Written By Gregory Fischbach

October 03, 2023
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HPU professors (left to right) Patricia Young, Danielle Giroux, Ngac Phan

HPU professors (left to right) Patricia Young, Danielle Giroux, Ngac Phan.

Three professors from HPU have each received a $50,000 grant to help propel their innovative biomedical research projects at the University. The grants are part of the prestigious PIKO (Center for Pacific Innovations, Knowledge, and Opportunities) initiative, a Hawaiʻi infrastructure grant funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The three HPU professors who have secured the grants are Assistant Professor Danielle Giroux, Ph.D., Associate Professor Ngoc Phan, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Patricia Young, Ph.D.

Giroux’s grant, “Coconut Wireless Pilot Program,” aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the Coconut Wireless Curriculum offered at Ho’ola Na Pua’s Pearl Haven. This residential facility specializes in providing support to commercially sexually exploited youth. The curriculum, culturally adapted from a California-based intervention program, is a 13-week group therapy curriculum. Giroux's research seeks to determine whether the Coconut Wireless curriculum can enhance the knowledge, self-esteem, well-being, and resilience of minors who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation.

Phan’s grant, “Native Hawaiian Activists as Role Models of Health,” investigates the relationship between political activism, the effects of chronic exposure to social and economic disadvantage, and the well-being of older Native Hawaiians. This research will identify themes related to political activism, discrimination, and well-being, while assessing the Radical Healing framework, which emphasizes reduced stress and increased social connections. Driven by the discrimination faced by Native Hawaiians, this project underscores the potential significance of community-based interventions and their role in mitigating the negative impacts of racism and chronic disadvantage.

Young’s grant, “Effects of a Hula Intervention on Balance and Fall Risk in Kupuna,” addresses the pressing issue of fall-related injuries among older adults and individuals with cognitive impairment. The study focuses on the traditional Hawaiian dance form, hula, which incorporates components of balance training interventions. Dr. Young is collaborating with the ‘IKE Kupuna Project to assess the impact of 12 weeks of regular hula practice on balance, fall-related confidence, and fall risk among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders aged 50-75 years with subjective or mild cognitive impairment. The study also evaluates the acceptability and suitability of the intervention for improving balance.

According to PIKO’s website, the grant program represents an unprecedented initiative in Hawai‘i, committed to advancing culturally responsive and community-engaged clinical and translational research, with a special focus on enhancing the health and well-being of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, and other medically underserved populations. Supported by funding from the Institutional Development Award Networks of Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR), PIKO is a collaborative effort between the University of Hawaiʻi, HPU, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and a diverse statewide network of 18 practice-based organizations and other community-based organizations.

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