April is National Minority Health Month. To learn about the experiences of the bleeding disorders community in an island state, Chloe, a member of the communications team, sat down with Kyra Calbero, Interim Executive Director of the foundation's Hawaii chapter.

Watch a video below that summarizes the conversation, or read the whole transcript.


Chloe: Happy National Minority Health Month. I'm here talking to Kyra Calbero, the Interim Executive Director of NHF's Hawaii chapter, and we're just gonna get into it! To start out, what health challenges are specific to the blood and bleeding disorders community in Hawaii?

Kyra: I think the biggest issue that we have as of right now is geography, as far as getting people out to the HTC and getting information to them.

Since we are split on different islands sometimes, you know, just working out your schedule to have to make time to go to the airport and sit those extra two hours before and after, take the flight over, regardless of how quick it is. It still takes, it still adds up and takes a big chunk of your day out.

And then flying to a different island possibly to see the HTCs. Small things like that that just kind of geographically make it a little more challenging for our state to execute. And then just getting those families out in the rural areas of the islands, information, having them come out to participate in events and having them feel more comfortable when we only see each other probably a couple times a year when we get to fly everyone out to Oahu for events.

Chloe: As an island state, how difficult is it to find care in an island community?

Kyra: In the beginning it was difficult, especially for me because when I first started, with my diagnosis in high school.

I wasn't super familiar with the chapter. So just finding someone who was, who knew what hemophilia was, in my case, or any sort of bleeding disorder was a little challenging. There's not much specialty care in Hawaii . And if there is, it's usually on Oahu, which is the "main island" or the most populated, city-like island.

And unfortunately, that's not where I live and half of our community lives. So it was a little difficult and challenging to find someone who understood and then once they did, it's like they only have a small portion of their time reserved to seeing patients like that as well. So it was a little difficult in the beginning, but NHF definitely helped.

As far as, you know, exposing me to different resources that I could use, whether it was telehealth and finding doctors who may not necessarily even be in Hawaii, but could still provide me with the health care that I needed to take care of myself.

Chloe: How has the local chapter helped your community?

Kyra: Huge support. I don't know if I would be able to do it without the help of NHF. Currently, we are a one person-staffed organization. So, all the help that NHF gives me and like providing me easy and quick resources to share out to my community. So I then don't have to, you know, recreate the wheel and provide and create all that information by myself.

They make it really easy so that I can then, you know, focus on specific needs that my community is looking for.

Chloe: That's awesome! How does your local community respond to mental health challenges?

Kyra: I feel like with a lot of Asian American or Pacific Islander communities, there is some push-back with being open to discussing mental health.

But since it's so popular, getting more and more exposure as far as social media and more big Polynesian figures stepping up and talking about their mental health and how important it is, I think there's a little bit more of an opening and an understanding about it. People in my grandparents' generation, you know, they're very closed off about it.

I think our generation is a lot more upfront and able to recognize mental health issues and how it can affect personal lives. So there's still definitely some work to do, but I think we're taking really good steps to help our people, you know, understand that mental health is such a big aspect of people's lives and understanding everything that has to do with mental health and your well-being.

Chloe: Yeah, I mean, that's definitely kind of a common thread I've been hearing across, you know, communities no matter where we're going with this discussion, you know, whenever we bring up the conversation on mental health, it's always, you know- the stigma has been such a big roadblock for such a long time that talking about it feels like almost kind of like an uphill battle. But I would agree with you as we're getting, you know, more, more and more accepting and open talking about mental health in an honest way. It's good that we're getting more open about it.

Kyra: Yes.

Chloe: Final question: How can people who are community members, but don't live in Hawaii, support your community?

Kyra: Well, we have our walk page or our Hawaii chapter webpage that anyone can donate to. If they have specific questions about how they can help our community as far as maybe getting to know the culture or, you know, what doctors they can go and support or share information with, they can always reach out to me and I can get them in touch with our specific doctors and maybe they can share resourceful information that they have.

I would just say, you know, take the time to learn the culture and the community. Check out our NHF page, donate to the walk. Any way that, you know, we can have the support of other people who are not, you know, within our state, our community, the better.

Chloe: Is there anything else that you'd like to add while we're here?

Kyra: No, I just appreciate you taking the time out to, you know, get to know Hawaii and our little community out here.

Visit the Hawaii chapter's website to learn how you can get involved! Click here for more information on the chapter's upcoming Unite walks.

To learn more about National Minority Health Month, click here.