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DR. RUBEN JUAREZ

Ruben Juarez is the HMSA Distinguished Endowed Professor at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and the Department of Economics at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. He combines microeconomics, network economics, and behavioral economics with public health to address critical issues in underserved communities in Hawaii. Dr. Juarez co-founded and directs various public health initiatives such as the Maui Wildfire Exposure Study, the UHERO Statewide Rapid Survey, and the Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19, showcasing his commitment to community health through multidisciplinary efforts.

RECENT PAPERS AND PROJECTS

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DYNAMICS OF TRUST AND CONSUMPTION OF COVID-19 INFORMATION IMPLICATE A MECHANISM FOR COVID-19 VACCINE AND BOOSTER UPTAKE

Vaccine & booster hesitancy remains a significant barrier to achieving herd immunity and preventing the further spread of COVID-19. We uncover a mechanism that explains how trust in and consumption of different sources of information affect vaccine and booster uptake using a longitudinal cohort. These results are critical for the development of effective public health policies and offer insights into hesitancy over the course of the COVID-19 vaccine and booster rollout. (Vaccines, 2022)

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COVID-19 MANDATES: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HAWAIʻI BUSINESSES

Faced with the largest increase in cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaii needs effective solutions that would reduce the number of cases disproportionately ravaging communities in the state. In August 2021, UHERO and PAAC conducted a representative survey of businesses and community organizations in the state to (1) understand their willingness to adopt restrictions at their workplaces for employees and customers and (2) understand barriers to effectively execute these restrictions if implemented.

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Communicating about COVID-19 Vaccinations:
Recommendations for Hawaiʻi

Multidisciplinary policy study in Hawaii to evaluate COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and effective messaging strategies. A follow-up study continues.

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Gut microbial indicators of metabolic health underlie age-related differences in obesity and diabetes risk among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

A community-based research approach from a cohort enriched with NHPI residents in Oahu shows that age-related differences in gut bacteria may influence T2DM and obesity in NHPIs. (Frontiers, 2023)

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HEALTH EFFECTS AND VIEWS OF COVID-19 IN HAWAI‘I

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant adverse impacts in the state of Hawai‘i beyond the direct effects of COVID-19 itself, including indirect effects on mental health, food security, job security, housing, poverty. We report these effects in the first UHERO Public Health Report.

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PACIFIC ALLIANCE AGAINST COVID-19

The Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 (PAAC) expands COVID-19 testing in the community and empowers educators, students and the community at large with education tools and connections with public health services, including those provided by the AHARO Community Health Centers. Learn more about our partnership. 

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MOBILE MONEY NETWORKS WITH TAX INCENTIVES

We study the recent development of a Mobile Money in Ecuador using a unique data set from all MM transactions in the country over the life of the project. We show how agents behave over time and how they react when given tax-incentives for the use of non-cash transactions. These findings offer important lessons that would be valuable to other governments and policymakers considering MM. (Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 2022)

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As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, Hawai‘i’s populations are becoming more confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, driving COVID-19 booster uptake down. However, significant impacts exacerbated by the pandemic, including long COVID, mental health issues, and the negative effects of long COVID on unemployment pose significant challenges that warrant monitoring. (January 2023)

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OPPOSING ROLE OF TRUST AS A MODIFIER OF COVID-19 VACCINE UPTAKE IN AN INDIGENOUS POPULATION

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and remain significantly under-vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Data from our COVID-19 testing program revealed that a higher degree of trust in official sources of COVID-19 information increased the probability of vaccination whereas a higher trust in unofficial sources decreased the probability of vaccination.  These results revealed a dual and opposing role of trust on vaccine uptake. Interestingly, NHPIs were the only racial/ethnic group to exhibit a significant positive association between trust in and consumption of unofficial sources of COVID-19 information, which explained the vaccine hesitancy observed in this indigenous population. (Vaccines, 2022)

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THE EFFICACY OF HAWAII COVID-19 BUSINESS MANDATES

Despite the national attention around COVID-19 vaccination mandates for businesses, the actual impacts on vaccination uptake have yet to be reported. In September, two counties in Hawaii implemented mandates for employees in select businesses to be either vaccinated or enroll in a regular COVID-19 testing program. We estimate the increased vaccination rate of nearly 2000 businesses in Hawaii. 84.4% vaccination rate was reported among employees before mandates, and an additional 8% of employees were estimated to have been vaccinated as a result of the mandates. We also observed that 5.9% of employees elected regular COVID-19 testing, while 1.7% were either dismissed or resigned. This study shows the first quantification of the effects of the mandates on vaccine uptake. The increased vaccination rate observed is an encouraging indication of the efficacy of these mandates on businesses in Hawaii, with far-reaching implications for other parts of the country implementing similar strategies to mitigate COVID-19.

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HAWAII INTEGRATED ANALYTICS

HI'A is a multidisciplinary team of researchers that uses the power of data to show the impact of ‘āina-based practices on community health. 

Most of the community groups HI’A works with did not set out to be healthcare organizations. They are farms, food banks, or schools. Oftentimes, sustainability and malama ‘āina are baked into their mission and DNA. What they have in common is a deep commitment to people, and an understanding that true well-being is a community endeavor.

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VACCINE-ASSOCIATED SHIFTS IN SARS-CoV-2 INFECTIVITY AMONG NATIVE HAWAIIAN AND OTHER PACIFIC ISLANDER POPULATION IN HAWAII

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) across the country have experienced significant disparities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 used a community-based participatory approach involving academic and community partners to expand sustainable COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigate the severe consequences among NHPI communities in Hawaii (American Journal of Public Health, 2022)

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HI-SEED COHORT

An innovative diabetes study to understand how the social environment during early adulthood (20-50 years old) may underlie diabetes progression in Hawaii's diverse populations.

SELECT RECENT PRESS COVERAGE

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              UH NEWS

Native Hawaiians, Filipinos report lower health, well-being after pandemic (7/23)

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              UH NEWS

Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander vaccination rates affected by trust levels (6/22)

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HAWAII NEWS NOW

University of Hawaii expands COVID testing to 8 locations in West Oahu, Big Island (8/21)

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HAWAII NEWS NOW

The Pfizer vaccine is now FDA-approved. Will that sway people to get it? Leaders hope so (8/21)

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      STAR-ADVERTISER

Targeted messaging necessary to overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, UH study finds (3/21)

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              UH NEWS

60% improvement in Type 2 Diabetes risk shown in preliminary results from Waianae-based study (2/19)

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      STAR-ADVERTISER

University of Hawaii study of Ma’o Farms shows interns reaping health benefits (2/19)

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              UH NEWS

Gut bacteria linked to mental health, other chronic disease risks among NHPI populations (4/23)

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HAWAII NEWS NOW

Researchers: Social media still playing big role in vaccine hesitancy in Hawaii (11/21)

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              UH NEWS

Oʻahu employers strongly support vaccination mandates (8/21)

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              UH NEWS

UH Mānoa safer school reopening pilot program gets $3M boost to expand (7/21)

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              UH NEWS

Business vaccination mandates increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates (10/21)

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HAWAII NEWS NOW

COVID-19 testing pilot at Waianae school could prove model for other campuses

(6/21)

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IMUA (KAMEHAMEHA)

Can ‘aina-based educational programs improve a person’s health and well-being? (page 9) (2/19)

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      STAR-ADVERTISER

Struggles continue despite more positive outlook on COVID-19 pandemic (7/23)

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      STAR-ADVERTISER

Study finds COVID-19 fatigue is setting in for Hawaii residents (1/23)

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             CIVIL BEAT

Biden’s Sweeping New Vaccination Mandate Is ‘Huge’ For Hawaii (9/21)

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              UH NEWS

COVID-19 school testing, education program expands to 8 locations (8/21)

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              UH NEWS

Safer school reopening model spearheaded by UH (6/21)

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             CIVIL BEAT

Envision schools as assets in struggle against the pandemic (7/20)

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             CIVIL BEAT

Changing Habits Yields Health Benefits At MA’O Farms In Waianae (7/19)

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             CIVIL BEAT

UH Studies How People’s Connections With Land Affect Their Health (3/18)

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