Ke Ku'una Na'au: A Native Hawaiian Behavioral Health Initiative at The Queen's Medical Center

Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2019 Jun;78(6 Suppl 1):83-89.


Although acute care facilities have not typically focused on resolving the psychosocial determinants of health, new models are emerging. This article provides details of the Ke Ku'una Na'au (KKN) Native Hawaiian Behavioral Health Initiative implemented in 2016 at The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The program is focused on reducing hospital readmissions for socially and economically vulnerable Native Hawaiian adults and improving their health care outcomes after hospitalization. The program was piloted on 2 medical units to assist patients who identified as Native Hawaiian, were ages 18 and older, and living with chronic diseases, psychosocial needs, and/or behavioral health problems. The program model was developed using a team of Native Hawaiian community health workers referred to as navigators, who were supported by an advanced practice nurse and a project coordinator/social worker. Navigators met patients during their inpatient stay and then followed patients post discharge to support them across any array of interpersonal needs for at least 30 days post-discharge. Goals were to assist patients with attending a post-hospital follow-up appointment, facilitate implementation of the discharge plan, and address social determinants of health that were impacting access to care. In 2017, 338 patients received care from the KKN program, a number that has grown since that time. In 2015, the baseline readmission rate for Native Hawaiians on the 2 medical units was 16.6% (for 440 Native Hawaiian patients in total). In 2017, the readmission rate for Native Hawaiians patients on the two medical units was 12.6% (for 445 Native Hawaiian patients, inclusive of KKN patients) (P=.092). This decrease suggests that the KKN program has been successful at reducing readmissions for vulnerable patients and, thus, improving care for Native Hawaiians in the health system generally. The KKN program has offered relevant, culturally sensitive care meeting a complex, personalized array of needs for over 338 patients and has shown demonstrated success in its outcomes. This information will be useful to other acute care organizations considering similar programs.

Keywords: Native Hawaiian; health care system; hospital; patient navigators.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration
  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Behavioral Medicine / methods*
  • Behavioral Medicine / trends
  • Chronic Disease / ethnology
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Hawaii / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / ethnology*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / psychology
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data