Everything from a hula massage to a lomilomi is free for AlohaCare’s 83,000 members.
One of the largest insurance providers in Hawaii has begun offering Native Hawaiian Cultural Practices as part of its range of covered services.
AlohaCare, which primarily serves Medicaid and some Medicare clients, offers hooponopono, lomilomi, ai pono, and hula to support what it calls “whole person care and wellness in partnership with community practitioners.”
The services are provided free of charge to AlohaCare’s 83,000 members. The program, called Ke Aloha Mau, started last fall and is currently rolling out across the Hawaiian Islands.
AlohaCare partners with community health centers and Native Hawaiian healthcare systems to provide services.
AlohaCare CEO Françoise Colley-Troutmann said the pandemic was a wake-up call that focused attention on gaps in services and the need for additional ways to help people stay healthy.
Planning for Ke Aloha Mau’s launch in 2020 began during the first year of the pandemic with “everyone having a growing understanding that we in our community are struggling to meet basic needs”.
The company organized listening sessions and solicited feedback from AlohaCare members and the direction customers wanted AlohaCare to take was to expand culturally rooted health practices.
One of these is hooponopono, a Hawaiian healing practice that can help improve family relationships by allowing spouses and other family members to resolve conflicts and improve communication. And according to the AlohaCare website, it involves spiritual discussions to restore bonds and heal wounds within a family.
Another practice offered by AlohaCare is the hula, which is the indigenous Hawaiian dance form. It stimulates physical movement that research has shown to strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, boost mental health and provide a host of other benefits.
Lomilomi, a form of naturopathy and massage native to Hawaii, is designed to stretch and realign the body and reduce stress. And Ai pono is the practice surrounding a healthy, traditional Hawaiian diet centered around locally grown and processed food items.
In 2020, a report from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine highlighted the need for culturally responsive programs to address social and health inequities among Native Hawaiians.
The report analyzed data showing that Native Hawaiians suffer from coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes at three times the rate of other ethnic groups.
He also presented evidence-based research indicating that the health of Native Hawaiians will improve when their care is rooted in Native Hawaiian culture.
AlohaCare provides “a great opportunity for communities and residents” to obtain insurance coverage for Native Hawaiian services that target “some of our cultural values and beliefs,” said Sherry Daniels, CEO of the nonprofit Papa Ola Lokahi Federation.
One Native Hawaiian health center that provides some services is located in Waimanalo on the east side of Oahu and has seven Native Hawaiian practitioners.
The Waimanalo Health Center began developing a cultural medicine program in 2015 with the appointment of Kumu Leinaala Bright, Director of Cultural Health Services at the centre.
This native Hawaiian health practitioner has over 30 years of experience in the lomilumi. She offers classes in, among other things, lao-lapau, a Hawaiian herbal medicine.
Bright said that traditional medicine and cultural healing programs have been tremendously successful.
In response to the overwhelming interest, Bright has developed a series of educational programmes, including Ola’s Laws, Papa Laau’s and Mahi Laau Lapaau’s.
The goal is to teach people how to live healthy lifestyles and to grow and use medicinal herbs to treat a variety of conditions.
These practices, which connect Western medicine and Aboriginal knowledge, appeal to many who would otherwise avoid the doctor’s office.
“It was very therapeutic and supportive,” said Bright.
The Ke Aloha Mau Program from AlohaCare is also available at Hui Ke Ola Pono Clinic in Maui and Hui Malama Ola Na Oiwi in Hilo on the Big Island.
The company is in various stages of program implementation at Kokua Kalihi Valley, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Hamakua-Kohala Health Center, Hoola Lahui Hawaii (Kauai Community Health Centre), and Hawaii Island Community Health Center.
Civil Beat’s community health coverage is supported by the Atherton Family Foundation, the Swayne Family Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Cooke Foundation, and Papa Ola Lokahi.