October 06, 2010 | 04:22 PM
Hawaii Pregnancy Study Gives Pause
Nearly half of all births in Hawaii are the result of unintended pregnancies. That's one of several eyebrow-raising findings in a study released this week by the state Department of Health (DOH).
In an average year, 18,000 babies are born in Hawaii. Of those, 45 percent are "accidents" (or "surprises," depending on how you look at it). Eighteen percent of pregnant women receive no prenatal care in the first trimester, when some of the most important fetal development takes place, and that number spikes higher among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Meanwhile, about one in five women binge drink in the three months before getting pregnant and 8.5 percent smoke during pregnancy, despite strong evidence linking both activities to birth defects and other problems.
Infant mortality in Hawaii stands at 6.3 percent, while 9.4 percent of babies are born prematurely. DOH notes that these rates are in line with the national average, but that they haven't improved in the last decade. In fact, both figures have gone up slightly.
Of course, as DOH Director Chiyome Fukino pointed out after the study's release, these are "complex issues" with no easy solutions. But, added Fukino, "Identifying and analyzing [the] areas of greatest need is the first step."
Akaka Bill Update
The Akaka Bill—also known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act—has endured a number of setbacks and false starts since it was first introduced 10 years ago. But it's actually close to becoming law—perhaps closer than ever. In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed it. Five months later, Senators Akaka and Inouye agreed to tweak the bill to gain state support, removing language that Gov. Lingle and Attorney General Mark Bennett said gave too much power to the Native Hawaiian governing entity. (And, opponents argue, irreparably weakening the bill in the process.) President Obama has said he'll sign it if it lands on his desk, meaning the Senate is the final hurdle.
This week, the bill got a high-profile endorsement from the American Bar Association (ABA), which sent a letter of support to all 100 Senators. "Our courts have upheld Congress' power to recognize indigenous nations," reads the letter. "Native Hawaiians have the right to be recognized by the Congress [and] this right is not in conflict with the rights of others."
In a statement, Sen. Akaka said he's "optimistic" there will be a vote during the post-election "lame duck" session. Considering how long the Akaka Bill has struggled to take flight, that would be fitting.
Lahaina Bypass Creeps Closer to Completion
It took two years to erect the Eiffel Tower, four years to build the George Washington Bridge and 10 years to dig the Panama Canal. Dwarfing all those endeavors? The Lahaina Bypass, a highway more than three decades in the making.
This week, ground was broken on the second phase of the project, which will ultimately result in a four-lane, nine-mile stretch of road between Launiupoko and Honokowai. Phase two—out of five phases—should be completed by the end of 2012, according to state officials. Department of Transportation Director Michael Formby acknowledged that "the West Maui community has been waiting patiently for this project for decades," adding that it's finally "becoming a reality."
UH Prof Studies Tennis Grunting
Loud noises are distracting. This may seem self-evident, but it's apparently never been properly studied—at least in the context of tennis matches—until now.
A report coauthored by UH Manoa psychology professor Scott Sinnett and published this week in the online Public Library of Science ONE aimed "to determine if it is reasonable to conclude that a tennis grunt interferes with an opponent's performance." Participants watched footage of a player hitting a tennis ball and were asked to accurately indicate the direction of each shot. When grunts were introduced, accuracy went down.
Whether the study will lead to a ban on guttural exclamations at Wimbledon is unclear, but we hope researchers will move on to another burning sports question: does drinking beer improve your golf swing?
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