Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director
We are very excited to announce that Governor Ige has signed three lifesaving bills into law. We can't thank our dedicated advocates enough for their help in passing these bills. We are happy that a few of you could join us for the bill signing. Big thanks to Dr. Char and stroke survivor Chris McLachlin for their help on HB 589. The families involved with HB 467 we thank you for sharing your stories with lawmakers. They truly made a difference and helped make clear why pulse oximetry screening is so important.
House Bill 467/Act 212 requires all Hawaii birthing centers to screen newborns for critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs) using a tool called pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the most common birth defects in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects.
Babies discharged with an undiagnosed CCHD are at risk for having serious problems within the first few days or weeks of life and often require emergency care. Pulse oximetry, is a non-invasive, inexpensive test that consists of sensors placed on a baby's hand and/or foot to check blood oxygen levels. The screening can identify some infants with a CCHD before they show any signs. Once identified, babies with a CCHD can be seen by cardiologists and can receive specialized care and treatment that could prevent death or disability early in life.
House Bill 589/Act 211 establishes a state stroke registry and require all acute stroke care hospitals to collect and submit stroke data to the State Department of Health (DOH). The DOH would then compile and share reports based on the data with the state’s Stroke Coalition, which includes representatives from acute stroke care hospitals, EMS agencies, the DOH and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The Coalition members would use the data to identify weaknesses in Hawaii’s stroke system of care and work to improve it with the goal of speeding patient access to the best available care and improving long-term health outcomes.
Senate Bill 1030/Act 122 raises the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people each year. It is known to cause heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases, among other health disorders, and costs the U.S. $96 billion in health care expenditures each year. Nearly 1,000 kids under the age of 18 become regular, daily smokers each day; and almost one-third will die from it.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report on March 12 bolstering this policy in which it found “increasing the minimum legal age for tobacco products will likely prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults. The age group most impacted will be those age 15 to 17 years.” Raising the minimum legal age to 21 will mean that those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.