Certificate in Indigenous Public Health program to launch this fall; offers valuable knowledge for the age of covid

The Certificate in Indigenous Public Health will provide students with an understanding of the practice of public health, indigenous communities’ practices of health and well-being, and conventional and traditional health perspectives.

By Susan Enright

Misty Pacheco
Misty Pacheco

A new certificate program in indigenous public health will launch this fall at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Development of the program was facilitated by UH Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center and with collaboration among the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, the Department of Sociology, and the Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences (KES), where it will be housed. It is an interdisciplinary certificate that includes courses provided by Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke’elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and the departments of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and KES.

“The Indigenous Public Health Certificate will provide students with an understanding of the purpose and practice of public health, indigenous communities’ practices of health and well-being, and/or conventional and traditional health perspectives,” explains Misty Pacheco, chair and associate professor of kinesiology and exercise science. “Students will become familiar with public health principles and gain an appreciation of indigenous health concerns, including Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, as well as other groups.”

Students in the program will also learn about the purpose and practice of public health, compare conventional and traditional health perspectives, and understand indigenous health concerns and disparities.

“This current pandemic has revealed a lot of things,” says Pacheco. “One thing that is blaringly clear, and which practically everyone can universally agree upon, is the importance of public health. The critical need for a strong public health infrastructure across all systems, as well as a trained public health workforce has been reinforced.”

She adds, “We have also seen the disproportionate effect covid-19 has had on indigenous populations around the world, and are once again reminded that we must consider the specific needs and priorities of indigenous communities.”

Pacheco credits staff at the Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center and faculty at the Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences for recognizing the need of such a program long before the pandemic.

“No matter what your major, or what field it is you want to pursue for a career, this certificate is valuable and applicable,” she says.

Pacheco recommends reading this editorial, written by public health colleagues of hers from Texas A&M University, to learn more about the value of public health literacy to college students.

“In this editorial, the authors cite the troubling lack of knowledge about public health and pandemics in the general population,” says Pacheco. “I echo my colleagues’ concerns, which is why I recommend this certificate to all students.”

 

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.