News Briefs | July 2020

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Resilience in Native Hawaiians May Lead to Better Health

Native Hawaiians who have higher levels of resilience may also have better health, according to new public health research from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Researchers led by Mapuana C.K. Antonio, an assistant professor in Native Hawaiian and Indigenous health at the University’s Office of Public Health Studies have developed a new scale to measure resilience in Native Hawaiians. The study involved 124 Native Hawaiian participants. The researchers compared the participants’ resilience scores with their self-reported health.

“Resilience is complicated to measure,” Antonio said. For the study the team expanded on traditional measures of resilience, mostly internal, which look at a person’s ability to overcome adversity and persevere in times of difficulty.

They developed a new measure that takes into account the Indigenous perspective of resilience, which places high value on relationships. “For Native Hawaiians, health and resilience involves cultural identity and a sense of harmony between the physical, spiritual, social and emotional self, to include the outside world,” said Antonio.

Participants who scored higher on the new resilience scale also reported higher levels of general health, mental health and physical functioning.

Native Hawaiians face adversity stemming from colonization and historical trauma, including discrimination, health disparities and lower socioeconomic status. The new scale can be used in future research on Native Hawaiian health that uses a strength-based approach, meaning research that focuses on the positive aspects of the community, rather than targeting deficits.

The findings are published online in the journal Behavioral Medicine.

Businesses Team Up to Cover Expenses For Families Impacted by COVID-19

In early June, local businesses MANAOLA, Honua Consulting and American Savings Bank (ASB) teamed up to donate relief funds to Hawaiÿi families impacted by COVID-19. The funding will pay for household goods, groceries and prescription medicines. The donated funds were administered by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and distributed through their Kahiau and Hoÿāla Programs.

“We have been blessed all these years to have the unwavering support of our community,” said Manaola Yap. “This was our opportunity to return that support and we are overjoyed to do so.”

Honua Consulting owner Trisha Kehaulani Watson jumped at the opportunity to join MANAOLA in their effort. “I have been deeply worried about our many local ÿohana with family members who need regular prescription medicine. Families should never have to choose between buying food or buying the medicine they need to survive.”

Upon hearing of the effort, ABS joined in matching the donations from the other companies. “We are honored to be a part of this effort and hope that it will help those facing financial hardship in our community,” said Beth Whitehead, ASB Executive Vice President.

Noted CNHA CEO Kühiö Lewis, “This funding will go a long way to help our families. This support will fill critical needs and gaps in existing support.”

New Hawaiian Studies Chair Honors Naone Hall

Photo: Naone Hall

The Laurence H. Dorcy Hawaiian Foundation has donated $3.2 million to establish the Dana Naone Hall Endowed Chair in Hawaiian Studies, Literature and the Environment at the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. The new endowed chair is named in honor of Naone Hall, a revered Native Hawaiian poet and environmental activist.

Hawaiʻinuiākea Dean, Jonathan Osorio, said, “Through this endowment we will teach new generations of Hawaiians about their ancestors who honed social, environmental and cultural management skills over a thousand years. Powerful, fearless community leaders like Dana Naone Hall have been key to the perpetuation of Hawaiian knowledge over the last 50 years as they worked tirelessly to protect our oceans, streams and forests from urbanization and tourist-driven development.”

Naone Hall is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and UH Mānoa. She was the editor of The Hawaiʻi Review and has published poetry in national and international literary journals. In 2017 she authored Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

“This chair will contribute continuous research in Indigenous land and resource management in Hawaiʻi, building a platform for policy change in keeping with its namesake,” adds Osorio. “Naone Hall shaped history by leading changes in practices and laws through her protection of a Maui Native Hawaiian burial site. She brought environmental and cultural values into political activism, culminating in the protection of sacred places.”

Hawaiʻi Residents Recognize COVID-19 as a Serious Concern

A statewide survey commissioned by the Department of Health reveals that 93% of Hawaiʻi residents consider COVID-19 to be a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” health concern, and 75% view it as a real danger to themselves or others living in their household. However, only 44% of respondents say they are practicing social distancing guidelines “all of the time.”

There were notable differences in perceptions between the neighbor islands and Oʻahu, with 81% of neighbor islanders saying they consider COVID-19 to be a “very serious” concern, versus 69% of Oʻahu residents.

“The findings provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of our efforts to educate our community about the disease. This is especially important as we begin to reopen parks, businesses and other places where people congregate,” said Bruce Anderson, Director of Health. “For our state to fully reopen and start the road to economic recovery, all of our residents must recognize the seriousness of the pandemic and be willing to make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent a second wave of increased cases.”

The survey results validate that the DOH is reaching a majority of Hawaiʻi residents with its messages related to COVID-19 mitigation practices.

Land Board Says No to Aquarium Pet Trade

In a milestone decision, the State of Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources has unanimously rejected an environmental impact statement aimed at reopening the aquarium pet trade in West Hawaiʻi Island. The Board’s decision effectively leaves intact a moratorium on commercial aquarium collection along the Kona Coast, vindicating reef advocates.

“This is a huge win for my family and our way of life,” said Miloliʻi fisherman Willie Kaupiko, who has been fighting for over 30 years to protect West Hawaiʻi reefs from the damaging effects of the aquarium trade. “I see hope for the next generation, and I know that they will continue to carry on what I have fought to protect all these years.”

For decades, commercial aquarium collectors routinely extracted hundreds of thousands of endemic and indigenous Hawaiian reef fish annually, exporting them via air freight to aquarium hobbyists across the country. Although the Board’s decision extends the moratorium on aquarium collection in West Hawaiʻi, the state has continued to allow the industry to extract an unlimited number of fish annually in East Hawaiʻi and elsewhere throughout the state. This ongoing illegal collection prompted Earthjustice to file a parallel lawsuit which was heard before the state Environmental Court on June 24th.

SNAP Benefits Threatened During Pandemic

Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare E. Connors joined a coalition of 24 Attorneys General and the City of New York urging Congress to block the Trump administration’s attempt to cut food assistance for millions. The coalition urges the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to suspend finalizing a proposed rule that would cut SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to 700,000 Americans by restricting States from extending benefits beyond the three-month limit, removing 3.1 million Americans from SNAP by making it harder to qualify for benefits, and reducing benefit amounts for certain households.

The coalition argues that, especially during this unprecedented time of economic turmoil due to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress should work to protect and expand our nation’s largest anti-hunger program. “We should be collectively working towards making sure everyone has access to nutritious food,” said Attorney General Connors. “It is imperative, even more so during a pandemic, that we oppose rules cutting food-assistance to millions of Americans.”

The Trump Administration’s proposed rule would limit needy families’ access to SNAP, a crucial lifeline that could prevent families from going hungry at a time when more than 258,000 Hawaiʻi residents have filed, and continue to file, for unemployment.

Previously known as “food stamps,” SNAP is America’s most important anti-hunger program and critical to helping lift people out of poverty.