“A huge step forward” is how John A. Burns School of Medicine Dean Jerris Hedges is describing today’s announcement about the U.S. government taking steps to improve the collection of health data for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

According to a JABSOM press release, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders National Health Interview Survey, beginning next February, will include a sample of 4,000 households. Findings will be available in the summer of 2015.

“In the past, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders were lumped into the same statistical category with other Asian groups, when we know that in fact Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have unique health disparities that need to be addressed,” said Hedges. 

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, making it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys, said JABSOM: “The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and how they use health care.”

Photo: Native Hawaiian health scholars Dr. Winona Lee, Nanette Judd and Dr. Ben Young. (JABSOM)

—Chad Blair