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. He is also a Director and co-founder of the Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19.
His main research interests include microeconomics, network economics, and behavioral economics with applications to health.
RECENT PAPERS AND PROJECTS
The Mauli Ola Study investigates health inequities in Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders by examining a youth leadership program at MA'O Organic Farms aimed at promoting food sovereignty and improving health. The study integrates community engagement and research to address high rates of obesity, diabetes, and mental health issues among the youth in Hawai'i. Preliminary findings highlight the significance of combining social and biomedical research to develop preventive health strategies for Indigenous populations.
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)
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)
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.
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)
In June 2023, UHERO’s public health team, in partnership with the Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19, carried out the third wave of the UHERO Rapid Health Survey. The study engaged 1,575 adult residents of Hawai‘i and examined the links between mental health, food security and socio-economic determinants like housing conditions and poverty status. (July 2023)
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)
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.
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.
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.
This paper is the first to demonstrate that those who were infected and suffered from lingering symptoms from COVID-19 (i.e., long-COVID) had different employment outcomes than those who did not experience such symptoms. Using data from our longitudinal cohort in the state of Hawaii, we found that those who reported long COVID in May 2022 were 6.43% more likely to be unemployed at the time of the May survey and 7.07% more likely in November 2022. In addition, we showed that vaccination is associated with higher rates of employment. (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2023)
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)
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)
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.