Community Health and Native Healing in Hawai'i (2 Week Intensive)


Almost 1,500 years ago, Polynesians arrived to Hawai`i after navigating the Pacific Ocean using only the stars, ocean currents, and winds as guides to discover uninhabited lands. As Hawai`i became a destination for explorers, missionaries, sugar plantation and other economy investors, the influx of immigrant workers settled in Hawai`i brought much diversity to the Islands. Today, the diverse culture of Hawai`i is expressed in its languages, music, art, food and festivals. Hawai`i calls this vibe, “the spirit of aloha.” Behind the colorful publicity and communications of Hawai`i, there exists a growing need for quality healthcare and resources for its rural communities. Hawai`i island is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands as well as one with the most challenges in providing its residents with adequate health care. 

Participants in this intensive, 2-week program will grow to understand health and healthcare practices in Hawaii through a holistic lens, examining health disparities and the social determinants of health in this unique island context. Participants will learn about health challenges including homelessness, poverty, drug use, and lack of access to healthy food, while also examining innovative and successful community-based approaches to address these issues. Study Native Hawaiian cultural values, beliefs, history, and the practice of traditional kanaka maoli lapa‘au (Hawaiian medicine). Cultural visits and activities are woven throughout this program, dubbed “Kumulau” or “many roots of the tree” by local leaders, who emphasize that culture is not separate from health, and we cannot help to improve health until we understand a person’s culture and history.

Intrinsic in Hawaiian medicine are the linkages between human health and the health of the environment, a major theme throughout the two week program. The program will also incorporate a focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension, and will examine local efforts to address these health challenges through outreach and education initiatives at the community level, NGO's, and within the school system. Through immersion in the local community, cultural activities, hikes, and tours, site visits to clinics, NGO’s, and schools in at-risk communities, students will gain insight into the health challenges faced by the community on the Big Island, as well as groundbreaking approaches to holistic public and community health.

Participants stay near Waimea, a quaint and small town near Mauna Kea, Hawai`i’s largest and highest mountain. Participants will learn about the cultures of Hawai`i as well as work with health care providers and community groups near Waimea. Through this program, participants will learn to see beyond the romantic view of Hawai`i that the world is accustomed to seeing, and, instead, they will learn about developing and sustaining quality healthcare for rural Hawai`i, from local leaders and experts. Aloha!

CFHI offers options for students and faculty to fit your interests and schedule. Choose your program duration, or for a comparative experience, choose to participate in multiple programs. CFHI can also often accommodate alternate program dates upon request. For more information see our How to Apply page.


2 Weeks $2,400
Arrival Dates: 
Jan 01, 2022 Jan 15, 2022 Feb 05, 2022 Mar 05, 2022 Apr 02, 2022 May 07, 2022 Jun 04, 2022 Jul 02, 2022 Aug 06, 2022 Sep 03, 2022 Oct 01, 2022 Nov 05, 2022 Dec 03, 2022 Dec 17, 2022 

Public Health Placements and Health Activities:

Participants learn from a wide variety of cultural sites, healthcare settings, NGO and nonprofit organizations, and ecotourism activities. These include:

Community Health Center: A health center that provides quality and affordable healthcare, diabetic care and education services, dental care, and behavioral health services.

National Parks: Participants will visit several national parks throughout the duration of their program, including parks focused on marine mammal life, natural history, agriculture, and Hawai'ian artifacts.

Schools: Participants will visit neighborhood schools, K-12, and after-school programs that support ongoing health initiatives

Pediatrics Center: Students rotate at a pediatric center that provides a wide range of healthcare from birth through infancy, childhood, and adolescense. They work closely on behavioral issues, treating infectious illnesses, and offering a caring and empathetic approach to improve education and health.

Agriculture/Farming: Students will visit various sites to understand how Hawaiians sustained rain-fed (unirrigated) intensive farming for centuries, and how they have implemented current efforts to live sustainably. Participants will work in planting and must be ready to dig in the dirt and connect with the land!

Community Hospital: This is a nonprofit community hospital for residents and visitors, with a mission of providing quality healthcare services for Native Hawaiians and all people of Hawaii.

Other sites: A Polynesian dance school to learn about the culture, equine & or other holistic therapy organizations working with PTSD Veterans,  various rural clinics, significant cultural sites, as well as community organizations who promote health and wellness engagement activities.

This program takes place on Hawaii's Big Island, in and around Waimea.

Students on this program stay in either homestays or guest houses arranged by the local team. Two meals are provided per day. Washer/dryer and wifi are available in or near program lodging. Transportation is a mix of local public transit and private transport for certain activities. 

This CFHI program is ideal for students and non-students of all levels and health disciplines and welcome anyone interested in and passionate about global health and medicine. In particular, this program will focus on challenges faced in providing adequate medical care in both urban and rural settings and deepening understanding of rural/urban divides.

For more information, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.

Language Required: English

Hawai'i is the only U.S. state with two official languages: Hawaiian and English, with a 3rd unofficial language: Pidgin. It is helpful to know some basic Hawai'ian vocabulary, but you will also learn this during your program! 

Students should plan to arrive into Kona Airport on the first Saturday of their program. They will be met at the airport by our local team. 

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your onsite expenses. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
  • Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.

On-Site Services

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to lodging site in Kona with local CFHI representative
  • Welcome dinner
  • Welcome orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Orientation including national park visits, cultural shows, and dance
  • Public and private transportation to official site visits in Kona and Waimea
  • CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Weekly health and education lectures
  • Placement and coordination of clinical/public health/education activities
  • Accommodations and two meals per day in Kona and Waimea

Post-Return Resources

  • Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, resources, and ways to stay involved

Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems.

Dr. Māhealani Yamashita, CEO of Pe`ahi Education Group (PEG):

Dr. Yamashita is a community leader, educator, and cultural consultant from Hawai`i. Her experience in the educational profession spans over twenty years in public, private, and charter schools, as well as recently at the Kaua`i Community College as a Career and Transition Counselor/Specialist. Her expertise includes integrating project-based learning and Hawaiian culture and values into experiential, environmentally engaging educational experiences. She has also been an Administrator for a K-12 Charter School. A Native Hawaiian born and raised on Hawai`i Island, she is also proud to have served her country and is a military Veteran.  She holds a BA in Secondary Education, Language Arts, MEd in Education Counseling, and an EdD in Education Leadership, K-12. Presently, she is an online adjunct Professor for Grand Canyon University (College of Education).

Michelle Yamashita, CFO of PEG: 

With a wealth of professional experience, Michelle  has been in roles in quality assurance, such as Director of Quality for GE Aviation where she was responsible for Quality Systems, improving FTY and integrating Quality and Lean Six Sigma tolls and best practices. She served 4 tours, (3 tours to Afghanistan, 1 to Iraq), Michelle is retired with experience in Navy aviation. Her hometown is Littleton, Colorado. Michelle’s experiences include working for Raytheon as the Quality Assurance Manager, Kauai, Hawaii (2008-2010). Michelle then became the Quality Assurance Manager for Manu Kai, a subsidiary for Ke`aki Technologies, Inc. and largest private consulting LLC working for the Government at Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facilities (PMRF). Michelle holds a bachelor’s. Emry Riddle, as well as an MBA, with an emphasis in Informations Systems, from Hawaii Pacific University. Michelle also has a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Program Management Certificate from Villanova University.

Lani Isaacs, Cultural Expert:

Founder and Director, Kumu Lani Isaacs, a lifelong dancer, teacher and choreographer opened the `Alohi Polynesian Dance Academy in Kamuela, Hawai`i in 2011. Since 1978, her professional careers ran hand-in-hand as a Cultural Resource Director, Certified Corporate Trainer and Concierge Manager in the Hospitality Industry, and a professional entertainer. Under the direction of Kumu Hula Ke`ala Kukona, Kumu Lani owes her success as a seasoned dancer to her formal training. Hands-on experiences, accumulated over many years, has awarded her a fluency that is essential to not only the hospitality industry, but to that of the performing arts as well. With a compassionate heart & a firm hand, Kumu Lani continues to nurture her haumāna (students) – striving to develop their skills & talents in order to provide them opportunities for their future.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global roadmap set forth by the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the well-being of all individuals by the year 2030. This program highlights the following SDGs: