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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

‘Aha Kāne conferences empower Native Hawaiian males to strengthen their roles in their families, in their communities and as leaders. - Photo: Courtesy of ‘Aha Kāne and Hale Mua ‘o Kākuhihewa

Transforming the health of our kāne

Looking for solutions from within, Native Hawaiians and health professionals are sharing mo‘olelo about kāne health to help uplift males across the pae ‘āina.

This month, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is unveiling Kānehō‘ālani: Transforming the Health of Native Hawaiian Men, a decade-in-the-making study on the well-being of Hawaiian kāne, grounded in data from the state Department of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau, among other sources.

“The Kānehō‘ālani Native Hawaiian men’s health report is the first-ever focus on Hawaiian men’s health that looks at medical data, physical health, chronic diseases, behavioral health and some of the more socio-economic challenges from a cultural lens to paint a clearer picture of Native Hawaiian men’s health issues among our kāne,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe.

Traditional activities, like preparing an imu, help kāne reconnect with their culture. -Photo: Kai Markell

“That’s very crucial data for us to understand so we can meet the needs of those on the ground in our community providing those types of services,” he added.

‘Aha Kāne Foundation Executive Director Keola Chan explained the comprehensive report presents data as a form of mo‘olelo. “I think it’s really important that we begin telling our story and we begin addressing that story and how we shift and shape and make a new direction for ourselves,” he said. “Kānehō‘ālani gives us a great mirror, in a way, to be able to look at ourselves and what is happening to our families, members of our community.”

At first glance, it might seem like Kānehō‘ālani has little new to offer in terms of statistics. In the mid-1980s, a group of scholars presented the E Ola Mau study in Washington, D.C., which led to passage of the Native Hawaiian Health Act. Yet three decades later, the health disparities identified in that study still persist. “It would be really unfortunate for us to get 20 years down the line and for us to look back how we’re looking back at E Ola Mau and see pretty much the same issues, the same numbers, and not much changes happening,” Chan said.

Intergenerational activities bring together Hawaiian males from keiki to kūpuna. – Photo: Courtesy of Sam Kapoi

Chan suggests Kānehō‘ālani could be used to make the pendulum swing for the next generation by “making decisions that feel right to us in our na‘au, taking into account all of those things, not just policy, taking into account our land, our next generation, our families, the relationships that we have spiritually to the ones that have come before us,” said Chan. “That’s bottom line for me what it’s about: restoring hope and mauli ola and mana back again.”

In Kānehō‘ālani, Native Hawaiians have a tool to take ownership and responsibility of their well-being and effect change on their own terms. “I think too often data has been held by others. We have been treated in their own methods and ways and it hasn’t really helped us,” said Chan.

To tell the current day story, the report takes a look back at Hawaiian society prior to western contact, in addition to considering the contemporary Hawaiian male from ‘iewe to iwi, keiki to kūpuna.

Crabbe pointed out that Capt. Cook’s journals and other explorers’ accounts of Hawai‘i describe a thriving society with abundant resources, where kāne played vital roles as leaders, providers and warriors – strong in physique, with endurance to work long days in the sun. They were leaders, providers and warriors. However, “Over a span of close to 300 years from the time of Cook until today, the profile of Native Hawaiians as a whole, and more so for Native Hawaiians males, is quite the opposite,” he said.

Crabbe said the report will be used to identify some areas of concern where OHA and partners can intervene and implement culturally-appropriate options to reach more kāne.

For instance, the data shows that Hawaiian males generally prefer cultural healers over western-based medical professionals, such as ho‘oponopono over psychiatric counseling. But because there hasn’t been much support for sustaining the practice, there aren’t enough ho‘oponopono practitioners to meet demand.


I think it’s really important that we begin telling our story and we begin addressing that story and how we shift and shape and make a new direction for ourselves. Kānehō‘ālani gives us a great mirror, in a way, to be able to look at ourselves and what is happening to our families, members of our community.” — Keola Chan, Executive Director ‘Aha Kāne Foundation

Chan doesn’t dismiss the effectiveness of some western treatments but he thinks they should be among an array of options that include Hawaiian healing techniques like lomilomi or lā‘au lapa‘au.

“A report like this can really help birth a sense of hope of restoring or of implementing options for those in our community,” Chan said. “They may not know that they have data or a report like this but they’ll feel how we use this data and how we leverage it to make policy changes that can definitely reach down into our communities and have a huge effect.”


Intergenerational health outcomes of kāne

  • Obesity: 45.7%
  • Hypertension: 33.6%
  • Diabetes: 10.6%
  • Cancer: Kāne contract cancer at the second highest rate, but die from it with the highest mortality rate

Kāne are less likely to participate in cancer prevention and treatment trials

The Kānehōʻālani Health Report


Download the Kāne Health Report Kānehō‘ālani: Transforming the Health of Native Hawaiian Men

Go to the Web Page for Kānehō‘ālani: Transforming the Health of Native Hawaiian Men

Note: Attribution and more detail about these figures can be found in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Report: Kānehō‘ālani –Transforming the Health of Native Hawaiian Men [2017], available at oha.org/kanehealth.


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