Dr. Chiyome Fukino

Alana Folen
Wednesday - January 20, 2010
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The state Department of Health recently expanded H1N1 vaccine eligibility to everyone across the state, thus keeping director Chiyome Fukino, M.D. very busy. She urges those who have not yet been vaccinated not to wait.

“While we can all be thankful that Hawaii has so far been fortunate in not experiencing a second wave of H1N1 as other states have, we want to remind everyone that the flu is very unpredictable, and is still causing severe illness and death,” Fukino explains. “It’s still not too late to get both the regular seasonal as well as the H1N1 flu vaccines.”

Fukino just began her eighth year with the state Department of Health and says the H1N1 pandemic is merely a small part of the big picture. “The department’s mission is to protect and improve the health and environment for all people in Hawaii,” she says, “and includes not only the disease-related work that people may associate with a health department, but also ensuring the clean air and clean water we all enjoy, serving the mental-health needs of the community, running the state laboratories, collaborating with our many partners and other agencies on emergency preparedness and response, and working to help promote healthy behaviors to prevent illness in the first place.”

Fukino, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Brandeis University before earning her medical degree from John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH-Manoa.

She appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in April 2007, and since then has established a statewide immunization registry, successfully conducted the annual Stop Flu at School clinics, improved vog monitoring and implemented a vog hotline, to name a few of her accomplishments. In the meantime, she attends various meetings and keeps up with public health developments worldwide.

“I don’t think any of us thought at the time (2007) that we’d be caught up in a real pandemic in less than three years, but certainly our planning and preparations have paid off, to the benefit of Hawaii’s entire population when H1N1 emerged,” says Fukino, who prior to joining the state Department of Health maintained her own private practice, specializing in internal medicine. She also has served as a member of the medical staff at Leahi Hospital and on the board of The Queen’s Medical Center.

Although the H1N1 flu pandemic seems to be consuming media headlines these days, Fukino is quick to mention that many areas require continued attention in order for the general population to remain healthy.

“Chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma are a daily threat to many individuals, and the high rate of obesity in Hawaii is of concern,” she says, adding that injury prevention, suicide prevention, alcohol and drug abuse as well as tobacco use are among other important issues.

“The key is prevention. While the department can monitor trends, identify gap groups that require intervention, provide support to our most vulnerable populations and identify and alert the public to new risks and health threats - tackling the biggest problems requires individual responsibility, public education and time.

“Eat healthy foods - lots of fruits and vegetables - enjoy regular physical activity, get enough sleep and don’t smoke,” Fukino advises.


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