Here's How To Be An Advocate for Hawaii’s Public Health - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Zoey Duan

Zoey Duan is a senior at Punahou School.

Ellie Ochiai

Ellie Ochiai is a senior at Punahou School.

One of the most critical issues in Hawaii’s current public health situation is inaccessibility and its effects on disadvantaged communities. While health care services are ubiquitous in the urban centers of our islands, many rural and poor communities are unable to access them. Inaccessibility is a problem that is closely intertwined with poverty.

Many poor people live in rural areas, which makes it difficult for them to access resources that are concentrated in urban centers — a trade-off that they must make to acquire cheaper housing and living conditions.

By living in rural areas with cheaper rent, however, they must travel farther to obtain benefits — such as quality health care, education, or even stable internet networks — that are located in urban areas.

Furthermore, since the poor are more likely to be employed in lower-skilled jobs that require long hours and tiring labor, they are unable to find the time to access health care resources. They cannot afford to take time off and risk unemployment either.

As a result, those in poor or rural communities may be forced to neglect their health due to inaccessibility, resulting in dangerous health risks.

Our Initiative

Reaching out to those who suffer the most from inaccessible health services may appear daunting, but making a positive impact on our local community can be extremely rewarding, and even fun! That’s what we learned through our own service experiences recently.

As advocates of social equity and public health, we observed that the issue of inequitable access to health resources is a topic that tends to be overlooked. Seeing the glaring need for equitable public health and more local efforts from youths, we decided to take action ourselves.

Hoping to assist in alleviating one of the most pressing issues in our islands — the COVID-19 pandemic — we worked together to create a COVID-19 vaccination assistance hotline to share with our local community.

Abigail Rasay flashed a shaka as she got vaccinated by Janet Sinclair at the Waimanalo Health Center. The authors set up a hotline to help folks get vaccinated. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

We hoped to help people overcome many of the obstacles that prevent them from being vaccinated, such as language barriers, financial difficulties, or inability or little confidence in accessing the internet. We designed the hotline so that it would act as a middleman that connects underserved individuals to local health organizations based on their needs.

We began the initiative by contacting agencies that we wished to partner with, including the Hawaii State Department of Health, the Hawaii Public Health Institute, Aloha United Way, and We Are Oceania. We then designed flyers online, translated the information into different languages, printed them, and made a portion of them into door-to-door flyers.

After that, we set up the hotline using a hotline service platform that has allowed us to connect all of these partnering organizations into one centralized place. Finally, it came time to distribute.

Together, we can help Hawaii become safer, healthier, and happier.

Accompanied by our friends, we went around neighborhoods on Oahu, hanging the flyers on doors and asking local businesses to advertise our hotline. Food Pantry Hawaii helped to promote our hotline by packaging our flyers into every food order and giving these orders to those who visited the pantry, many of whom are from disadvantaged communities.

Additionally, we wanted to advertise our hotline to the communities that we may not have reached through the Food Pantry and the flyers. Therefore, we contacted news stations to get the word out, and local news stations, such as KITV News and KHON News, were enthusiastic about our project and offered to interview us. Following the interviews, we received more calls through our hotline and were able to assist many of those in need.

How You Can Help

Our hotline could not have succeeded without the help of many in our community, whether it be the owners of the local businesses who helped advertise our flyers or the volunteers at the Food Pantry who slid our flyers into their food orders.

Just like our hotline, however, improving Hawaii’s public health situation is a team effort — one that should involve all of us.

Share Your Ideas

We youths are an especially powerful group of individuals. We’re passionate, resilient, empathetic, and strong. We have both the determination and the ability to make a difference in our communities.

Therefore, through this article, we hope that other youths are inspired to take a step in helping to improve our local communities.

If you would like to join our cause with the COVID-19 vaccination hotline, feel free to email us at If you know someone that needs help obtaining a vaccination, ask them to call our hotline at (808) 204-4333.

Or, if you’d like, launch your own initiatives. Get a group of friends, find a problem you want to fix, and use your hidden talents to start a project that’s meaningful to you. Together, we can help Hawaii become safer, healthier, and happier.

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About the Authors

Zoey Duan

Zoey Duan is a senior at Punahou School.

Ellie Ochiai

Ellie Ochiai is a senior at Punahou School.

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