Residents of Lāna‘i, Hawai‘i’s smallest inhabited island, are largely Filipino and Native Hawaiian, and 10.3% of households face some level of linguistic isolation. They face physical isolation too: it’s a $200 plus roundtrip flight from Honolulu or a $60 ferry ride from Lāna‘i to Maui. For the 44% of the island’s population that live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, the only option for affordable on-island health care is the Lāna‘i Community Health Center (LCHC).
Founded by two women, public health nurse and Native Hawaiian Jackie Woosley and educator Phyllis McOmber, in 2007, Lāna‘i Community Health Center was created to provide healthcare services in a culturally sensitive manner in accordance with their motto: E Ola Nō Lāna’i – Life, Health and Well-Being for Lāna‘i. The clinic staff is largely locals and caregivers reflecting the populations they serve. Written and/or oral translation is readily available. It emphasizes community values – for example, information on COVID-19 prevention focused on protecting the community’s Kūpuna, or elders.
Prior to 2015, Lāna‘i Community Health Center operated from a converted three-bedroom home on a steep hill. A lack of space limited services, even though the Center was the primary care provider for the island’s year-round population. Leadership had a vision for a new building with diagnostic technology like mammography, dental care, and other services considered standard in high income and urban places.
But the health care provider struggled to put together a financial package to pay for it. Grants and scant private financing were not enough. The project required government subsidy to lessen the developer’s dependence on private capital. That led to a creative solution proposed by CEI Capital Management, CEI’s New Markets Tax Credit subsidiary. The Lāna‘i project was a perfect match for CEI, whose mission focuses on growing good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in rural regions throughout the U.S.
The new health center is in the center of Lāna‘i City, where 95% of the island’s population resides. In addition to being more accessible by foot, the new space expanded medical service offerings, including dental, and includes a community room, for free wellness programming. Throughout the pandemic, LCHC has served as a resource for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and food distribution.
Their community-centric approach is working. A fitness challenge held by LCHC in October 2020 had over 800 registrants, accounting for over a quarter of the island’s population. The participants in a hypertension monitoring program increased by 6% year over year, and participation in chronic disease programs also increases yearly. Lāna‘i Community Health Center has used their status as a community hub to increase access and reduce health disparities.
Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, LCHC has served as an important community resource, both for testing, and for information shared in an accessible and culturally sensitive way. It is clear that in all their actions, LCHC remains focused on their motto: E Ola nō Lāna‘i – Life, Health and Well Being for Lāna‘i.
“CEI’s show of faith in our organization and our project was tremendous. This was a complicated project and it would have been easy to walk away, but CEI stayed involved, listened to the truth, and proceeded with our project. Mahalo nui loa, Maraming Salamat. We are forever grateful for CEI’s efforts and belief.” –DIANA V. SHAW, PHD, MBA, MPH, FACMPE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LCHC
All photos courtesy of LCHC
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