Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Should doctors write job prescriptions?

April 25, 2017

Last month, news of Hawaii’s homeless challenge gained national attention on HBO’s Vice News (Hawaii News Now, 3/30/17). The 5-minute segment spotlights that “Hawaii legislators are debating whether to classify homelessness as an illness and housing as a treatment. (via HBO).” This Vice News report is not the kind of attention that Hawaii wants, but maybe it’s the attention that Hawaii needs.

Correspondent Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani interviewed four people to get their perspectives on the proposal to redefine homelessness as a medical condition. Gary Grinker, who is chronically homeless and has a heart condition; he visited the emergency room 241 times in 2016, costing taxpayers $1.2 million in healthcare. Senator Josh Green, who introduced a bill to redefine chronic homelessness as a disease and allow doctors to write prescriptions for housing. Representative Bob McDermott, who believes that Hawaii has “turned the safety net into a hammock.” And Dr. Daniel Cheng, an emergency room doctor at Queen’s Medical Center, which handles two-thirds of all homeless encounters in Hawaii.

I had three successive reactions to the news report.

First, doctors’ first responsibility is to take care of patients’ physical and mental health. A “prescription” for housing would probably involve time filling out forms and coordinating with social workers – time that doctors need to help patients.

Second, having a home may not make people more responsible for their health or reduce emergency room visits. It may even exacerbate health conditions, if people have health emergencies in their home and are unable or unwilling to seek help.

Third, if a solution to rising healthcare costs and chronic disease were housing, we would have more people living in shelters and healthier people at home. But in Hawaii, an alarming 82% of adults have at least one chronic disease or condition and 53% have two or more chronic diseases (heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, asthma, disability, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or obesity), according to the Department of Health’s “Chronic Disease Disparities Report 2011: Social Determinants.”

Instead of a “prescription” for housing, maybe doctors should write a “prescription” for a job.  Research shows that employment increases health status and healthy people are more likely to work, according to a Lead Center Policy Brief, “The Impact of Employment on the Health Status and Health Care Costs of Working-age People with Disabilities” (2015).

“Work is at the very core of contemporary life for most people, providing financial security, personal identity, and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to community life,” according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) factsheet, “Facts about mental illness and work” (1999).

A job gives people dignity as well as a paycheck. Doctors can assess a person’s physical and mental ability to work, and offer a referral to an employer – who could assess their skills, experience, and trustworthiness.

Do you think that we can reduce healthcare costs by prescribing housing? Could having a job help people be healthier?

Celebrate Earth Day 2017

April 18, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and year-round with events, beach clean-ups, recycling, and more. This year, Earth Day spotlights Environmental and Climate Literacy. Let’s all educate ourselves, take action, and make small changes to be better stewards of Hawaii.

Enjoy an Earth Day event in Honolulu

  • On Wednesday, April 19, attend the Earth Day Festival at University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Campus Center, 10 am to 3 pm. On Friday, April 21, stop by Earth Fest ’17 at Kaiser High School, 1:30 pm to 8 pm. On Saturday, April 22, participate in the free Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo at the Waikīkī Aquarium, 9 am to 2 pm. On Sunday, April 23, go to the Earth Day Weekend Service and Green Fair, 9:30 am to 1 pm, at Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin.

Clean our community by getting dirty around Oahu

There are so many opportunities help clean our beaches, improve our schools, and help with planting. Remember to bring a reusable water bottle, use sun protection, wear closed toe shoes, and choose clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

  • On Saturday, April 22: Volunteer for the Pūpūkea Paumalū Community Work Day, 9 am to 11 am at Sunset Beach Elementary School, helping to restore the trail from Sunset Beach Elementary School to the pillbox. Meet in the SBES lower parking lot. Contact for details. Join the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi Earth Day Event, 9 am to 2 pm at Waimānalo Bay Beach Park. Buses begin departing at 9:30 to different locations nearby. Help out at the Garden of Eden Community Workday, 9 am to 1 pm, Blanche Pope Elementary School, Waimānalo, to help spread mulch and plant trees.
  • On Sunday, April 23: Show your love of nature at the Waimea Valley Workday, 9 am to 3 pm in Waimea Valley. Volunteers are needed to help with native planting, invasive species control, and a new sediment control project on Kalaheʻe Ridge. Email Laurent to RSVP.

Learn about litter, illegal dumping, and environmental enforcement

  • On Tuesday, April, 25, attend the Hawai‘i Environmental Court Workshop, 1 pm to 5:30 pm, at the UH Mānoa Richardson School of Law. The workshop is free and open to the public and will focus on “O‘ahu Litter, Illegal Dumping and Community Environment Enforcement.” Register online.

Clean up your clutter

  • Drop off recyclables, gently used items, and more at the Going Green event on Saturday, April 22, 9 am to 1 pm, at Kapolei High School; and at the Aloha ʻĀina Recycling Drive on Saturday, April 29, 9 am to noon at Moanalua Elementary & Middle School.

Mālama the Honolulu Zoo

  • On Saturday, April 29, attend the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and help pull weeds and plant seeds at the Children’s Discovery Forest Work Day, 9 am to 11 am at the Honolulu Zoo. Meet at the Honolulu Zoo’s Gate #6 across the Waikiki Shell parking lot at 8:30 am. Then spend the afternoon at the Zoo.

Bring your own bag (BYOB) to Foodland

  • When you shop at Foodland and bring your own bags, Foodland is offering customers a $.05 bag credit or 3 Hawaiian Miles for every bag used. During April 2017, you can choose to donate your $.05 bag credit to the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation.

Plan your own Earth Day event

  • Host an Earth Day barbeque or picnic at the beach – any day of the year. The Earth Day Network offers a free downloadable Earth Day Action Toolkit to help you organize and coordinate Earth Day events in your community.

How will you celebrate Earth Day?

Giving back on Giving Tuesday

November 29, 2016


Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. It’s a reprieve and balance to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, which focus on shopping. Last year, over 700,000 people raised $116 million online in over 70 countries.

There are so many charities that are doing good works and so many worthwhile causes to support. It can be overwhelming. So I’d like to share 5 causes and nonprofits that I support and what makes them so meaningful to me.

* Reading. “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them,” said author Neil Gaiman. I support my local library with gently-used books, so they can continue to add books to the library and sponsor community programs. Reading is important – to teach, to inspire, to share different points of view. I love to read, and I want to share my love of reading with others.

* Education. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” declared revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela. I support our public schools with money, goods, or my time. My son attends a public elementary school in Honolulu, and I want to show him that education is important. I also give back to my college every year, because college is important to career-readiness and lifelong learning.

* Human services. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” proclaimed diarist Anne Frank. I support my local American Red Cross because they help keep our communities resilient, offering disaster preparedness and assistance. I have taken a disaster readiness class and my son has participated in their free summer swimming lessons, and I appreciate what they do here in Hawaii and around the world.

* International aid. “As you get older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others,” said actress Audrey Hepburn. I strongly believe that we should help people help themselves, and micro-finance lets small donors make a big difference. I support because they help people borrow money to start or expand a business, go to school, or improve their lives (donors can lend as little as $25). I support Heifer International because they help farmers feed their families and communities, with gifts of basic needs, crop seeds, farm animals, community projects, and support for small businesses.

* Animal welfare. “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” stated activist and political leader Mahatma Gandhi. I support the Hawaiian Humane Society because animals need care. I give a little each year in memory of my cat Oscar, who taught me about responsibility (thinking about someone else first) and confidence (though I could never win our staring contests).

Which charities and nonprofits are you passionate about? Will you choose to give on Giving Tuesday?

A “road diet” plan for Hawaii

November 22, 2016

Complete Streets 2016The City and County of Honolulu released the “Complete Streets Design Manual” (September 2016), a guide book that will ensure that our streets and public spaces can meet everyone’s transportation needs. It is well-designed, with photos of real streets and diagrams of different design ideas.

Skimming through the Design Manual, one of the easiest and most economical ideas to improve pedestrian safety and reduce the risks of an accident is the Advance Stop Line, a solid white line that are up to 20 feet from the crosswalk, instead of the typical 4-6 feet (section 5.3.6). It lets drivers see pedestrians more easily and gives them more time to slow down.

Speaking from personal experience. one of the worst “traffic calming” ideas to slow traffic speed and eliminate the need for traffic lights is a Roundabout, a circular intersection where traffic flows counterclockwise around a central island (section 4.10.4). In my opinion, roundabouts are confusing and stressful because there is no clear right-of-way. It only benefits those bold drivers and pedestrians who enter the roundabout without hesitation, while less aggressive drivers and pedestrians wait anxiously to enter the roundabout safely.

What caught my attention is the idea of a “road diet” – the narrowing or removal of traffic lanes to encourage vehicles to slow down. The “reclaimed” lane can be used for wider sidewalks, landscaped spaces, bicycle lanes, parklets, or on-street parking (section 3.10).

At a time when Hawaii has more people, more cars, and more traffic than ever, Honolulu plans to deliberately reduce roadways where appropriate. But to further increase safety, reduce accidents, and encourage alternate means of transportation (walking, bicycling, or rail transit) we may all need to go on a more drastic “Road Diet.”

Hawaii’s “Road Diet” Plan will involve more than just cutting down on the number of lanes or width of lanes on the roads. It will probably be painful and divisive. Here are some “Road Diet” options:

* Revising the Driver Education program. We already updated driver education programs to show the dangers of texting while driving. The next step is promoting pedestrian awareness with a driver’s education course that rigs a mannequin to dart in front of the driver or suddenly move into the driver’s lane from the other side of a parked car.

* Creating trade-in programs. To encourage people to walk, bike, ride-share, or take the bus, we could create a trade-in program so that bicycle users could trade in their old bike for a new bike or motorized scooter. In addition, we could create a trade-in program so that car owners could get a free bike or scooter if they sell or donate their car and agree not to buy a replacement car for at least one year.

* Limiting the number of cars per household. We may need to limit the number of motor vehicles allowed per household, or perhaps drastically increase the vehicle registration fees for additional vehicles in a household. Personally, I don’t like having my transportation choices limited, but diets are not supposed to be easy.

* Capping the number of cars in Hawaii. We could put a cap on the number of personal motor vehicles imported into Hawaii.

I realize these issues are outside of the scope of the Complete Streets Design Manual, but they are logical steps to dealing with traffic, limited land, and a growing population.

Which traffic safety improvements to you think are effective – and which are problematic? Do you think that Hawaii needs to go on a more drastic “Road Diet”?

Celebrating National Philanthropy Day

November 15, 2016

National Philanthropy Day

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

November 15 is National Philanthropy Day, a day to honor and appreciate the charitable work that everyone does to make a difference in our communities.

Hawaii’s people are incredibly generous, with 93.3% of Hawaii’s households making some type of charitable donation in 2014, according to “A Report on Charitable Giving in Hawaii” (2015). This includes donations of cash, goods, and volunteered time. The average donation made by Hawaii households was $2,024 for 2014.

If you are looking for a way to maximize your giving, today is also the start of the annual Aloha for Hawaii Charities campaign. When you donate to a participating Hawaii charity, your donation gets a bonus boost with funds from the Friends of Hawaii Charities and the Sony Open. Donations up to $3,000 will receive a boost! The campaign runs from November 15, 2016 through January 15, 2017.

With so many worthwhile causes, philanthropy can be overwhelming. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) offers five “Ps” for wise giving:

  1. Passionate. Support the charities and causes that you are important to you. The more passionate you are about the cause, the more likely you are to get involved beyond just giving money.
  2. Proactive. Reach out to charities and organizations, instead of waiting for them to ask you for help.
  3. Prepare. Learn about the charities and nonprofits that you support. Look for consistent management; pay attention to fundraising and program costs.
  4. Plan. Budget how, how much, and how often you want to give. Consider spreading your giving or your time throughout the year, instead of during the winter holidays.
  5. Powerful. Make the most of your gift-giving by looking for matching gifts, using an affinity credit card, or just saying “no” to donor thank-you gifts.

Which issues and causes are you passionate about? What makes you decide to support a charity or nonprofit?

Homelessness in Hawaii

October 25, 2016

No Room in Paradise

Last week I watched the 90-minute documentary, “No Room In Paradise” (2016) on Hawaii News Now. Filmmakers Anthony Aalto and Mike Hinchey of Green Island Films followed Justin Phillips, homeless outreach field manager for the Institute of Human Services (IHS), as he visited homeless communities around Oahu. The documentary showed the many faces of the homeless, including minimum-wage earners who can’t afford a home to single-mothers, substance-abusers and the mentally ill, Micronesians, veterans, newly-released prisoners, and tent city residents.

After watching the documentary, I was saddened and thoughtful. It made me appreciate everything that I have. My 10-year old son was subdued. I commented that we are lucky to have a home and pointed out how using drugs can destroy lives.

Here are some observations and ideas that I hope will spark discussions:

* Touch is important. We all need human contact. Justin constantly reached out and touched people on the shoulder, showing that he cares and that he is not afraid to touch them. He looks at them directly and turns his body towards them to show that he is listening.

* Family matters — community. In the film, a substance-abuser went back to her family on the mainland, and a single mother who had a subsidized apartment was lonely for the homeless camp community. This made me question whether giving someone their own home is really the answer for everyone. Instead of finding single-family apartments, maybe we could match two compatible families. For example, two single mothers could share an apartment, providing each other with friendship, support, security, and childcare assistance. A case manager could help the families come up with a co-housing agreement that covers “house rules” and chores.

* Family matters — marriage. In the film, a woman was pregnant, homeless, and already caring for other children. However, I can’t remember any mention of a father for the children, a husband, or a boyfriend. Public assistance programs seem to discourage marriage, but marriage is important for mental health and financial stability, especially when there are children. Maybe we could encourage marriage by 1) offering a one-time, one-year only tax credit for couples with one or more children who get married; and 2) following it up with a one-time, one-year only tax credit for couples who are still married after five years.

* Make current housing available. People complain that we are not building enough new, affordable housing. An alternate solution is to make the housing we do have more available for Hawaii residents. While I hate to advocate for any tax increase, maybe we need to impose an exorbitantly high tax on non-resident purchases of homes or apartments. This would discourage out-of-state and international buyers from buying residences in Hawaii, either as part-time homes or investments, and free those homes for Hawaii residents. It wouldn’t cost government anything, and the money from the tax could be designated for the affordable housing fund.

Have you ever been homeless? Do you know anyone who is homeless or on the verge of homelessness? What can we do to make a difference?

2016 Make a Difference Day in Hawaii

October 18, 2016

Make a Difference Day 2016

October 22 is Make a Difference Day, a national day of community service. Every year, thousands of volunteers across the country dedicate time to improving their communities and the lives of others.

Making a difference starts at home, at school, and at work. You don’t need to wait for one day in the year to make a difference. Start a new tradition and create your own Make a Difference Day event! For children and youth, there’s a helpful guide to become leaders and changemakers in their communities.

Here are just some of the Make a Difference Day events taking place in Hawaii on Saturday, October 22. Find one that matches your passion!

Make a difference on Oahu:

* Honolulu, 6 am to 11:30 am: Walk or run on a 3-mile course at Ke‘ehi Lagoon Beach Park to support Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Celebrate survivorship and help raise money for breast cancer research.

* Honolulu, 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm: Learn how to be an Animal Hero! Students in grades 6-12 can register for a class at the Hawaiian Humane Society ($25 tuition) to learn how to create projects that help animals in their community.

* Kaneohe, 8 am to noon: Malama He‘eia from mauka to makai. Kupu is hosting a community work day in the He‘eia ahupua‘a, partnering with three local organizations — Paepae O Heʻeia (fishpond restoration), Papahana Kuaola (forest and stream restoration), and Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi (lo‘i restoration). Register online and meet at 46-077 Ipuka Street.

* Mililani, 10 am to 1 pm: Celebrate “Character Counts” in our Mililani community. At the Mililani High School Cafeteria, public schools in Mililani will celebrate character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship – with free entertainment, games, and information booths.

* Waikiki, 9 am to pau: Help keep Waikiki Beach beautiful. The Waikiki Improvement Association is hosting a Waikiki Beach Clean-Up Day. Meet at Duke’s Statue at Kūhio Beach Park. Transportation will be provided to other clean up areas.

Make a difference on Kauai:

* Lihue, 7:30 am to noon: Join the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park for a community work day. Register online and meet at the Kamalani Pavilion.

Make a difference on Maui:

* Wailea, 7 am to 11 am: Join the Maui Spirit of Survival Walk Against Breast Cancer for 3 mile walk starting and ending at Polo Beach. Show your aloha and help raise money for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

How will you make a difference in Hawaii?