Group works on solutions to address high rate of COVID-19 among Pacific Islanders

The coronavirus has hit certain ethnic groups harder than others.
Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 9:23 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The coronavirus has hit certain ethnic groups harder than others.

Pacific Islanders make up nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, despite only making up about 4% of the state population.

“One of the reasons we all came together was to realize that the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities weren’t being addressed, weren’t being consulted with,” said Kim Kuulei Birnie, communications and engagement for Papa Ola Lokahi, a group that focuses on improving Native Hawaiian health and well-being.

“One of the goals was to come together to really identify and understand what some of the data is in our respective communities and to see what services and resources there are and help to support whatever work is going on.”

Birnie is one of several voices in a new initiative to connect Pacific Islanders with proper resources and outreach to better prepare them for future health crises — learning from what they are going through now.

Their effort is the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Hawaii COVID-19 Response, Recovery and Resiliency. It includes leaders from the Native Hawaiian, Micronesian, Samoan and Tongan communities.

As the first wave of the virus recedes, the group wants to identify and facilitate potential partnerships and resource sharing to pro-actively develop strategies that will foster better resilience for those communities moving forward.

"We are confident that identifying common goals that build on our strengths will bring about impactful and sustainable change to assure that our people will thrive," said Birnie.

For more information on the initiative to better serve those communities during the pandemic, visit this website.

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