Social Networks in Hawaii's Health Disparate Communities

Ruben Juarez

University of Hawaii

October 2016


The primary goal of this project is to provide the first comprehensive map of social and economic networks in Hawaii. Social and economic networks influence individuals' choices and behaviors that either lead to unhealthy or healthy lifestyles. For instance, socioeconomic networks have been shown to have an effect in a wide range of diseases afflicting communities, including obesity and diabetes to smoking and alcoholism.

Many of these diseases are prevalent in Hawaii, in particular within communities comprised of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Mapping socioeconomic networks that underlie diseases of health disparities in Hawaii may therefore have multiple benefits to the State and local communities. Specifically, some benefits to mapping socioeconomic networks include: (1) identifying nodes of interactions that can be modified to encourage healthy lifestyles and thereby reduce those disparities, (2) uncovering direct links between the causal effects of diseases, which can be used for prevention strategies and thereby reduce health care costs, and (3) supporting relevant health policies at the individual, community, and State level.

Hawaii is an ideal place to perform experiments in social networks owning to having isolated communities throughout the state, low in-and-out migration, having the five major ethnic and racial groups, and a large concentration of diseases affecting health disparate communities, such as diabetes. Based on previously reported data on socioeconomic networks and their impact on health outcomes, we hypothesize that the effects of such networks on health among NHPI communities will be even larger. We are looking to collect information about social networks of individual outcomes in partnership with several local organizations. We will integrate the social network structure with health outcome data in order to evaluate the impact of specific effects of the social network on the behavior of individuals that influence health outcomes.

More information about this project, along with the links where information is compiled, to come soon.