The end of the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo on the Big Island doesn’t mean the hula is shelved for a year. In fact, the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii suggest that people could be on their way to better health.
The study conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi at the Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies on the prevalence and popularity of the hula in Hawaiʻi found that a quarter of residents in the state have danced or still do – and nearly half of those who identified as native Hawaiians hula-danced. According to the researchers, these results present a valuable opportunity to innovatively promote better public health among the islands’ multicultural communities.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity that a quarter of our state’s population reports engaging in culturally relevant physical activity,” said Tetine Sentell, acting dean of the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health and chief of the study, in a press release. . “Overall, strong engagement with the hula was observed across gender, age, education, income, and health status, particularly among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. 65% of Native Hawaiian women had participated in hula in their lifetime, as had 31% of Native Hawaiian men.
According to the release, kumu hula and scientists agree that hula restores and creates health from a multi-level approach involving physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Questions about life experiences with the hula were added in 2018 and 2019 to the Hawai’i-Specific Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national benchmark surveillance tool that provides a picture of public health across the country. State. UH researchers analyzed results from more than 13,500 respondents to quantify hula engagement across important public health factors.
“This work is exciting for advancing health in our state, especially from a strengths-based approach to building health equity,” said Lance Ching, a DOH staffer, in the release. hurry. “These findings indicate that the hula is enjoyed by people across a wide range of life circumstances, making it a promising area for community health promotion to support wellness and prevent chronic disease. “
Because only 24 percent of adults in Hawaii meet physical activity guidelines, and physical activity rates among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are below the state average, scientists recognize the need for culturally appropriate approaches to public health programs, research and practice.
“There are real opportunities here,” said Mele Look, of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at UH-Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine and collaborator on the study, in the press release. “We can promote a popular, accessible, and health-beneficial activity that celebrates the best of our home island and Hawaiian culture.”
She also noted in the statement that health insurers such as AlohaCare and UHA are taking note and discussing ways to help members participate in hula classes.
“This work is also important because, typically, statewide public health surveillance systems do not measure culturally relevant activities, limiting key insights for research, policy, and practice,” Sentell said in the press release. “Hula is so important to our communities. We’re glad the hula is included in this state-level data, along with key health indicators, such as rates of diabetes and heart disease. We can see relationships and make plans from this work to improve public health for all.
The study was a partnership between the Office of Public Health Studies at UH-Mānoa, the state Department of Health, and the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine in UH-Mānoa.
The study results will be presented at the International Union for Health Promotion and Education, a major international public health conference coming to Montreal.