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UH Researcher: “Marijuana Compounds Show Promise in Treatment of Cardiac Disease”

A Nevada company is hoping to develop new medicines for heart failure using compounds in marijuana and a novel therapy identified by a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher.

Dr. Alexander Stokes in his JABSOM laboratory.

Dr. Alexander Stokes, assistant research professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, obtained a U.S. patent for his novel therapy in 2015.  The patent claims the cannabinoid receptor TRPV1 can be regulated therapeutically by plant-based cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids include psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds derived from marijuana, both of which have medicinal properties. They exert their effects inside cells after binding to receptor proteins in the cell membranes, such as TRPV1 and the classical cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.

Pharmaceutical development company GrowBlox Life Sciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of GB Sciences Inc., obtained the license for Stokes’ intellectual therapy last December from Makai Biotechnology LLC, a Hawaiʻi-based cardiovascular therapy company founded by Stokes.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030,” said Dr. Stokes. In the U.S, he explained, this equates to one in three deaths, about one every 40 seconds, and costs the country approximately $316.6 billion a year.

Patients urgently need new drugs that can prevent or reverse the stages of cardiac disease and heart failure, according to Dr. Stokes. He further explained that TRPV1 is clearly a major cellular receptor involved in the progression to heart failure, and there is great potential for the new, proprietary mixtures within the GB Life Sciences portfolio to regulate the TRPV1 cannabinoid receptor.

GB Sciences said licensing the TRPV1 patent is a major step in its commitment to discovering new drugs that interact with the non-classical cannabinoid receptors, in addition to binding to the better characterized CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

“Our vision of novel, patentable cannabis-based formulations in the treatment of major diseases is now married with a proven drug target for modulation of adverse outcomes in cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Andrea Small-Howard, Chief Science Officer of GB Sciences.

Cannabinoids in native plant extracts exerted a more significant effect on TRPV1 receptors than purified cannabinoids in published research reports.

“GB Sciences believes its cannabis-plant-based approach may provide additional clinical benefits to patients due to the ‘entourage effect.’ In addition, the side effect profiles of cannabis-based therapies have generally been well tolerated,” said Dr. Small-Howard. The “entourage effect” refers to the theory that some cannabis compounds have greater effects on the human body when combined with other compounds than when given alone.

Said GB Sciences CEO John Poss, “This license is an important step in our company’s march to successful drug discovery.  We are very proud of Dr. Small-Howard and her team, and we expect results from this effort that will enable the company to do well by doing good for literally millions of cardiac patients around the world.”

Democratic Party Rally to Save Health Care

The Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) will host a Rally to Save Health Care on Sunday, January 15th 2017 from 11am – 2pm at the Hawai‘i Legislature Rotunda.

DPH State Party Chair Tim Vandeveer, Sen. Brian Schatz, health experts Dr. Reni Soon and Dr. Steven Kimble, and other health care professionals and elected officials will speak to the dynamics — preserving and improving health coverage and how to be involved. There will be a sign waving on Beretania Street following the Rally.

At a time when the United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right, the Republicans want to throw nearly 30 million people off of health insurance, make massive cuts to Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood. What, if anything, they would replace it with has not been articulated.

Senator Schatz explained, “The ACA is covering more Americans and saving lives. It’s working. And while we can all agree that the ACA can and should be improved, leaving millions of Americans with no coverage, and no alternative, is just irresponsible. It’s time to stand together, organize, and fight every attempt to repeal the ACA.”

DPH Chair Tim Vandeveer said, “We gather not only to stand up for health care as a fundamental human right, but also to state unequivocally, that we will not compromise our values or go back on the rights we fought so hard to achieve.” Vandeveer stated that the event will also “Be a chance to thank President Obama for fighting to make heath care accessible and affordable to all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us.”

The Rally will begin with a remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (upon his day of birth) and a reading of his quote: “Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”

The Democratic Party encourages attendees to bring their own signs for waving on Beretania Street after the Rally. Light snacks will be provided.

First Annual Global Tea Innovation Symposium

The launch of a Hawaii tea co-op, the first not for profit consumer cooperative tea business in the world will happen on February 1st, 2017 at 10am – 4pm at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, in Volcano, Hawaii.

Presenters scheduled:

  • Nigel Melican, Chairman,TeaCraft Ltd. (U.K): A global business development consultant to the leading world tea businesses.
  • Chairman, Kawasaki Kiko Ltd. (Japan): leading manufacturer of automated tea farming and tea processing equipment.
  • Jason McDonald, Founder of The Great Mississippi Tea Company and Co-Founder/Vice President of The Hawaii Medicinal Tea and Herb Cooperative (HawaiiTea.Coop).
  • Grif Frost: Co-Founder/President of The Hawaii Medicinal Tea and Herb Cooperative (HawaiiTea.Coop).  Expert in not for profit consumer cooperative development.
  • Takeshi Akatsuka, Vice President, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, the site of the Hawaii Tea Co-op.

Purpose: Provide A-Z, tea business development services, for Hawaii Tea enthusiasts.

Mission: Develop a model, which can be replicated, to help other tea enthusiasts worldwide, work together, to sustainably grow their tea businesses.

Services to be offered:

  • Propagation services: contract growing of the ideal tea plants, for specific geographical locales in Hawaii.
  • Farm Design services: contract selection and design of tea farm sites, suitable for automated equipment use.
  • Minimum tea farm acreage: 1 acre. There must a minimum of 10 acres of Co-op contracted tea farms, within a 5-minute driving radius.
  • Farm Site Preparation services: contract preparation of sites for automated tea planting services.
  • Planting Services: contracted automated tea planting services.
  • Growing Services: contracted automated pruning, pest control and fertilization services.
  • Harvesting Services: contracted automated tea plant harvesting services.
  • Processing Services: contracted processing services to prepare harvested tea for consumption
  • Sales Services: contracted sales of packaged tea
  • Research and Development Services: contracted research and development related to Hawaii tea community development.

50 seats available to people interested in participating in the development of the Hawaii Tea Co-op.  Price $250 ($200 may be applied to the purchase of Hawaii Tea Co-op shares). A tea and food pairing lunch will be served.

How to order: visit www.HawaiiTea.Coop to reserve your seat.

Governor Ige Announces Increases in Shelter Beds Through New State Contracts

Gov. David Ige announced the state Department of Human Services will award contracts to 33 homeless shelters. Funding will total $13,000,000 for 12 months. The new contracts require shelters to focus on outcome measures such as the number of people they will permanently house over the coming year.

Photo by Sean King

The results of the competitive bids show a net increase in state-funded homeless shelter beds, with 3,761 for the next year vs. 3,577 for last year. Additionally, the shelters are proposing to double the number of people they place in permanent housing from approximately 3,000 to 6,200.

“This is about more than increasing shelter beds,” said Gov. Ige. “It’s about increasing results. For the same taxpayer investment as last year, we’re doubling the number of people getting housed. We are finding better solutions, getting better efficiency, and creating better cooperation.”

The Request for Bids (RFP) process was open to all shelters statewide and follows state law which requires shelters to increase accountability, privacy, and safety for residents while moving people more quickly into permanent housing. In accordance with the state procurement process, shelters were encouraged to ask questions about the RFPs and received written answers. Revisions were made to the RFP based on their feedback. A written record can be found on the state’s procurement office website at:

http://gpcprod.spo.hawaii.gov/spo2/health/rfp103f/detail.php?id=MTI1Mw==&hs=e53b7f8e4919fbec14cb2c182ab6b247.

Contracts will be effective as of Feb. 1, 2017. All state-funded shelters will receive training by the Department of Human Service’s Homeless Programs Office.

Shelter RFP Award Listing

Bed Count Projections

Dying Cancer Patient Leads Suit Asserting Hawaii Law Allows Medical Aid in Dying

Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing and Compassion & Choices filed suit on Wednesday on behalf of a Hawaii resident with terminal cancer, John Radcliffe, and a physician asserting the Hawaii constitution and existing state law allow the practice of medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying gives mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to peacefully end an unbearable dying process peacefully.

Compassion & Choices Hawaii patient plaintiff John Radcliffe, attorney Anderson Meyer, pollster Barbara Ankersmit, Compassion & Choices Hawaii campaign mgr. Mary Steiner at news conference announcing lawsuit asserting Hawaii law allows medical aid in dying.

In conjunction with filing Radcliffe et al. v. State of Hawaii in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii, Compassion & Choices Hawaii has launched a legislative campaign as the second part of a dual approach to giving Hawaii residents definitive access to medical aid in dying. A bill is nearing final draft and will be announced at the opening of the Legislature on Jan. 18 with broad support from lawmakers.

A Nov. 2016 statewide survey by Anthology Marketing Group showed 80 percent of Hawaii voters support medical aid in dying, across all demographics including age, race, religion and geographic location. Six other states explicitly authorize aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, California and Colorado; there is not a single documented case of abuse or coercion.

“We must pursue every path to make medical aid in dying an accessible option for terminally ill adults in Hawaii as soon as possible,” said Compassion & Choices Hawaii Campaign Manager Mary Steiner. “Mr. Radcliffe can’t wait and see whether the courts or the legislature will ultimately resolve this question, but our hope is that this option will be made available to him as soon as possible. By filing litigation now, we have put the process in motion on all fronts.”

Compassion & Choices won a similar suit on behalf of terminally ill patient plaintiff Bob Baxter in Montana in 2009 when the Montana Supreme Court ruled: “… we find no indication in Montana law that physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients is against public policy.”

About the Plaintiffs

John Radcliffe, 74, is a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii. He was diagnosed in June 2014 with incurable colon cancer that has metastasized to his liver. He is currently undergoing his 43rd round of chemotherapy. He has been to the emergency room 15 times and had three extended hospital stays.

Dr. Charles Miller is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army Medical Department, was chief consultant to the Surgeon General and spent nine years as chief of hematology at Kaiser Medical Center in Honolulu.

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life. Leading the end-of-life choice movement for more than 30 years, we support, educate and advocate. www.CompassionAndChoices.org/hawaii.

State of Hawaii Ready to Implement Hawaii Interagency Biosecurity Plan

The State of Hawai‘i, in a broad coalition of stakeholders led by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, has finalized the State’s first interagency and comprehensive biosecurity plan to protect Hawai‘i’s agriculture, environment, economy and health. In the past, individual federal, state, and local agencies have tried their best to address and manage the issues related to biosecurity within the context of their own agencies.

Click to read the plan

“The State of Hawai‘i now has a coordinated comprehensive plan to tackle the threats and harms from invasive species,” said Gov. David Ige. “I’m proud to announce that over the last year, several of my key state agencies have been working together with public and private stakeholders to develop the first Interagency Biosecurity Plan. This plan will provide a 10-year framework to prevent invasive species from entering our borders, detect them once they have entered the state, and better manage the established invasive species that are already within our state.”

The threats of invasive species are real and threaten our way of life. The Islands are home to more endangered species than any other state. These invasive species threaten Hawai‘i’s economy and natural environment and the health and lifestyle of its people and visitors. They replace native ecosystems, diminish fresh water quality and quantity, and increase disease and other human health concerns.

Invasive species have devastating impacts on our $600 million agricultural industry through crop damage and costly mitigation measures. Stinging ants, biting snakes, and other pests are also a threat to our $14.9 billion tourism industry.

The scope of the Hawai‘i Interagency Biosecurity Plan addresses all three biosecurity areas including pre-border (for example, agreements on handling and treatment of products before they enter the state), border (for example, inspection authorities and technologies), and post-border (for example, tools and capacity for response after invasive species have become established). The benefit of a comprehensive interagency plan is that it facilitates actions and policies across a wide range of agencies and partners. The plan includes roughly 150 action items assigned to various agencies and stakeholders, with specific details on how and when to best implement each action.

“We have to be smarter in using state resources by working together and collaborating across and within their agencies.  We just don’t have the financial and human resources to do it by ourselves, the problem is much greater than just a Department of Agriculture issue,” emphasized Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “This plan gives us the framework or path to better address and manage the problems of invasive species.”

“This is really an example of many hands working together to achieve the best outcome,” said Suzanne Case, chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Our environment, our food, and our people are all interconnected. Using a cross-sector approach is the best way we can work to protect Hawai‘i.”

The Hawai‘i Interagency Biosecurity Plan may be found on the HDOA website:

http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/biosecurityplan/

$65,000 Settlement in Hilo Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) Executive Director William Hoshijo today announced the settlement of a complaint brought by an employee against a Hilo business, alleging that her employer failed to reinstate her after a pregnancy-related disability leave, denied her a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy-related disability, and terminated her because of her pregnancy.

The employee claimed that after she informed her immediate supervisor that she was pregnant, her manager made negative and derogatory comments about the inconvenience caused by her pregnancy.  She was told by her manager that the company could not hire temporary employees to accommodate her need to take pregnancy-related leave.  Approximately 1½ weeks after beginning unpaid pregnancy-related disability leave, she was told to remove her things from the workplace to “make room” for two newly hired employees.  After giving birth and after being released to return to work by her physician, the company refused to reinstate the employee and terminated her employment.

Click to learn more

Hawaii’s fair employment law protects pregnant employees by requiring employers to provide leave for an employee who has a pregnancy-related disability, with or without pay, for a reasonable time to be determined by the employee’s physician.  State law also requires reinstatement to the pregnant employee’s original job or to a position of comparable status and pay when the employee is released to return to work after pregnancy-related disability leave.  Finally, state law prohibits termination because of pregnancy.

Employers are allowed to require a pregnant employee to obtain medical verification of her inability to work due to pregnancy-related disability.

Under the terms of settlement, the employer agreed to pay $65,000 to the employee, adopt a non-discrimination policy, and provide non-discrimination training for its supervisors and managers.  The case was settled in conciliation, after a determination that there was reasonable cause to believe that illegal discrimination occurred, but before litigation and before a final decision was issued by the Commission.

“Although the identity of the parties is confidential at this stage,” explained HCRC Executive Director Hoshijo, “the settlement serves as an important reminder that pregnancy discrimination is unlawful.” Hoshijo added, “We used to see more pregnancy discrimination complaints, but now see fewer as employees and employers learn more about their rights and responsibilities under our civil rights laws.”

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services.

If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of your sex, based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related disability, contact the HCRC at:  telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.

For more information on pregnancy discrimination, go to the HCRC webpage at:  http://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/files/2013/01/INFOpreg1.pdf.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Program
Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
TDD/TTY Dial 711 then ask for (808) 586-8866

New Coastal Lava Viewing Area Opens in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Park rangers opened a newly established lava viewing area at the Kamokuna ocean entry in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park today, following a two-day closure caused by a large lava delta collapse on New Year’s Eve.

New lava cascade at Kamokuna in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Monday, January 2. NPS Photo/J.Ferracane

The new viewing area is approximately 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs. Rangers, in conjunction with USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists, thoroughly assessed the area, and established the new viewing site with white rope lines and numerous signs that clearly mark hazardous closed areas.

Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs and park rangers.

Visitors who do not heed warnings not only endanger themselves but the lives of others, including our park rangers, who work tirelessly to ensure a safe visitor experience,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

Visitors begin the five-mile hike to Kamokuna shortly after the park opened the lava viewing area on Tuesday, January 3. Today marks the 34th anniversary of the eruption of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent on Kīlauea, the source of the lava flows going into the ocean today. NPS Photo/Janice Wei

After the delta collapse on New Year’s Eve, a group of five visitors ignored rangers and warning signs and slipped beneath the white rope lines into a closed area at the coast. Two park rangers had to chase after them, and made them turn around – 15 minutes before the area they were standing on collapsed into the ocean.

In addition to the threat of another land collapse, the toxic plume of volcanic particles and acidic gas generated by lava mixed with ocean water is very dangerous, and irritates the lungs, skin and eyes. Land collapses, which trigger tsunami-like waves, and the toxic gas plume, are also a serious threat to aircraft and boats. There is currently a 1,000-foot above-ground-level temporary flight restriction at Kamokuna.

HVO scientists estimate that nearly all of the 26-acre lava delta is now gone, along with more than four acres of older coastal cliff area, which included the former lava viewing site. The collapse on New Year’s Eve started in the afternoon and lasted several hours, creating blasts of volcanic rock and a series of damaging waves, in addition to a thick, dark plume of debris and gas.

It is closer from the east entrance to reach the new lava viewing area within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. From the east, or Kalapana/County of Hawai‘i side, visitors must hike about 4.2 miles one way along the gravel emergency access road. This entrance is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. From the park, or west side, visitors can hike out from the Coastal Ranger Station at the end of Chain of Craters Road, about five miles one-way. About one mile of the hike goes inland of the gas plume over hardened, uneven lava flows. The park entrance is open 24 hours a day.

Hikers need to be prepared for a long trek. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes or boots, gloves to protect the hands, and long pants to protect against lava rock abrasions.  Carry plenty of water (three to four quart/liters per person). Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Visitors who plan to stay after dark need a flashlight and/or headlight with extra batteries.

For hiking tips, visit the park website https://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/upload/Hiking-Tips.pdf. For County of Hawai‘i Lava Viewing information, call (808) 430-1966. For the latest eruption updates, visit the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php. Monitor air quality at http://www.hawaiiso2network.com/.

New Year’s Eve Delta Collapse Causes Temporary Closure at Kamokuna Ocean Entry

A large section of the 26-acre lava delta formed by the 61g lava flow collapsed into the ocean around 2:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, launching showers of volcanic rock into the air, and creating a flurry of large waves that eroded away a portion of the older sea cliff and viewing area.

As a result, the Kamokuna ocean entry within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will remain closed today as park rangers and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists survey the area. Rangers on duty New Year’s Day reported that the former viewing area is gone, and that loud cracks continue to be heard throughout the unstable area.

Although park rangers temporarily closed the Kamokuna lava viewing area last night, five visitors ducked beneath the white rope closure line and made a beeline for the coastal cliffs around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Eruption Crew Ranger Travis Delimont and a co-worker had to chase after them before they turned around.  Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where the visitors were standing crashed into the ocean.

“It was a really close brush with death for them,” Ranger Delimont said. “Luckily, they finally listened to us and turned around in time,” he said.

The lava viewing area will remain closed until it is determined safe to reopen. The County of Hawai‘i also closed the Kalapana access to the park.

“Fortunately, there were no aircraft or boats reported in the area at the time of the collapse, nor were any visitors on the delta itself, which is closed for public safety,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Had anyone been close by on land, water or air, lives would have surely been lost,” she said.

There is a temporary flight restriction of 1,000 feet above ground level at the Kamokuna ocean entry.

Lava deltas are extremely hazardous volcanic features and are formed when lava enters the ocean and builds new land on loose and unstable substrate. In addition to the threat of collapse, lava entering the ocean produces a highly a corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles that irritate the lungs, skin and eyes. Visitors are strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs.

Hawaii Receives First Waiver for Small Business Health Options Program Under Affordable Care Act

The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced today that Hawaiʻi has been granted a State Innovation Waiver under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The waiver applies only to the Small Business Health Options Program.

Click to read

Since 1974, Hawaiʻi’s Prepaid Health Care Act has required employers to offer healthcare insurance to employees working more than 20 hours per week and to pay the majority of the premium. These provisions offer Hawaiʻi residents greater coverage than the ACA.

“This action acknowledges the success of the state’s Prepaid Health Care Act in providing insurance to a majority of Hawaiʻi’s residents and the role it plays in the continued health of our citizens. We appreciate President Obama’s and Secretary Burwell’s leadership on this important issue and the Obama administration’s recognition that Hawaiʻi stands at the forefront in delivering affordable access to healthcare,” said Gov. Ige.

As part of this waiver, the federal government will provide additional federal funds for the Prepaid Health Care Act’s Premium Supplementation Program to replace the small business tax credits that would have been provided under ACA SHOP. This program helps qualified small businesses operating in Hawaiʻi pay for their portion of insurance premiums.

The waiver approval is effective for five years from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2021.

The waiver approval letter is posted online: https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/State-Innovation-Waivers/Downloads/Hawaii-1332-State-Innovation-Waiver-Approval-Letter-and-STCs-Final-123016.pdf

Individuals and families who do not currently have health insurance through their employer or a government program can sign up for coverage at healthcare.gov through January 31, 2017.

Zika Found in Hawaii Years Before Caribbean Outbreak

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) scientists have discovered that severe birth defects related to infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) occurred much earlier than in 2016, when the connection was first made between the virus and an increased likelihood of microcephaly during outbreaks of ZIKV infection in Brazil and Puerto Rico.

UH scientists published their findings in December in the scientific journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, adding to the potential evidence of a link between ZIKV infection and microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development and characterized by an abnormal smallness of the head.

Patient information and blood samples were collected voluntarily from mothers in Honolulu who delivered babies between 2007 and 2013 at the Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, a Hawaiʻi Pacific Health hospital affiliated with JABSOM. The samples were collected and stored at the UH Biorepository (UHB) after obtaining written informed consent from the mothers.

“As per the information in the UHB, no mothers gave birth to babies with microcephaly in 2007 and 2008,” said Vivek R. Nerurkar, chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology. “However, from 2009 onwards, we identified six mothers who gave birth to babies with microcephaly. Of the six, ZIKV antibodies were detected in three, fifty percent, of the mothers who delivered babies with microcephaly, suggesting presence of positive Zika virus cases and associated microcephaly in the United States as early as 2009.”

Potential changes to women’s health practices

Nerurkar believes the growing evidence of an association between ZIKV infection and the devastating brain damage in infants justifies a new practice in women’s health.

“We need to be more proactive in tracking pregnant women and testing for the ZIKV ahead of time (before birth),” he said. “It may be time for health care professionals to routinely caution newly pregnant mothers (or those planning to become pregnant) about the ZIKV, and offer pre-natal tests to detect for the presence of the virus.”

Ideally, Nerurkar said, families can plan for safe pregnancies by avoiding travel to areas of known ZIKV outbreaks. In 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have issued travel alerts about locations with confirmed, locally acquired Zika virus infections.

The UH researchers expressed their gratitude for the women who agreed to voluntarily donate blood and placenta samples to build the UH Biorepository archive. “This has been an indispensable resource in our research,” said Nerurkar.

Nerurkar leads a team of scientists at UH working to develop a vaccine for ZIKV infection as well as robust diagnostic assays to rapidly detect ZIKV and other mosquito-borne viral infections. After the award of a Zika emergency response grant this year from the National Institutes of Health, his team members are also working to understand how ZIKV infection in men makes them susceptible to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, even though the men may appear symptom-free.

Hawaii Partnership Aims to Teach Kids Importance of Dental Hygiene

In an effort to provide oral health services for students who need it, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaii Dental Association (HDA) are joining forces. The agencies have established a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to promote oral health by teaching students proper dental hygiene techniques and providing information about access to free dental health services.

Click to read memorandum

Dentists will be visiting HIDOE first and second grade classes on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island from Jan. 16-Feb. 28, 2017, which coincides with National Children’s Dental Health Month in February.

“When students do not get the health care they need we find that it affects their performance in school. This partnership is a huge step to provide services to many children who are not getting proper oral healthcare,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “As we work towards closing the achievement gap, we must look at the whole child and that includes their experiences outside of the classroom. We’re grateful to the Hawaii Dental Association for making this opportunity available for students.”

In October, the Hawaii Department of Health released “Hawaii Smiles,” a statewide report that showed a need for oral health improvement for Hawaii’s children. A few of the key findings included:

  • More than 7 out of 10 third graders (71 percent) are affected by tooth decay;
  • About 7 percent of Hawaii third grade children are in need of urgent dental care because of pain or infection;
  • Children from low-income families, as defined as those who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, have a disproportionate amount of tooth decay (about 31 percent of children eligible for National School Lunch Program have untreated tooth decay compared to 13 percent who are not eligible).

These efforts are also part of a national initiative from the American Dental Association to bring preventative education and dental services to underserved children, which include 92,000 economically disadvantaged public school students in Hawaii.

“The goal of this partnership is to educate children from a young age on the importance of proper dental care. We also want to raise awareness about services that provide free dental care so their families can encourage and foster these new habits,” shared Melissa Pavlicek, president, Hawaii Public Policy Advocates who coordinated the MOA on behalf of HDA.

In ensuring that students come to school healthy and ready to learn, Superintendent Matayoshi has made the health and wellbeing of public school students a priority. She has worked on other innovative partnerships and programs that range from proper nutrition to healthcare access. In 2014, HIDOE launched the “Hawaii Keiki” program with the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program builds school based health services that screen for treatable health conditions; help prevent and control communicable disease and other health problems; and provide emergency care for illness or injury.

Recently Released ‘Alalā Birds Found Dead

Less then two weeks after five ‘Alalā birds were released, three have been found dead:

Two young ‘Alalā were moved back into an aviary at the State of Hawai‘i’s Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve last week, as conservationists work to overcome challenges faced by the birds during their reintroduction. A group of five birds were released into the protected reserve on December 14. Although the birds had been observed doing well and eating from feeders placed in the area, three birds were found dead over the last week. The confirmed cause of the deaths is currently unknown but conservationists hope to gather information about what happened to the birds through necropsy examinations.

John Vetter, a wildlife biologist with the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Forestry and Wildlife said, “Some level of mortality is to be expected when reintroducing a species back into the wild and we were prepared for that possibility. The initial days of release are always the most difficult stage of any release program, and the level of uncertainty is also highest with the first release cohort. We decided to recapture the remaining birds to ensure their safety while we await the results of the necropsies, so that we can learn, respond, and continue to strive for the long-term success of the Alala.”

Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve is an area that conservationists have worked to preserve, protecting native plants and species, and it represents the type of habitat where ‘Alalā originally lived before their numbers began to decline. The ‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, preserved only at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers managed by San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program.

Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program remarked, “The loss of these three birds is difficult for the entire community, including the many people who have cared for these birds since their hatch and have worked steadfastly to prepare for their release. Condolences for this loss have come from around the world.”

President Signs Gabbard’s Talia’s Law to Strengthen Protections for Military Children

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after “Talia’s Law” was signed into law by President Obama:

“More than a decade after Talia Williams’s tragic death, there have been more than 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in military homes. Until now, the same gaps in the military’s reporting requirements that failed to protect Talia and so many other military children remained. Enactment of Talia’s Law closes these gaps by requiring the same protections that exist for any other child to also protect children in military families. While this cannot right the wrongs that failed to protect Talia, Talia’s Law honors her life by helping to get military children, and their families, the support and care they need and deserve,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Tarshia Williams’s daughter Talia Williams in Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States. The acknowledged role of Delilah Williams in the abuse of her stepdaughter Talia Williams helped keep her husband Naeem Williams from receiving the death penalty after he was convicted of murdering his daughter.

“My daughter went through so much pain and agony and I am so proud that Talia’s Law will prevent other kids from experiencing what my daughter went through. I am thankful and honored that my daughter’s legacy will live on through Talia’s Law, and I am grateful for everyone who played a part in getting her law passed, moving one step forward to saving a child’s life,” said Tarshia W. Hampton, Talia Williams’ mother who wrote the original concept of Talia’s Law. Tarshia brought the concept to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to introduce in Congress.

“Protection and early intervention can prevent situations like what Talia faced from happening again. By passing Talia’s Law, Child and Family Service (CFS) anticipates that all military personnel will become more empowered to follow all of the child welfare reporting mandates without fear of retaliation from their command, that child abuse and neglect will no longer be underreported, and that reporting will no longer be discouraged by the military’s chain of command,” said Amanda Pump, Program Administrator for Child & Family Service.

“Talia’s Law will create a further safety net to prevent a child from going through what happened to Talia. An issue of child abuse or neglect that goes unreported or underreported is a failure to allow for a child’s right to safety and a healthy childhood. Abuse of any household member is simply unacceptable. Talia’s Law will enforce early identification and response which is critical to the protection from further abuse. Thank you Congresswoman Gabbard for standing up for our children to assure that their safety and their basic needs are preserved,” said Ryan Kusumoto, President/CEO of Parents And Children Together.

Background: In 2005, five year old Talia Williams was beaten to death by her father, who was a soldier stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaiʻi. Leading up to her death, Talia suffered months of abuse from her father and stepmother. Despite multiple reports made to military officers, the case stayed within the military’s chain of command, and nothing was done to take Talia out of harm’s way.

Outside of the military, mandated reporters (generally, professionals that come into contact with children such as physicians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and others) are required to report any suspected cases of child abuse and neglect directly to State Child Protective Services. However, the military’s reporting requirements do not currently require the same direct reporting requirements to state authorities.

To close the communications gap that may exist between mandated reporters and those who may report to the State on their behalf, Talia’s Law:

  • Requires servicemembers and their dependents to immediately report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect to their installation Family Advocacy Program Office. These offices are tasked with the prevention, education, intervention, and investigation of spouse and child abuse.
  • Additionally requires servicemembers and their dependents to report any known or suspected child abuse directly to State Child Protective Services, or another appropriate state agency.

In February, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Talia’s Law (H.R. 3894), introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Mazie Hirono worked to include Talia’s Law in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law by President Obama on December 23.

Hawaii to Receive More Than $11 Million to Help the Homeless

Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Hawai‘i will receive 45 Continuum of Care (CoC) grants for 10 state, local and non-profit agencies totaling $11,519,682 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for fiscal year 2016.

“Homelessness is an urgent problem, and these funds will help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet and find a place to live,” said Senator Schatz. “As we work to address homelessness in Hawai‘i, I will continue to work with officials at HUD and elsewhere to make sure we receive our fair share of federal funding.”  

Click to view individual grant awards

The state received an increase of nearly $150,000 in CoC grants in FY2016 compared to last year.  The CoC Program promotes planning and strategic use of federal resources to address homelessness in communities across the country. CoC grants support non-profits, as well as state and local governments in rehousing homeless individuals and families, and support self-sufficiency among homeless individuals and families.

Hawaii Attorney General Sues Generic Prescription Drug Companies Over Inflated Drug Prices

Attorney General Doug Chin yesterday filed a federal lawsuit with 19 other states against generic drug makers Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Auribindo Pharma USA, Inc., Citron Pharma, LLC, Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. alleging they entered into conspiracies to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate prices and reduce competition for two drugs: doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic, and glyburide, a diabetes medication.

Attorney General Chin

Attorney General Chin said, “Hawaii citizens depend upon generic drugs and expect them to be cheaper than name brands. This multi-state lawsuit alleges a conspiracy among generic drug companies at the senior executive level to manipulate prices for profit. This type of corporate greed must stop.”

Last year, generic drug sales in the United States were estimated at $74.5 billion; currently, the generic pharmaceutical industry accounts for approximately 88 percent of all prescriptions written in the United States.

The 20 states allege that the misconduct was conceived and carried out by senior drug company executives and their subordinate marketing and sales executives. The companies allegedly coordinated their schemes at industry trade shows, customer conferences and other events, as well as through direct email, phone and text message communications. The states allege that the anticompetitive conduct – including efforts to fix and maintain prices, allocate markets and otherwise thwart competition – caused significant, harmful and continuing effects in the country’s healthcare system.

The lawsuit further alleges that the drug companies knew their conduct was illegal and made efforts to avoid communicating with each other in writing or, in some instances, to delete written communications after becoming aware of the investigation. The states have asked the court to enjoin the companies from engaging in illegal, anti-competitive behavior and for equitable relief, including substantial financial relief, to address the violations of law and restore competition.

In addition to Hawaii, the plaintiff states in this lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

The lawsuit was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Kohala Farm to School Initiative Pilot Project Develops Recipes with More Fresh Food

The Lieutenant Governor’s pilot project for the Farm to School Initiative is well underway in the Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Kohala Complex on the island of Hawaii. Chef Greg Christian, president and founder of Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners has been selected to work with Cafeteria Manager Priscilla Galan and her staff to bring delicious local, fresh scratch-cooked food to students.

Chef Greg with Cafeteria Staff

Chef Greg and Cafeteria Manager Galan have been working to develop recipes that incorporate more fresh food that kids both love and are familiar with into the daily menu as well as revamping favorites such as pizza and kalua pig with cabbage.

Taste testings on the experimental menu based on recipes co-created by the cafeteria staff and Chef Greg are conducted daily at the Kohala Complex schools. Some dishes that a number of classes have taste tested include a new pizza recipe, pork adobo with ulu/garlic crisp, chicken adobo sliders with green papaya, and more. Produce for the experimental menu is being sourced from various local farms and markets.

“We are excited to be working with the Kohala Elementary, Middle, and High schools in bringing more local home-style cooked meals into the cafeteria,” said Chef Greg.

“The integration of locally produced foods into the lunches of area schools is a wonderful way to connect students with their farming community,” said Scott Enright, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.  “When students are exposed to Hawaii’s farm fresh agricultural products and learn to appreciate the taste and freshness, they will help the State grow the demand for local agricultural commodities.”

Along with creating a menu, Chef Greg, and his team are also collecting data, analyzing costs, inventory and purchasing systems as well analyzing kitchen staff efficiencies versus inefficiencies, among other things.

“This is a significant step forward for the Farm to School Initiative,” said Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, who spearheads the initiative. “It took many years to get to this stage, especially for our many community stakeholders, such as The Kohala Center, who had already been working on bringing more local food to our school menus.”

The goal of the initiative is to positively influence the relationship our keiki have with their food and the aina by increasing breakfast and lunch participation, boosting the purchase of locally grown food for school meals, and cultivating connections between our schools and local agricultural communities.

In early November, Lt. Governor Tsutsui, HIDOE, Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), State Procurement Office (SPO) and The Kohala Center (TKC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to allow for policy to be created to guide Farm to School activities in all HIDOE schools, including but not limited to purchasing locally grown food and ingredients, menu modifications, kitchen staff training on scratch-cooking, food waste, and growing food for cafeteria use, among other key components. This pilot program tests localized purchasing and seeks to change the way food is purchased, prepared and delivered.

“This pilot is an exciting opportunity for the Hawaii State Department of Education where we prioritize purchasing local products as a food resource,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We look forward to learning from this collaborative initiative that is focused on our Kohala schools in hopes of bringing it to more schools across the state.”

While executing farm to school strategies that improve student nutrition, supports local businesses and expands agricultural career opportunities for our students, the pilot project will serve as a learning laboratory that conceptualizes a statewide farm to school program within the DOE by December 2018.  This project reaffirms the state’s commitment to improving student wellness and aims to further invigorate Hawaii’s agricultural communities.  The next phase of the project will begin next school year in a larger school complex area on Maui island.

“The pilot project is an opportunity to test innovations in school food preparation, menu development, and buying fresh, local food to improve child nutrition,” said Anna-Lisa Okoye, chief operating officer of The Kohala Center. “By transitioning to student-approved, scratched-cooked meals, the pilot will enhance the quality, nutrition, and taste of school meals while also supporting local agriculture. We appreciate the farm to school advocates from the public and private sectors who have made this pilot possible.”

Across the nation, farm-to-school programs are reconnecting students to a better understanding of the food system and where their food comes from. Farm to school programs introduce students to healthier eating habits and help them become familiar with new vegetables and fruits that they and their families will then be more willing to incorporate into their own diets.

The Farm to School Initiative is a public-private partnership with the Lt. Governor’s office, HDOA, Hawaii State Department of Health, HIDOE, Dorrance Family Foundation, Hawaii Appleseed, Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, The Kohala Center and Ulupono Initiative.

For more information, go to http://ltgov.hawaii.gov/farm-to-school-initiative/

Hawaii Ranks First for Health in the Nation

Hawaii is ranked as the healthiest state according to the United Health Foundation’s 2016 America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities released today. This year is the 27th anniversary of the rankings, which provide a state-by-state analysis of available health data to determine national benchmarks and state rankings. During the 27 years in which the rankings were conducted, Hawaii’s rank has varied from first to sixth place.

“The department is pleased with Hawaii’s top ranking which reflects our state’s focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles and protecting our environment,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “However, while our state scored well among most of the report’s measures, we must remember that some health areas and population groups are not always captured in the data. We need to pay attention to groups that aren’t enjoying good health status so that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy and full life.”

Recent health improvements in Hawaii described in the report include a 4 percent decrease in drug-related deaths over the last two years, and a 38 percent increase in vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) among girls 13 to 17 years old in the last year. Hawaii also has low percentage of population without insurance with only 5 percent (or about 1 in 20 people) lacking health insurance, compared with over 10 percent nationally.

While Hawaii has fared well compared to other states, the report is limited by available data, such as low screening rates for some health conditions. According to the report, diabetes is said to have decreased by 13 percent over the last year, however the data reflects only diagnosed cases of diabetes. When including undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes, it is estimated that more than half (54 percent) of Hawaii’s population has type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.

“We are only now beginning to understand the pervasiveness of type 2 diabetes in our state,” said Lola Irvin, Administrator for the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division.
“As we improve screening rates, we expect to see a sharp increase in the number of people living with diabetes and prediabetes.”

Highlights of Hawaii’s health ranking include a low prevalence of obesity at 23 percent compared with 30 percent nationally. However, when including those who are overweight, more than half of Hawaii’s adult population (57 percent) is overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with a higher risk of preventable chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes.  Among some population groups, Hawaii data shows a high correlation between obesity rates and diagnosed diabetes and prediabetes rates, with Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) and Filipinos having the highest rates. More than 61% of Hawaii adults—or 3 in 5—are living with at least one chronic disease or condition such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

The report shows that other areas where Hawaii can improve include higher-than-average rates of excessive drinking, a recent increase in violent crimes, and high rates of Salmonella infection. Details of the determinants and outcomes that make up Hawaii’s top ranking are available at www.americashealthrankings.org.

EPA Files Complaint Against Syngenta for Farmworker Safety Violations on Kauai

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint alleging that Syngenta Seeds, LLC violated numerous federal pesticide regulations meant to protect agricultural workers at its crop research farm in Kekaha, Kauai. EPA is seeking civil penalties of over $4.8 million for the violations.

Click to read full lawsuit

On January 20, 2016, 19 workers entered a Syngenta field recently sprayed with a restricted use organophosphate insecticide. Ten of these workers were taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Restricted use pesticides are not available to the general public because of their high toxicity, potential for harm and impact on the environment.

“Reducing pesticide exposure is a high priority, as it directly affects the health of farmworkers,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA is committed to enforcing the federal law that protects those who spend long hours in the fields. We appreciate working with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to respond to this serious incident.”

The company named in the complaint does business as Syngenta Hawaii, LLC., a subsidiary of Syngenta AG, a global enterprise that produces chemicals and seeds. The EPA complaint states that Syngenta misused the pesticide “Lorsban Advanced,” and it failed in its duties to adequately implement the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act’s Worker Protection Standard.

Specifically, EPA alleges that Syngenta failed to notify its workers to avoid fields recently treated with pesticides. The company then allowed or directed workers to enter the treated field before the required waiting period had passed, and without proper personal protective equipment. After the workers’ exposure, Syngenta failed to provide adequate decontamination supplies onsite and failed to provide prompt transportation for emergency medical attention.

An inspector from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture was present at the Syngenta facility when the exposure incident occurred, prompting the State’s immediate investigation. In March, HDOA referred the matter to EPA for follow-up investigation and enforcement. In April, EPA inspectors conducted a series of inspections, which led to the complaint.

The active ingredient in “Lorsban Advanced” is chlorpyrifos, which in small amounts may cause a runny nose, tears, sweating, or headache, nausea and dizziness. More serious exposures can cause vomiting, muscle twitching, tremors and weakness. Sometimes people develop diarrhea or blurred vision. In severe cases, exposure can lead to unconsciousness, loss of bladder and bowel control, convulsions, difficulty in breathing, and paralysis. Symptoms can appear within minutes and may last days or weeks.

For EPA’s complaint please visit: https://www.epa.gov/hi/matter-syngenta-seeds-llc-dba-syngenta-hawaii-llc

For more information on pesticide Worker Protection Standard visit: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps

Hawaii Special Olympics Athletes Benefit From Hawaiian Electric Donation

As one of the company’s “125 Acts of Aloha” commemorating its 125th anniversary, Hawaiian Electric has donated $10,000 to Special Olympics Hawaii, the nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Tayne Sekimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president/chief financial officer, presented the check to the organization during a Special Olympics Young Athlete event at Kaiser High School.

“Every person should have the opportunity to learn, enjoy, and benefit from participation in individual and team sports,” said Sekimura, an avid runner who recently joined the Special Olympics Hawaii board in April.

“The Special Olympics program was founded on a firm belief that there are no limits to the capabilities of people with intellectual challenges. They can participate in a wide variety of recreational experiences and benefit from it as well. Our company applauds the organization in Hawaii for providing these athletes with the proper training and skills to grow their confidence, and ultimately, to shine.”

“We are extremely grateful to be one of Hawaiian Electric’s 125 Acts of Aloha for their 125th anniversary celebration” said Nancy Bottelo, Special Olympics Hawaii president and CEO. “It is through the generosity of corporations like Hawaiian Electric that we are able to continue to transform the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families.”