Monday, November 30, 2015

A holistic approach to health care

For Christian Gloria, Ph.D., CHES, Assistant Professor of Public Health, his path to specializing in health behavior and health education, started with a one-credit elective he took as an undergraduate, originally majoring in math.

Gloria had always been health conscious growing up, seeing family members dying from heart disease and cancer. He wanted to learn more to improve the quality of life for himself, his family and the   public. 

“That inspired me to take a simple elective course on weight training and cardiovascular exercising,” he said. “(It) completely changed the trajectory of my life.”

He had a great time in the course, changing his major to kinesiology with a concentration in health promotion and fitness. Upon graduating from The University of Texas at Austin, he became a personal trainer. While Gloria enjoyed the job, he aspired to impact the health of more people by studying population health.

Gloria pursued a master’s degree in health education, concentrating on obesity prevention through nutrition and physical activity. He then decided to extend his study beyond physical health, when he entered a doctoral program in health behavior, seeking a more holistic approach to promoting public health.

“There’s a mind and body connection,” said Gloria, who focused his Ph.D. research on stress management, resilience and mental health.

Nearing completion of his Ph.D., the opportunity to teach at Hawai‘i Pacific University presented itself. Born and raised in the Philippines until the age of 11, Gloria always thought about going back to his home country to conduct research, provide service and improve public health. Although moving to Hawai‘i was never planned, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to re-establish his roots in a place with a large population of Filipinos.

“I’ve always liked living in an island community,” he said, and thought “it would be great chance to better understand the Filipino community. Hawai‘i is also the best place for Asian-American scholars who wish to do research in Asia, the Pacific and the U.S.”

In the fall of 2012, Gloria joined HPU, teaching, and getting involved in the public health community of Hawai‘i.

A member of the Hawai‘i Public Health Association since 2012, Gloria was appointed to its  Board of Directors this summer and assumed the role of the 2016 annual fall conference planning committee chair.

“(We) started meeting last month to organize committee membership to ensure there is representation from all of the public health organizations,” he said. 

Gloria recently committed to another community health endeavor, the Blue Zones Project, which started with a National Geographic expedition. The team traveled to places around the world — blue zones — with large numbers of centenarians, leading healthy and happy lives, and scientists identified nine lifestyle principles common to these communities.

The Blue Zones Project takes a systems approach, empowering people to collaborate on policies and programs with a goal to make their communities better. Their projects include fixing roads to be bike and pedestrian friendly and working with grocery stores to stock displays near the cash register with fresh fruit and water instead of junk food.

“The beautiful thing about Blue Zones is that they’ve been so largely successful not only all over the world, but some parts of the nation also,” Gloria said.

In October, the Blue Zones Project launched in Hawai‘i. Three regions were selected to participate, and Gloria was recruited to serve as a member of the individual and community engagement committee of the Koolaupoko region (Kahaluu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Waimanalo). He is excited for the opportunity to influence improvements in the community where he lives, works and plays.

“The best approach (to fix community-wide problems) is to engage every level of the community to work together,” he said.

To learn more about the BS in Public Health program, go to, or contact Christian Gloria, Ph.D., at 808-236-5852 or  

Christian Gloria, Ph.D., CHES, (back row, middle) and his students at the April 2015 HPU Superhero Health & Wellness Fair, the Public Health Week kick-off event, held at Hawaii Loa campus. The Week’s events featured health education students presenting and discussing key public health issues among young adult populations, and guest speakers from the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, Hawaii Public Health Institute and Hawaii Planned Parenthood.  

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