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Together, Let’s Hold Lawmakers Accountable

When it Comes to the Health of Hawaii’s People, We Must Be Prepared to Hold our State Lawmakers Accountable

Hawai‘i has recently been named the fourth healthiest state in the nation in United Health Foundation’s “America’s Health Rankings.” All of us in Hawai‘i should be proud of this recognition; however, we know these rankings do not tell the whole story of the overall health condition of Hawai‘i’s people.

There is growing acknowledgment that there is a need to disaggregate data to gain a fuller understanding of the unique ethnic or geographical differences in our multi-ethnic population across our islands.

Disaggregated Data Shows Health Disparities

The University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center takes that deeper dive into geography and demographics to address our state’s diversity. According to the UH Cancer Center’s “Hawai‘i Cancer at a Glance, 2014- 2018,” there are significant disparities in cancer risks and outcomes across racial and ethnic groups, which may reflect genetic variations as well as lifestyle factors.

Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • Each year, an average of 7,393 Hawai‘i residents are diagnosed with invasive cancer.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease in Hawai‘i.
  • On average, 2,393 Hawai‘i residents die of cancer each year.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the state. Among females, Native Hawaiians had the highest lung cancer incidence and mortality rates.
  • Thyroid cancer incidence is highest in Filipino women.
  • Whites have the highest rates of melanoma.
  • Breast cancer remains the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men.
  • Overall cancer mortality was highest in Hawaiʻi County.

Positive Momentum for Funding Multi-Ethnic Co-Hort Study

These sobering statistics and other data provide a compelling case of support for HB 1301, which seeks to appropriate funds to the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center to conduct a multi-ethnic cohort study focusing on the social determinants of health, lifestyles, environmental exposures, and resilience factors of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos.

Anita Hofschneider’s article, Researchers Hope Hawai‘i Lawmakers Fund Cancer Research, showed there is positive support from many legislators so far. After the first reading of the bill, the measure was passed to the House Committee on Health and Homelessness and House Finance Committee.

Important to Remain Hypervigilant

We will continue to monitor this legislative session very carefully to ensure personal differences between lawmakers and researchers do not get in the way as this bill moves forward.  We must all keep a watchful eye on all of our lawmakers to ensure vitally important research for Hawai‘i’s people does not get derailed for personal reasons and let that become a distraction to the critical work being undertaken by the UH Cancer Center.

Calling Out Bad Behavior

We’ll take our cue from Gov. Josh Green, who recently filed a complaint for misconduct against Sen. Kurt Fevella for demonizing Housing Chief Nani Medeiros — by literally calling her a devil — questioning the authenticity of her ethnicity – and her commitment to the Stateʻs housing efforts and passion for Hawaiians.

Accountable to Professional Standards

It’s time to put the best interests of Hawai‘i’s people first, return civil engagement back to the State Capitol — even when we disagree with each other — and hold public servants accountable for upholding professional standards and do what we elected them to do — to serve respectfully, fairly, and with aloha.