What They’re Watching: Kealoha Fox, PhD

Kealoha Fox, PhD, is the Native Hawaiian Cultural Liaison at AlohaCare, where she oversees the health plan’s partnerships and initiatives to enhance care for Native Hawaiian members. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss health equity in Hawaii.



“I’m really passionate about health equity and really elevating what health equity looks like, and sounds like, and means here in Hawaii — especially among Native Hawaiians. So, Native Hawaiians are the indigenous people of Hawaii, and you know, unfortunately we have a history of health disparities and social inequities. But when we take a health equity lens, you really see where the possibilities and the potential for great health and great medical services can be a part of how we community build, through factors of strength and protective assets towards resilience.

I am at AlohaCare and so one of the first things that I’m working on is to build a really strategic approach to internal collaboration and external partnerships around how do we better serve and how do we better support the Native Hawaiian community. Especially among our Medicaid beneficiaries which in Hawaii is a significant proportion. Under our plan, the majority of our Native Hawaiian patients are women, infants, and children. So, not only do we get to talk about, you know, racial and ethnic health disparities, but we also get to talk about social justice and how that’s related to the determinants of health.

One of the things that we do in our health policy team is we’re not only looking at the state and local policies, but we’re also trying to be really cognizant of what’s happening at the federal level at the same time. Because that’s where a lot of the trendsetting and the pacing comes out of and then it impacts the states just like Hawaii. So, we’re also really interested in monitoring and tracking the restoration of Medicaid benefits for COFA migrants. There’s two, you know, vehicles moving in each chamber at the federal level and then at the state level, and so that’s where not only are we at now but that’s where we can project that there will continue to be momentum and energy for the future. So, we’re not just planning for today at AlohaCare, we’re really looking at what do the next few years look like in general and how can we be a part of that energy and that momentum in a positive way moving forward for the community?”