Elarie Ranido knew she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, even when she was young. After leaving the Philippines for Hawaii at age 10, she was bullied at school because her primary language was Ilokano. This experience encouraged her to help other members of the Filipino community who faced language barriers.
Now the University of Hawaii at Mānoa senior is pursuing a double major in public health and Ilokano.
“There are a lot of health issues in the Filipino community, and I want to use my health knowledge and the Filipino language and culture to make an impact,” Ranido said.
I want to use my health knowledge and the Filipino language and culture to make an impact.
Other students share the same goal. When Denise Nelson-HurwitzChair of the Undergraduate Program in Public Health at uh Mānoa, from the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, reviewed his list of students with multiple majors, with the most common major students who said alongside their public health major was Filipino language and culture.
“It’s incredibly impressive that these students are pursuing these two rigorous programs,” Nelson-Hurwitz said. “The public health staff of Hawaii benefits immensely from these hardworking and versatile students, and our program prides itself on giving them the education and preparations necessary to make an impact in their communities.
According to Nelson-Hurwitz, recent research has shown that in the time of COVID-19, when racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to fall ill or be hospitalized, this new workforce representative of communities increasingly diverse communities it serves is particularly critical and has a positive influence.
Helping Family Members Navigate Health Care
For Ranido, his experiences after moving to Hawaii opened his eyes to the importance of communication in the language. Ranido saw his grandparents’ distrust of the healthcare system and their discomfort when they had to see a doctor who didn’t speak their language.
The same applies to Allen Oamilwho is pursuing several majors in public and Philippine health, the experience of moving to Hawaii at age 12 and translating for his parents during their many doctor’s appointments motivated him to work to promote healthy lifestyles for Filipino communities.
“I like the idea of promoting interventions in entire communities,” Oamil said.
He spoke Ilokano growing up and took Tagalog lessons at uh. One of Oamil’s goals is to promote the idea of taking small steps towards better health.
“There are so many things to do – exercising, eating healthy foods, managing stress – and in Filipino communities, people have a traditional mindset and think they have to engage in big changes,” he said. “But you don’t have to run a marathon, just go for a walk. Filipino food is greasy and oily, but sometimes we can skip the red meat. I want to promote accessible interventions.
Graduates support their communities
Recent graduate Jairah Mae Pascual earned several majors in public health and Ilokano, and now works at a startup that identifies the health and social service needs of older adults and connects them to resources.
When Pascual moved to Hawaii from the Philippines, she noticed that doctors’ offices and clinics usually provided paperwork after each appointment that explained medications or gave instructions for follow-ups.
“But Filipino culture is very verbal – we like to talk,” Pascual said. “When we’re given a pile of paperwork to fill out, it can be overwhelming.” One of its goals is to increase recognition of the importance of providing verbal communication in the language with patients and communities.
Meldrick Ravida recently completed her bachelor’s degree in public and Philippine health, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at uh Manoa. Ravida was born and raised in Hawaii, and spoke Ilokano and English at home. While preparing for his baccalaureate, he did an internship at the University uh Cancer center focused on the health of Filipino, Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese communities.
“My double major informs the work I do every day,” Ravida said. “During my internship, I learned how to design studies and collect data, but I also understand the social and cultural norms of Filipino communities, so I incorporate my understanding of these norms into my work.”
Ravida and other graduates agree that the Office of Public Health Studies program has helped them achieve their academic goals.
“The Public Health Department is really working with you to make it possible to complete both majors,” Ravida said. “It was an awesome experience.”
This is an example of uh Mānoa’s goal of improving student achievement (PDF), one of the four objectives defined in the Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (PDF), updated December 2020.