The Role of Food in Native Hawaiian Migrants' Perceptions of Health and Well-Being

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 8:50 AM

Jane H. Lassetter, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Learning Objective 1: describe the role of food in Native Hawaiian migrants’ perceptions of health and well-being

Learning Objective 2: identify culturally appropriate ways to encourage good nutrition among Native Hawaiian migrants

Purpose: The purpose of this presentation is to explore the role of food in Native Hawaiian migrants’ perceptions of health and well-being and the impact of migration on this relationship.

Rationale: Among ethnic groups in Hawaii, Native Hawaiians have the highest prevalence (67.2%) of being overweight or obese, probably contributing to their high incidence of diabetes and hypertension (Hawaii State Department of Health, 2005). Additionally, between 1990 and 2000 Nevada had the fastest growing population of Native Hawaiians in the U.S. (Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, n.d.), but no research was found on the dietary habits of Native Hawaiian migrants living in Las Vegas. Exploring their perceptions of the effect of food on health and well-being is an important first step toward improving their health and well-being.   

Methods: A qualitative descriptive design was used to explore Native Hawaiian migrants’ perceptions of food, health, and well-being in 27 participants through semi-structured interviews.

Results: Most participants recognized nutrition as an important component of health. Although some identified food as “dangerous” to health, many experienced joy and a sense of connection to Hawaii when eating Hawaiian food, which enhanced well-being. Additionally, plentiful, less expensive food played an important role in Native Hawaiian gatherings in Las Vegas, and overeating remains a culturally sanctioned indulgence.
Conclusion: Food plays an important cultural role for many Native Hawaiian migrants, which can ultimately influence their health. Nurses should collaborate with dieticians and Native Hawaiian migrants to identify desirable, nutritious foods that provide important cultural connections. Additionally, nurses should provide Native Hawaiian migrants with education on nutrition and encourage moderation when eating.


Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations. (n.d.). Native Hawaiian. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from php?type=1&id=9694&print=1

Hawaii State Department of Health. (2005). Hawaii health survey. Retrieved August 26, 2006, from