Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Ehuola Ohana health program (#89)

Kaiulani Odom 1 , Kea Parker 1
  1. Kokua Kalihi Valley, ROOTS/Ehuola Program, Honolulu, HI, USA

Introduction: The Ehuola program began when two Native Hawaiian nutritionists sat down and asked themselves if they could design their own program to improve the health of their people . . .what would it look like? For too long, we have been hearing all the negative statistics: Native Hawaiians have the highest rates of disease, the highest per cent of people in prison, the lowest socioeconomic status, and the poorest educational outcomes. This constant negative message is unhealthy in itself. We need to change the story and that of our families. The stories we tell and the programs we offer should be grounded in hope, resilience and pride. It is time for all of us to promote health self-determination.

Description: Ehuola is an interdisciplinary cultural and prevention-focused program working to establish a strong foundation of health within the ohana (family) and communal structure. It is based in Kalihi, Honolulu and brings Native Hawaiian families together with Elders, cultural practitioners, and traditional healers to create a cultural framework for the entire ohana to develop and sustain healthy lifestyles across the lifespan. This project recruits keiki (children) from 3rd to 5th grade (8̶10 years old), and requires monthly family involvement. The ohana is critical in developing eating, physical activity, social interaction norms and habits that follow a child through life. Parental habits deeply ingrain a lasting imprint on children as they inherit and emulate their parents who serve as role models. Reciprocally, children can inspire healthy behaviors for their parents and grandparents. We start with respect for our land, ocean and natural resources. Our belief is that food connects us to our ancestors, our spirit, our environment, our health. How do we use food to strengthen these connections that will provide vigor and vitality? Specifically, children spend time in our mountains, fishponds, ocean, organic gardens and kitchen learning about, and engaging in, practices that promote health. Our program strives to strengthen intergenerational learning and sharing, increase community engagement and traditional health education, reinforce family support systems and develop cultural/communal modes of health preservation and disease prevention.