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About the Center for Pacific Islander Health

The Center for Pacific Islander Health is a multi-disciplinary center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Northwest in Fayetteville, Arkansas focusing on research, community programs, training, and policy. The center is a reflection of the growing Pacific Islander population in the southern US and builds upon the existing community health and research work UAMS has done and continues to do with Pacific Islanders in northwest Arkansas.

The Center for Pacific Islander Health is the first center in the United States that focuses solely on Pacific Islander health issues. It is co-directed by Assistant Professor Nia Aitaoto, PhD, MPH, a native of American Samoa with 20 years of experience in community health, and by Pearl McElfish, MBA, MS, PhD, Director of the Office of Community Health and Research at UAMS Northwest.

The need for a center:

  • The Pacific region, specifically the Republic of the Marshall Islands, was used as a nuclear test site by the United States, resulting in vast environmental damage and significant on-going health issues.
  • Research into health issues facing Pacific Islanders is limited because data is often aggregated into data for “Asian Americans and other Pacific Islanders,” ignoring the unique health needs of Pacific Islander communities.
  • Data that does exist indicates that Pacific Islander communities face significant health disparities and difficulties with both chronic and infectious diseases, both in the US and abroad.
  • Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in research and in academia.

 Geographic Reach:

The Center for Pacific Islander Health at UAMS focuses on Pacific Islander communities in the United States and US-Affiliated Pacific Islands, specifically the US trust territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the Compact of Free Association nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

The purpose of the center:

The Center for Pacific Islander Health at UAMS provides the following services:

Research & Research Support:

  • Conduct community-based participatory research (CPBR) with Pacific Islander populations
  • Serve as a clearinghouse for health research focused on Pacific Islanders
  • Disseminate research through conferences, webinars, and other opportunities for researchers to gather and share knowledge about health disparities research in Pacific Islander populations
  • Provide mentorship and training for Pacific Islanders who wish to build a career in academic research and develop a pipeline of next generation researchers

Community Programs & Program Support:

  • Develop and implement culturally-appropriate disease prevention and management programs
  • Provide community outreach and support to community partners
  • Conduct program evaluation
  • Develop evaluation plans
  • Develop and implement community-based dissemination plans

Education & Training:

  • Develop and provide cultural competency training for health care providers
  • Building community’s capacity to conduct research
  • Train community health workers
  • Train researchers on Pacific Islander research protocols

Policy & Advocacy:

  • Develop community-based health equity plans
  • Bring attention to the policy needs of Pacific Islander communities