(Originally released Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012)
(Salt Lake City, UT) - After a 2010 report by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Office of Health Disparities (OHD) found the state’s Pacific Islander babies died in infancy at nearly twice the rate of babies statewide (8.8/1,000 live births compared to 4.5), OHD partnered with the Pacific Islander community to find a solution. Now, after just two years and a focused research effort, OHD is pleased to report that:
• Among Utah Pacific Islanders, obesity during pregnancy dropped from 39.5% to 35.0% of childbearing mothers;
• 54.0% of these mothers received early prenatal care compared to 48.1% previously, and;
• 51.2% of Pacific Islander women ages 18-44 report taking folic acid, up from just 31.9% when the project began.
"I am happy to see some research and resources out there telling our stories through our voices because infant mortality is a big issue,” said Lita Sagato of the Pacific Islander Health Coalition. “It is so refreshing to see how the state health department is taking an interest in our community.”
“We have so many health issues that are overlooked because we are such a small community here,” said Fahina Pasi, Director, National Tongan American Society (NTAS). “It is rare that health departments take on communities that can be perceived as invisible compared to the larger population,” she said. “It indicates to us that in Utah the health of all citizens is important.”
OHD conducted a statewide study of Utah Pacific Islander health, the first of its kind addressing mainland Pacific Islanders in the U.S. (See the report at http://www.health.utah.gov/disparities/data/PacificIslanderReport2011.pdf.)
OHD also collaborated with Community Health Centers, Inc. to assess barriers to prenatal care, breastfeeding, and maternal health. (See the assessment results at http://health.utah.gov/disparities/data/PacificIslandersCommunityPerspectives.pdf.)
In addition, OHD funded two Pacific Islander organizations, NTAS and the Queen Center, to educate their own communities through support groups, faith-based initiatives, case management, and health promotion activities.
“The NTAS has been able to help members of our community apply for benefits like health insurance and nutrition programs,” Pasi said. “Many Pacific Islanders have qualified for years but, due to language and system barriers, they have gone without the help they are qualified to receive.”
The Queen Center worked with OHD to create health videos featuring several local Pacific Islanders.
“I was happy my husband and I were chosen to represent our people in the video,” said Marion Cline. “At the time we were expecting our fifth child and were able to share our personal struggles with childbearing. We hoped that husbands and wives could relate to our story and both have an active part in prenatal care and the well-being of their babies.”
The videos have been viewed online more than 10,000 times and also shared in DVD format by local agencies. (Visit http://health.utah.gov/disparities/community/ForMeForUs.html.)
Another Queen Center activity, the MANA Fitness Challenge, will conduct its final weigh-in during Pacific Islander Health Week. Other events include an appearance by Sione Fa of TV’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ and a ‘Healthy Families Celebration’ at the Sorenson Rec Center.
“This is a free event for the whole family and offers health screenings, resources, kids’ activities, Zumba classes, swimming, and free Quit-Kits for smokers. We want everyone to come enjoy our celebration of health and life,” said Queen Center Director Joyce Ah You.
April Young Bennett