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The Struggle To Improve Our Community’s Health

By Phoebe W. Hwang, public relations manager, Health Behavior Change Research

Health Behavior Change Research (HBCR) Workgroup is a nonprofit organization comprised of dedicated individuals from various disciplines working toward improving community health through behaviorial change. We manage ongoing community projects and contribute collaboratively to other nonprofit projects dealing with childhood obesity, physical activity, nutrition, cancer, oral health and substance abuse. Unfortunately, government budget cuts, short-lived grants and limited funding opportunities are forcing us to shut down many of our public-service projects.


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Phoebe W. Hwang

The HBCR Workgroup began in 2011 with the idea of compiling all health behavior change programs under one umbrella to capitalize on the synergies of the projects. HBCR currently houses about 10 community intervention programs and more than 20 researchers and volunteers. One program, Fun 5, is a physical activity and nutrition program that aims to prevent childhood obesity through training after-school care staff in facilitating non-competitive and all inclusive sports and providing free PE equipment to schools. Since the program began in 2003, Fun 5 has been implemented in more than 170 after-school programs, servicing a total of 18,000 children throughout the state.

“Public health is a group effort, it’s about being healthy together and supporting each other’s healthy lifestyles,” says Dr. Claudio Nigg, director of HBCR.

Unfortunately, this program will be coming to a halt at the end of this year.

“We face budget cuts or limited government funding,” says Nigg. “Our researchers and volunteers put a lot of time and effort into implementing and modifying these programs for it to help our community. Seeing it end abruptly is disheartening.”

Fun 5 isn’t the only HBCR program being affected by budget cuts. The Minoaka Program, a free dental care program, will also be coming to a close by the end of the year. Minoaka offers free dental check-ups and teeth cleaning to approximately 100 low-income elementary school children at eight public schools in the state.

HBCR is currently looking for donors to support our cause. For more information or to schedule a tour to learn more about HBCR, go to manoa.hawaii.edu/hbcr, email hbcr.hawaii@gmail.com or call 956-2862.