An Unhealthy Curiosity

Health disparities are both sad and frustrating.  As a local girl who did her law journal research on the problem of health disparities among women and minorities, I’ve long been concerned about how to address the problem.  The interesting thing about social problems, however, is that the answer is not always more money.  That’s just the easy way out for government: “Hey! Here’s a sad and worrisome problem!”  “Oh, no worries, we’ll just set aside some money for studies and an outreach project.  Problem solved.”  Or not.

Consider the news that Hawaiians and those of Asian descent often face certain health disparities.  Native Hawaiians, especially (we are told), are prone to obesity at a higher rate than the rest of the population.  Putting aside for a moment the inherent problems with how obesity is measured at present (and speaking of disparities–how about the fact that many of the measures for health are not tuned to obvious differences between ethnic groups), it’s not as though there have not been efforts to reach Native Hawaiians specifically in the realm of health care.  As you can see in our database, there is a large amount of money set aside specifically for Native Hawaiian healthcare.  But that hasn’t eliminated the disparities.  Interestingly, I think one of the best tools so far in making people in Hawaii (of all ethnicities) more aware of obesity, diet, and nutrition, is the more recent work from Sam Choy.  And he’s not getting a grant for spreading his message–heck, he’s creating employment for others in Hawaii.

And that really is the whole reason for this project.  No one is saying that these programs are good or bad on an individual basis–that’s for you to look at and determine.  (We’re just helping provide the tools to do so.)  But we do want people to think about how we’re trying to help Native Hawaiians and how well it’s working in a larger sense.

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