Lung Association Applauds Hawai‘i Legislature Actions To Improve Lung Health for Adults & Keiki

The Hawai'i Legislature has taken bold action to improve the lung health of Hawai‘i residents with a pair of important bills. Senate Bills 2822 and 3367 aim to reduce the incidences of unmanaged asthma in keiki, and increase lung cancer screenings in adults, respectively. Both bills were originally lead-authored by House Health Chair Ryan Yamane and their Senate companions were introduced by Senator Moriwaki and Senator Kidani, chair of the Senate Education Committee. 

“Native Hawaiians bear the burden of lung disease in the state, having one of the highest new lung cancer rates, and school-aged children having higher levels of asthma than children on the continent,” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i. “We are grateful that lawmakers are moving these issues forward, particularly after COVID-19 has shown the immense need to take lung health seriously.”

Senate Bill 2822 would align the Department of Education (DOE) with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) asthma-friendly schools by providing training to all Hawai‘i teachers on asthma and optional trainings for students with asthma as well as their parents. Senate Bill 2822 focuses on lung cancer by creating a task force with the job of increasing early lung cancer screening in Hawai‘i. It brings together community players, including government, nonprofits, health systems, health insurers, patient advocates, and educational institutions, to determine what steps are needed to increase Hawai‘i’s very low rate of early lung cancer screening.

“Asthma and early lung cancer screening are two issues that are very important to me and to my colleagues in the legislature” said Representative Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Committee on Health. “We have worked with the American Lung Association to draft these bills, and I believe it’s an important step to alleviate the devastation caused by lung disease in Hawai'i.”

According to the 2021 American Lung Association State of Lung Cancer report, Native Hawaiians have 126 new lung cancer cases per 100,000 people, significantly higher than the rate of 41 among Indigenous Peoples nationwide, and one of the highest rates of lung cancer of any group in the nation . In Hawai‘i, disparities in asthma prevalence are seen in race/ethnicity and region with Native Hawaiians being disproportionately affected by asthma and experiencing the greatest burden. Native Hawaiians have the highest asthma prevalence at 28.3% compared to Caucasians (17.1%), Chinese (16.4%), Filipino (20.5%), Japanese (17.7%), or other races/ethnicities(19.8%). 

Both bills have cleared all their Senate committees and their initial subject matter committees in the House and now head to the House Finance Committee, their final hurdle before a full vote.

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