WILLIAM AKUTAGAWA, M.S.W.
Moloka‘i ku‘i lā‘au
We, the directors and staff of Papa Ola Lōkahi, the Native Hawaiian Health Board, remain committed to honor and perpetuate the legacies of the visionaries who built sturdy foundations upon which we strive to achieve balanced health and well-being in our community.
Whereas, William Akutagawa, Jr., or “Billy,” was born and raised at the East End, attended college on the G.I. Bill and returned home to Moloka‘i as an employment and training coordinator.
Whereas, Billy was a social worker and community organizer whose leadership was meaningful and varied: mentoring Moloka‘i students to colleges; defining and seeking solutions for mental health needs on the island; and promoting a drug-free environment on Moloka‘i.
Whereas, in 1985 Billy was an original member of the Nā Pu‘uwai Research Group, looking at improving the health conditions of Moloka‘i. The innovation in research around two early projects, the Molokai Heart Study in 1985, and the Molokai Diet Study in 1987, informed the passage of the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act in 1988, and established Nā Pu‘uwai as the Native Hawaiian Health Care System for the islands of Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i.
Whereas, Billy is the longest serving executive director of any of the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems, and the only one Nā Pu‘uwai has ever known. As the main post, he pioneered community health programs in diabetes education, cancer screening and education, established a fitness center, provided outreach to those unable to leave home for health care, and assured that traditional healing practices were available to patients who seek them, and that practitioners were supported in their work; he addressed the health needs of the residents of Kalaupapa; quickly expanded to serve Lāna‘i; mentored new generations of healthcare professionals for Moloka‘i and elsewhere; and he established long term care on island so that patients needn’t leave.
Whereas, Billy is an avid hunter and fisher, he led the island’s initiatives to revitalize Hawaiian fishpond and limu production; develop and teach a hunter education program; and with others, establish Mo‘omomi as the State’s first community based subsistence fishing reserve.
Whereas, Billy’s colleagues testify to his greatest asset the ability to bring together all the agencies, programs and necessary resources to address an issue, such as the recent restoration of Kalaniana‘ole Hall, a community gathering place that reopened in 2010.
THEREFORE, LET IT BE KNOWN that we at Papa Ola Lōkahi extend our sincere appreciation and respect to Billy, his wife Abigail and their ‘ohana; we embrace his legacy of foresight, resourcefulness, leadership and especially his deep sense of place; we celebrate his dedication and faithfulness in carrying out the mission to serve his community; and we endeavor to achieve balanced health and well-being for all Kānaka Maoli as Billy Akutagawa has been able to provide for his community.
Kilipaki Vaughan, President Sharlene Chun-Lum, Executive Director April 19, 2016