Kau Kau Kitchen
by Leilehua Yuen

Health

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E Ola ka Lāhui!

-Editorial by Leilehua Yuen

It is ironic, and terribly sad, that Hawaiʻi nei has the longest life expectancies and best health in the United States, except for Kanaka Maoli. We have the poorest health in our own homeland.

In 1778, Captain Cook was astonished at the health and vitality of Hawaiian people. Now, we are suffering from diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and other illnesses at far higher rates than other ethnic groups in our islands.

Despite the health problems, there is good news for the lāhui. After a two-century-long decline, the Kanaka Maoli population is rising again!

But, we are not living as long as other groups. Why is this?

Some possible reasons:

* Lack of education in healthful lifestyle
   I have actually been told that the sugary fruit-flavored nectars sold in stores is real juice, and that it is a healthy part of one's diet. I have seen friends and family spend outragous amounts of money on what is basically sugar water and give it to their precious keiki. All it does is cause obesity, heart disease, and rotten teeth!
   I also have been told by well-meaning friends that one needs to sit whenever possible to protect one's back. Exercise! We strengthen and protect our backs though exercise! Sitting stresses the spine, compresses the veins in the legs, and causes numerous health problems. Our ancestors were active, active, active! We can start with fun things like dancing hula to protect our health.
   I also have many friends who are convinced that the way to deal with diabetes, asthma, and heart disease is to take more and more medication, rather than do less and less of the things that hurt our bodies.
   There are so many things we have been taught that we need to unlearn!

* Fatalistic attitude
   At the funeral of a family member, a couple of the auntys told me, "Be sure to eat plenty of the cakes and cookies! You know, when you get older, you going get the diabetes and won't be able to eat them any more, so eat plenty now!"
   We are NOT doomed to develop these diseases as we age. By taking crontrol of our own lives, we can reduce, and sometimes even heal the damage our modern lifestyle has done to our bodies.

* Few resources to purchase healthful foods
   It can be difficult in today's economy to find healthful food at an affordable price. So often the most affordable-seeming choices are simply not good for our health. We need to develop strategies for getting foods that help us, not hurt us!

* Lack of time to exercise sufficiently
   Many of us work full time and then some, often at two or three part-time jobs, or are care givers for parents or children, or both. To protect our own health, we must find ways to exercise and reduce stress.

While these things affect all of us, our kāne are especially at risk of poor health. We need to find ways to support them so that we all can journey together toward better health to strengthen the lāhui!

In this section of Kau Kau Kitchen, we'll be looking at these things, and more, to see how we can decolonize our lives and take back the healthful lifestyles of our ancestors. E ola mau!

Resource Links

Native Hawaiian Population Rising Again

Native Hawaiians have Highest Diabetes Rate

Men's Health

Hula for Health

Our Teeth