Health data to be collected on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina Shelton, (808) 692-0897
Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Posted: Dec 19, 2013

Dean Jerris R. Hedges, MD
Dean Jerris R. Hedges, MD

"A huge step forward" is how John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Dean Jerris Hedges describes the announcement about the U.S. government taking steps to improve the collection of health data for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders National Health Interview Survey, beginning next February 2014, will include a sample of approximately 4,000 households. Findings will be available in the summer of 2015, the CDC said.

"In the past, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders were lumped into the same statistical category with other Asian groups, when we know, in fact, that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have unique health disparities that need to be addressed," explained Dr. Hedges. "About 50% of Native Hawaiians are located in Hawai`i, with most others on the U.S. mainland.  Including representatives from both Hawai`i and the U.S. mainland in the national survey will provide important new data, especially for those of us committed to reducing health inequities among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders."

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders comprise just 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population, which makes it difficult to include them in sufficient numbers in most national population-based health surveys. The lack of reliable health data for this population has made it difficult to assess their health status and how they use health care. However, the available data for this population indicates that they experience significant health disparities when compared to other groups.

For example, last September, JABSOM and its community health partners presented a landmark two-year study of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island health in Hawai`i. Researchers found that significant health differences persist. For example, Native Hawaiians typically die six years earlier than other populations.

“This project represents a significant milestone in our implementation of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities by enhancing the availability and quality of data collected and reported on racial and ethnic minority populations,” said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health.  “This unprecedented survey, which further advances the goals of data collection as called for by the Affordable Care Act, will shed important light on the health status of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population.”

CDC’s National Health Interview Survey is the nation’s largest in-person, household health survey, providing information on an individual’s health status, access to and use of health services, health insurance coverage, immunizations, risk factors and health-related behaviors. The data play a crucial role in monitoring and improving the health of the nation. For example, Healthy People 2020, the set of public health goals and objectives for the nation, uses information from the survey to track progress toward its targets.

The confidentiality of responses is assured under Section 308 (d) of the Public Health Service Act.  Many procedures are in place to prevent the disclosure of personal data, including data encryption and secure data networks.  Responses are collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and securely transmitted to the National Center for Health Statistics where the data undergo edits and removal of personal identifiers. The collected data are used for research and statistical purposes only.

For more information on the National Health Interview Survey, visit

For details from the JABSOM Assessment and Priorities for Health & Well-Being in Native Hawaiians & Other Pacific Peoples report, see:

For more information, visit: