State health department addresses COVID-19 racial, ethnic disparities in new report

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new report published by the Hawaii State Department of Health details racial and ethnic disparities found in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the state.

The DOH revealed their findings in a report titled “COVID-19 in Hawai‘i: Addressing Health Equity in Diverse Populations.” The report documents the actions taken to reduce transmission across the state and provides recommendations based on lessons learned from COVID-19 response efforts. 

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According to health officials, data found that while vaccine uptake was found to be higher than originally projected among diverse communities. African Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders still made up less than 15% of those who have received their doses.

Asians make up the majority of people who have been vaccinated in Hawaii.

In response to this, the health department is working with community partners to help address the needs of these populations and better get information across.

“Messages can be very confusing. The platform is confusing for many in our community and we’re finding that they need some additional help,” said Dr. Sheri-Ann Daniels, Executive Director of Papa Ola Lokahi. “Its not just giving them the link, it’s how do we help them register, how do we help get them to those sites in their community, so it’s really looking at community partners.”

Officials say language barriers also provide a challenge for many trying to get to vaccination sites.

“We strongly value health equity for all people in Hawai‘i,” Dr. Sarah Kemble, Acting State Epidemiologist said. “While the Department’s health equity report and vaccine administration data is new, the health disparities it reveals in disproportionately impacted communities are long-standing. This data emphasizes the importance of our diverse coalition of partners who are targeting outreach to these communities. All of us will continue to work together to ensure that Hawaii’s response to the pandemic is equitable.”

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