Corps Values in Health

Molokai is one of 12,000 communities in the country – over 10 million people –that are considered medically underserved, according to the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Every year, the NHSC enlists medical, dental, mental and behavioral healthcare providers to these communities to provide primary health care to those who may not be able to afford it. Last Thursday marked Corps Community Day that recognizes the efforts of almost 10,000 NHSC members nationwide who are caring for underserved communities — four of whom serve on Molokai, according to Catherine Sorenson of the Hawaii Department of Health.

One of those members is Dr. David Kawika Liu, a primary care physician at the Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC), who has been commuting to Molokai from Oahu for the past two and a half years. He has practiced internal medicine and pediatrics professionally for the past six years.

On Molokai, an estimated 37.6 percent of the population –about 2,700 people –is obese, and 30.6 percent –2,200 people –have high blood pressure, according to a 2012 state assessment. It’s Liu’s mission to change those numbers and help residents attain healthier lifestyles.

“We had a very traditional diet and very active lifestyle that was dramatically transformed with western contact [when Captain Cook first came to Hawaii in 1778],” said Liu. “The introduction of unhealthy foods and restriction from activities like fishing and gathering played a big part.” He also credited stress as a factor in obesity rates.

He encourages his patients and other members of the community to return to the ways of the past, whether by growing their own crops or taking up traditional activities they enjoy like fishing or surfing.

“First and foremost, we all have to learn how to be our own primary care providers and to listen to our bodies,” he said. “Second, to take care of relationships, whether with the land or with family or with work relationships. Third, to listen to professional medical advice.”

The NHSC is a federal government program that is part of the United States Department of Health. In exchange for at least two years of service in a “health professional shortage area,” the NHSC offers healthcare professionals scholarships and loan repayment plans.

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