Shra with community members at St . Stephen ’ s Episcopal Church in Wahiawā .
ENGAGING PACIFIC ISLANDER POPULATIONS TO COMBAT COVID-19
In Hawai ‘ i , Pacific Islanders represent only 4 % of the population but account for nearly 20 % of all COVID-19 cases . Pacific Islanders suffer from higher rates of coexisting medical conditions such as obesity , hypertension , diabetes , cardiovascular disease , and cancer which are known to increase the risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes , and account for 22 % of all COVID-19 deaths . The most affected groups are Chuukese , Samoans , and Marshallese .
In collaboration with Puipuia le Ola ( a Samoan phrase for “ protecting life ”), UH John A . Burns School of Medicine , and other community partners , the UH Cancer Center Office of Community Outreach and Engagement ( COE ) were mobilized to help recruit Pacific Islander participants to assess knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 and testing .
UH Cancer Center COE Community Research Associate Shra M . Kedi was a former public health worker in the Marshall Islands for 20 , years and has a strong network in the Marshallese and Micronesian communities in Hawai ‘ i . “ Trust is everything ,” said Shra . “ People would rather talk to their own people , a leader , or a pastor , than talk to you . Once you lose their trust , it ’ s hard to get it back , and they will tell their friends and family .”
In 2022 , Shra participated in community events where she staffed a booth to provide COVID-19 education , and recruit people to participate in the study . The ongoing study includes a survey , capturing demographic information and assessing the participant ’ s knowledge of the virus , and distribution of educational flyers and brochures . Additionally , the participant is given an onsite COVID-19 test .
Many people are scared at first and don ’ t want to participate in the study . They think that they are going to be a guinea pig or that they will need to give blood . But once they see that it is okay , they will get family members and bring them to the booth the same day ”