Certificate in indigenous public health launched

The knowledge gained by students in the new UH Hilo program is particularly valuable during the pandemic. Micronesians and Samoans have been the largest ethnic cluster of infections in the state.

By Susan Enright

Aerial view of campus with heading: Certificate in Indigenous Public Health

A certificate in indigenous public health program has launched this fall at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Development of the program was facilitated by UH Hilo Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center in collaboration with 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 psychologyanthropology, sociology, and KES.

Yolisa Duley
Yolisa Duley

“Due to the certificate being inter-disciplinary in nature, students from any major who have an interest in public health and particularly indigenous health can enroll in the certificate program,” says Yolisa Duley, an instructor of sociology who is teaching a class on indigenous health and well being (SOC 470) that can count toward the certificate. Duley is the new advisor for the certificate program.

The program provides students with an understanding of the purpose and practice of public health, indigenous communities’ practices of health and well-being, and conventional and traditional health perspectives. Students become familiarized with public health principles and gain an appreciation of indigenous health concerns, including those of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous groups.

“Students will be able to develop their personal indigenous perspective or develop an understanding of indigenous perspectives on awareness of place, the natural environment, and cultural practices, as they relate to health and well-being,” says Duley.

This knowledge is particularly valuable during the pandemic. Micronesians and Samoans have been the largest ethnic cluster of infections in the state; at the peak of Hawai‘i infections in August, the group accounted for almost 40 percent of the cases. That number is now dropping due to grass roots work of community leaders.

Misty Pacheco
Misty Pacheco

“This current pandemic has revealed a lot of things,” says Misty Pacheco, associate professor of kinesiology and exercise science who specializes in public health. “We have 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. The critical need for a strong public health infrastructure across all systems, as well as a trained public health workforce has been reinforced.”

The new certificate is valuable for any student’s career path into health education, health promotion, occupational health, environmental health, emergency response management, community health coordination, social work, public health, and health case management to name a few.

For more information about the certificate program, contact Yolisa Duley.


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.