Category Archives: health

Are You Suffering From Popcorn Brain?

It’s time for a distraction from the political scandals and debt arguments.  CNN.com has posted an article which questions our addiction to technology, most notably, our time spent online.

The main concept of the piece is that we are too wired with our technology that our brains are unable to process all that we are doing.  Our constant use can basically fry the brain and reduce the size of the thinking part of the brain.

Do you think we spend too much time online?  What is the average amount of time that you spend online every day?

Click here for the full CNN article.

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Making Pedestrians Safer?

–Update: 5/11/11 2:20pm–The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has reported that Bill 43, the measure relating to electronic device use for predestrians, has passed the first vote in the Honolulu City Council and will now be sent to the various committees to be heard.  Bill 43 is an expansion on the ban on cell phone use by drivers.

We’ll have more updates as they come in.

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Oahu has seen five pedestrian fatalities so far this year.  Of those five, a total of three were in marked crosswalks.  Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi would like to make pedestrians safer.  The former mayoral candidate has introduced a measure which would make the use of electronic devices illegal when crossing the street.  KHON broke the news on Monday.  The story has since been picked up by the Associated Press and has landed in the “Breaking News” section of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser website.  According to the KHON report, the police department does not track electronic device usage for pedestrian accidents.

Councilmember Kobayashi has not yet been reached for comment.

Walk About the Capitol with Kanu Hawaii

Kanu Hawaii’s Rotunda Roundup series is nearing an end.  As the legislative session comes to a close, the folks at Kanu Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii are ramping up efforts to get the public involved.  Thursday, April 28th, will be the “Walk About the Capitol.”  Guests will be show around various parts of the capitol which culminates with a visit to both the House and Senate chambers.  Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland will be on hand to discuss bills being heard in conference committee as well.

Visit Kanu Hawaii for more details.

USDA, Schools Have Long Road Ahead

(CNN) — When 12-year-old Mason went to lunch each day last year, he could choose between orange juice and milk, but he couldn’t get a cup of water.

Like many public schools, his doesn’t provide cups. To have free water with his lunch, Mason would have to wait in line at a water fountain shared by hundreds of other middle-school students and take a few sips of water before returning to eat.

School children are using reusable water bottles at a growing rate. (PHOTO CREDIT: playgreen.typepad.com)

Not surprisingly, he usually didn’t bother.

His mother, Johanna Whittlesey, like other parents across the country, assumed her child had enough water, but nutrition advocates believe schoolchildren’s access to water is a national problem the federal government has only begun to address.

Fifteen percent of kids in Mason’s age group consume adequate amounts of water, according to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

“Since children spend a large percent of their waking hours at school, they should be consuming at least one-half their total water intake at school,” says Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNNHealth’s Diet and Fitness Expert.

“The standard recommendations are for children to get 6-8 glasses of water per day. Teenage boys need even more, 11 glasses per day,” she says. “Mild dehydration can affect learning as well as mental and physical performance.”

Change you can drink

Last year Michelle Obama continued with her “Let’s Move!” campaign to target childhood obesity, former military leaders warned that obesity could be a threat to national security and the ABC series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” attempted to show Americans what their children are eating in school.

On the heels of those headlines, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 in December to improve school nutrition in the National School Lunch Program.

The legislation requires that clean water be easily available in school. Advocates welcome the new legislation but say it’s not clear if the new rules will go far enough to address the lack of hydration.

According to the new federal law, school districts will have to provide water in student eating areas, but the law doesn’t discuss accessibility.

Vista Middle School outside Los Angeles has approximately 1,700 students and four water fountains in the student eating area.

It’s still to be decided if a school with those numbers — 1,700 students, four water fountains and a 30-minute mealtime — satisfies the new legislation.

“As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the USDA will be engaging in a dialogue with schools and communities as we develop a proposed rule to implement this provision of the law,” the USDA says.

Where we are now

Schools face a variety of challenges when trying to provide something — water — that Americans take for granted.

One such challenge: drinking cups.

Advocates say, and many educators admit, that too many of America’s largest school districts elect not to provide cups.

Chicago Public Schools do not. Miami-Dade County Public Schools do not. Newark Public Schools do not. Atlanta Public Schools do not. Clark County School District in Nevada does not.

Broward County Public Schools, in Fort Lauderdale, says drinking cups aren’t provided unless a student asks for one.

In the New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the country by number of students, cups are “generally available to all students,” but spokesperson Margie Feinberg cannot say in which of its schools cups are available only upon request.

Hillsborough County school district in Tampa says it does not provide cups of water and there is usually one water fountain in student eating areas.

Educators say that providing cups can get expensive and take too much of their already dwindling school budgets.

Another issue is the water fountains themselves.

Some schools, advocates say, don’t have enough to handle the number of students. At other schools, the fountains are old, don’t work or work poorly. According to the California Food Policy Advocates, filling cups is “likely a slow process at most water fountains.”

Other barriers to student hydration include poor-tasting water and fears that municipal tap water is not safe.

Sitting down with water

“Water fountains aren’t providing adequate hydration,” says Matt Sharp, senior advocate of the California Food Policy Advocates. “When have you ever gone to a restaurant and been encouraged to go to a water fountain for a sip between bites of your meal?”

The UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion, a CDC-funded prevention research program, has been test-driving a way to get children drinking more water at mealtime to help combat America’s obesity epidemic.

It’s called a water intervention — a five-week research program that includes a water filter and cups for five schools in the Los Angeles school district, provided free from the UCLA/RAND project.

The test includes these steps: Install a water filter in the school. Fill five-gallon jugs. Chill jugs overnight. Place in the eating area during mealtime. Serve with cups. The results will not be published until next year, but anecdotally, the program is a success, researchers say.

“We’ve seen students really gravitate towards the water out here and fill up their cups right before and after lunch to hydrate” says Burt Cowgill, the project manager. “The water is very popular and we have a lot of participation.”

Now that the research has ended, it’s up to the school district to continue funding if it so chooses, but the Los Angeles Unified School District says it cannot afford the estimated $1.8 million to $2.3 million annually it says it would cost to provide the cups and water for the entire district.

Free drinking water and cups could also decrease revenue from bottled water sales.

“If students drink free water served at school instead of purchasing competitive beverages that fund extracurricular activities, schools may have to seek alternative fundraising strategies,” said a report published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The report was based on CDC-funded researchers’ interviews with school personnel and families, primarily within the Los Angeles school system.

Research shows that making water more accessible to children at school increases consumption of water and improves health.

Researchers in Germany found that by installing a cooled, filtered water fountain with plain or optionally carbonated water, providing children with water bottles, educating them on the importance of drinking water and encouraging them to fill up their water bottles, they were able to reduce the risk of children becoming overweight by 31%.

Those children were allowed to store their water bottles at school. When children have to take their water bottles home, they start forgetting to bring them back, and water consumption declines, according to a pilot program in a Los Angeles school.

What the school district wants

David Binkle, deputy director of Los Angeles school district food services, would like the federal government to help pay for water instead of only mandating that water be made available.

When schools serve children milk, they receive money from the federal government reimbursing them for that milk; when schools serve orange juice, the same. But water is not a reimbursable beverage, either from the tap or from bottles. Binkle says that has to change.

“It’s an unfunded mandate,” says Binkle. “If the federal government let us offer water as part of a reimbursable meal, then the children, many of them, instead of taking a milk or juice, would take a water.”

Cindy Garcia, an eighth-grader at Vista Middle School, says having free water available in cups during the UCLA/RAND research program changed her drinking habits.

“I wouldn’t really drink water because it’s sort of hard to be eating your meal and then stop and go drink water at the water fountain,” she said. “Before, I would just drink whatever they have at the cafeteria, like juice or milk, and now I drink water in the cups that’s available.”

The ‘Good Old Days,’ updated

Students have been drinking water from water fountains for decades, but research shows that children are not getting enough water throughout the day.

“Water maybe has always been insufficiently available, but schools have a unique and special responsibility to create an environment that makes it easy for students to make good choices,” says Sharp of the California Food Policy Advocates.

“The environment has changed in so many ways in recent decades, sweetened beverages are cheap and widely available and heavily promoted, family mealtimes are fewer, and briefer, and convenience foods are a much more common part of youngsters’ routines.”

At Vista Middle School, Principal Nidia Castro says she will do her best to keep cups of water in her school, even suggesting she might pay out-of-pocket to provide cups for her students.

She wouldn’t be the first school administrator to provide school supplies from her own wallet.

“I see how much the kids really like the water,” she says. “It is documented that if we provide the choices for them they will really go for it.”

Looking to Donate After Japan Tragedy?

The tragic events in Japan have brought many to search for ways to help out.  Short of physically going to Japan to offer help, there isn’t much anyone can do.  Donations are being taken to assist in the relief effort that is already underway.  However, there continues to be a mixed bag of news coming from the land of the rising sun.  The Fukushima Nuclear Plant is facing serious cooling issues with their reactors.  The amount of radiation being released is staggering.

We will continue to update on the situation in Japan.  If you would like to donate to the relief effort, below is a list of possible avenues.

There are many more possible outlets for donation, however, please be vigilant and know where your money is really going.

Councilmember Berg Reaches Out for Help

City Councilmember Tom Berg sent out an email today to constituents asking for their testimony on Resolution 11-53, urging the State Department of Health to require that medical and biohazard waste be incinerated.  The City Council Resolution comes after a very public incident where medical waste was found washed up on Leeward Oahu beaches.  The waste came from Waimanalo Gulch landfill following severe rains in the area a few months ago.

Councilmember Berg serves council district 1, Ewa Beach to Makaha.  He replaced Todd Apo via special election back in December.

The hearing will take place on Monday, February 28th at Honolulu Hale.  Click here for more information on the hearing.

Some Bills to Follow

Here are a few bills of note which will be reviewed in hearings this coming week organized by committee.  Click on the bill name for full language.  Click on the committee for notice of hearings.

Senate:

JDL:

SB 218: Requires hospitals to provide survivors of sexual assault with medically and factually accurate and unbiased information regarding emergency contraception.

WAM:

SB 120: Repeal special and revolving funds and transfer balances to state general fund.

 

House:

JUD:

HB 241: Increases penalty for promotion of prostitution.

CPC/JUD:

HB 904: Prohibits the sale or distribution of caffeinated beer beverages unless labeled as an “intoxicating liquor” and accompanied by a warning about potential harmful effects of consumption.

 

Busy Day in Politics

The Hawaii  Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee will be hosting the first hearing of the 2011 session on Civil Unions.  The JDL hearing has gotten so much attention, the site of the hearing has been moved to the auditorium to accomodate the expected crowd.  The hearings begin at 10AM.  Need more info on this year’s version of the Civil Unions bill? Check out our write-up from last week.

Also in the political world today is the much anticipated State of the Union speech from President Obama.  There has been much talk about bipartisan seating by members of Congress as well as how the President’s recent remarks in Arizona will affect tonight’s speech.  The speech is set for 9PM EST or 4PM for Hawaii residents.  The White House webpage is offering an interactive way to follow the big speech with complete resources of charts and graphs relating to President Obama’s speech.  The speech will be simulcasted along all the networks and we can expect immediate analysis by the pundits.  For more on what to expect, take a look at the interesting article by Nate Silver.

Colin Powell Argues for Cuts to Defense and Entitlements

Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell recently spoke up on how to address the long-term issues regarding the deficit.  With the House GOP aiming to freeze non-defense spending to 2008 levels as well as non-security levels to 2006, Powell pointed to the elephants in the room: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Defense budget.  Powell criticized the the effectiveness of cutting veterans programs or education funds while ignoring an overly inflated military budget.

For more on what Powell has to say visit the Huffington Post.

What to Look Forward to: Hawaii’s 2011 Legislature

With the start of Hawaii’s 2011 Legislative Session comes the anticipation for it all to end.  Previous years have brought very public fights over money and jobs.  Some may point to the clash between ideology as there was a Republican Governor and a Democrat controlled Legislature.  However, there were just as many fights with Democrats Ben Cayetano and John Waihee III residing at Washington Place.

The issues facing the 2011 Hawaii Legislature are many.  Issues such as Civil Unions, raising the General Excise Tax, plugging the budget holes and the glaring problem of furloughs.  However, this year also brings a wildcard issue, the new Governor, Neil Abercrombie.  Abercrombie has already made some waves by moving money towards some benefits for state workers as well as his much-anticipated choices for the appointed Board of Education.  The 2011 session promises to be filled with fireworks from both sides as Senate Republicans have now dropped the “s” and have become the Senate Republican.  The House has finally settled the leadership dispute and have reelected Calvin Say as the House Speaker.

With the first week of the legislative session nearly in the books, Desperate America Report wants to know what are your concerns for this session.  What are some of the issues you feel need to be addressed by Hawaii’s lawmakers.  Please leave your responses in the comment section below and we will feature them next week!

For more on the Hawaii State Legislature