March 8, 2017

UAMS Recognized by State Senate for Marshallese Work

March 8, 2017 | UAMS was recognized March 6 by the Arkansas State Senate for its work to address health care disparities in diabetes among the Marshallese population in northwest Arkansas.

State Sen. Linda Chesterfield introduced the Senate Resolution commending Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus; Peter Kohler, Ph.D., former vice chancellor for the Northwest Regional Campus; and Mandy Ritok, a project manager, for creating and implementing the Family Model of Diabetes Self-Management Education to improve patient outcomes among the Marshallese population in northwest Arkansas.

Mandy Ritok Wanna Bing UAMS

Mandy Ritok and Wanna Bing, project managers at the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, were present to accept the resolution.

The campus received a $2.1 million Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant in 2014 to study the Family Model.

The program was designed by Kohler and McElfish with input from Marshallese community members, pastors, the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese and the Republic Of Marshall Islands Consulate in Springdale. It was featured at the PCORI annual meeting in November.

“The Family Model of Diabetes Self-Management Education engages the entire family to help manage diabetes,” said McElfish. “While the research project is still ongoing, the initial results are promising.”

Chesterfield was joined on the Senate floor by UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., Ritok and Wanna Bing, a project manager.

The resolution praised UAMS for “outstanding partnerships to help change the culture of research itself by bringing together patients and other stakeholders from across the health care community to help drive more useful and relevant research about what works best, and for whom.”

Dan Rahn Arkansas Senate

UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., addresses the Arkansas Senate.

Speaking privately to Rahn, Ritok and Bing before the Senate convened, Chesterfield said it was encouraging to be able to recognize work being done to help address community health needs in Arkansas.

The UAMS Northwest Regional Campus has worked for several years through various programs and initiatives to address the health disparities of the Marshallese population in the region.

Northwest Arkansas is home to the largest Marshallese population in the continental United States. The Marshallese have one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world, including 41 percent of those living in northwest Arkansas. The Marshallese also are affected disproportionately by Hepatitis B, tuberculosis and Hansen’s disease, as well as high rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity.

At its founding in 2015, the Center for Pacific Islander Health at the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus was awarded a $250,000 grant from PCORI to hold a Gather for Pacific Islander Health and to conduct training with researchers and community members in the conduct of patient-centered outcomes research. The center is co-directed by McElfish and Nia Aitaoto, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H.

In 2015, UAMS opened the North Street Clinic, a student-led, free clinic that offers health screenings and diabetes assessments and treatment to Marshallese patients.