Skip Navigation Bar

Education: Higher Education

The Healing Elements: A Native Hawaiian Perspective

Class 1. Hawaiian Health and Well-Being: Balancing Essential Elements


Most people think of good health as the absence of physical pain, illness, or disease. But it is strength of the mind and spirit as well as the body. Wellness is an all-encompassing concept—it’s about keeping your entire being in optimum shape. It’s about living a healthy, enjoyable, fulfilling life whoever and wherever you are. The first class explores holistic Hawaiian concepts of health and well-being as integrally related to sustaining a balance among physical, spiritual, psychic, and natural elements. The objective is for students to gain a basic understanding of holistic health as conceptualized by Native Hawaiians and to reflect upon how this compares to concepts of holistic health in their own culture. Hawaiian language terms and proverbs are utilized to introduce Hawaiian concepts of health and well-being.


Pre-class Assignment

Students should look up the word “ola” the Hawaiian word for health, at the Hawaiian Dictionary web site: Students should first click on “English Text” link on the upper right corner of the web site. Afterwards, they may type “dola” in the “ENTER WORD” box and click on “look it up.” They then click on the first entry and read the content on that web page. Students should be prepared to discuss the various concepts associated with this the above articles by Dr. R. Kekuni Blaisdell, and B.E. and J.H. Hope regarding the philosophical and historical aspects of traditional Hawaiian healing practices.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the various concepts associated with “ola” the Hawaiian word for health, as provided in the Hawaiian Dictionary web site.
  2. What is the significance of Hawaiians’ associating so many concepts with that of health?
  3. What are the concepts related to health in English? Are these similar to the Hawaiian concepts?
  4. Distribute the handout with a list of ‘Ōlelo No‘eau proverbs or wise sayings, and discuss their meanings. What do they reveal about Hawaiian beliefs and practices related to health? What are proverbs or wise sayings related to health in your culture? Are these proverbs similar or different from Hawaiian proverbs?

Back to top