research over two years.

The research focus of the PILI ’Ohana grant is to eliminate health disparities in Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Currently, researchers are testing an intervention designed to achieve lasting weight loss in this population.

This is the first NCMHD grant to address health disparities in residents of the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Basin Jurisdiction.

Funding from the Recovery Act will allow the PILI 'Ohana investigators to form an expanded regional community-based participatory research network called the Pacific Regional Indigenous Development and Empowerment (PRIDE) Network. This is a partnership with community organizations in the six island jurisdictions of the Pacific Basin — American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

"The availability of Recovery Act funds will extend our reach to the Pacific Basin to better understand health disparities in Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. This expansion demonstrates the value of community involvement and partnerships, and will lay the vital groundwork needed for these communities to develop culturally appropriate public health interventions against obesity," said NCMHD Director John Ruffin, Ph.D.

The PRIDE Network will use the support from the Recovery Act to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive obesity-related assessment in each of the six Pacific Island jurisdictions to obtain the information needed to shape their health disparities research agenda and public health priorities for the Pacific region.
  • Enhance the communications infrastructure to enable the PILI ’Ohana partners to share expertise, train Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in delivering obesity-related interventions, and increase their reach and impact in delivering community-based health interventions.
  • Conduct a randomized study using an intervention directed to improve diabetes self-management. The intervention will consist of 12 meetings in which trained community members share with participants culturally tailored educational materials that are based on social cognitive theory. Biological and behavioral outcomes will be evaluated including hemoglobin A1c levels (to assess blood sugar concentrations), and quality of life, diabetes self-care behavior, social support, and other factors, using the results of a questionnaire. The study will take place in Hawaii. However, the research will assist in the development of interventions that will be culturally appropriate for Pacific Islanders outside Hawaii.

The randomized trial of the diabetes intervention will allow investigators to better understand the specific social, cultural, and individual factors that determine the effectiveness of diabetes management interventions and thus design culturally appropriate programs to help Pacific Islanders avoid this disease and its complications.

For more information about the NCMHD Community Based Participatory Research Programs, visit

To speak with an NIH spokesperson or interview Dr. Kaholokula, please contact the NCMHD Communications Office, at 301-402-1366, e-mail:

The National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) promotes minority health and leads, coordinates, supports, and assesses the NIH effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. NCMHD conducts and supports basic, clinical, social, and behavioral research, promotes research infrastructure and training, fosters emerging programs, disseminates information, and reaches out to minority and other health disparity communities. Visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the NIH Recovery Act grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the Recovery Act, visit To track all federal funds provided through the Recovery Act, visit