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$600K grant to boost weight-loss program


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

University of Hawaii researchers have received a two-year grant of $600,000 to expand a program to help native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders achieve lasting weight loss and to reduce obesity-associated diseases.

The grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities in the National Institutes of Health follows a five-year grant of $2.7 million for the Partnership for Improving Lifestyle Interventions 'Ohana project.

Dr. J. Keawe Kaholokula, principal investigator for the weight-loss project in the John A. Burns School of Medicine, said the research team is targeting obesity disparities primarily among native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders and including Filipinos—“;the most at-risk groups for obesity in Hawaii.”;

The project, in its second year, will be expanded with the additional money to assess strengths and resources in Micronesia to address obesity-related disparities, he said.

The researchers plan to form a Pacific Regional Indigenous Development and Empowerment Network with community organizations in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“;We're also looking at testing a culturally informed diabetes self-management program and research infrastructure for community partnerships in Hawaii,”; said Kaholokula, associate chairman of the medical school's department of native Hawaiian health.

Randomized control trials with volunteers are under way in the PILI project testing weight loss and management with a culturally relevant approach, including diet, physical activity, stress management and behavioral modification.

The new grant—from $5 billion in recovery funds to the National Institutes of Health announced by President Obama last month—will allow medical school researchers to help Pacific island partners develop culturally appropriate interventions to improve public health and diabetes self-management.

In announcing the award, the National Institutes of Health said obesity and diabetes rates in the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Basin Jurisdictions are among the highest in the world.

“;Rates of obesity for native Hawaiians, whites and Filipinos in Hawaii are 39 percent, 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively,”; it said. “;By comparison, approximately one in three people living in the United States is considered obese.”;

Diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses are associated with obesity, defined as a body mass index of more than 30.