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Congress awards $13.7M to aid Hawaiians’ health

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Native Hawaiians facing critical health issues have been allotted about $13.67 million through several grants by Congress, according to the groups receiving the funds for fiscal 2016.

The funding of several Native Hawaiian health care centers and projects statewide is about the same as the amount that the groups have received for a few years, but less than the $14.4 million received before mandatory across-the-board cuts in 2013 as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, observers said.

On Monday, Hawaii’s congressional delegation and Sharlene Chun-Lum, executive director of Papa Ola Lokahi, named the grant recipients for fiscal 2016: Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i, $2,305,752.00; Hui Malama Ola Na O‘iwi, $2,223,083; Ke Ola Mamo Inc., $2,387,221; Papa Ola Lokahi, $1,003,449; Hui No Ke Ola Pono Inc.; $2,669,511; Na Pu‘u Wai, $1,750,000; Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program, $1,327,690.

“While we still must do more to close the health disparities our Native Hawaiian communities still suffer from today, federal funds like this can go a long way in helping do just that,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

Under the federal Native Hawaiian Health Care Act of 1988, money has been set aside annually to fight unique health problems faced by Native Hawaiians who lead ethnic minorities in many illnesses in the state, said Chun-Lum, whose group acts as the parent health organization.

Their life expectancy is also 6.2 years lower than the statewide average, she said.

Chun-Lum said some 13.4 percent of Native Hawaiians are without health care insurance coverage.

She said for some, the choice is between whether to pay for health insurance or school supplies for their children.

“Some have to make hard choices,” she said.

Chun-Lum said the groups focus on health education and preventive care, including nutrition.

“This targeted funding for Native Hawaiian health care will help Hawaii’s community health centers continue providing access to essential health services all across the state,” said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

“Native Hawaiians face many cultural, financial, social and geographic barriers that often prevent them from accessing existing health services, particularly in rural areas.”

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