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Hawai‘i State Capitol

HIPHI’s 2024 Policy Priorities

We are awaiting the 2024 Legislative Session with excitement. The legislative session is a time when we can advocate for policies that will support the state’s public health. Implementing public health policy is essential because it is a way to ensure that more people will benefit. The Hawai‘i State Legislature reconvenes on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, and HIPHI is ready with an agenda of policy priorities to help improve the health of Hawai‘i’s communities. If you want to participate in the work, sign up for our action alerts to stay involved in the 2024 Legislative Session.

Tobacco Prevention & Control

During the 2023 Session, there was significant progress with the passage of e-cigarette taxation, licensing, and permitting, and the restriction of the online sales of tobacco products. However, tobacco prevention and control is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive approach, and there is still much work to reduce the burden of tobacco in our community.

Along with the Youth Council, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi will champion ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Enacting this policy is crucial to combating youth vaping. The tobacco industry knows that flavors like mango, POG, sweet cherry, and menthol appeal to kids, and removing these flavored tobacco products will help end the industry’s relentless campaign to addict a new generation.

A few counties have taken or are considering similar “flavored tobacco” legislation, but are prevented from implementing them because of state law. As a result, we also working on legislation to restore the counties’ ability to regulate the sale of tobacco products.

This restriction is fairly recent, as the Legislature took the counties’ ability to regulate the sale of tobacco in 2018, a tactic called “preemption.” The Legislature declared that the problem of tobacco and our youth was so significant that it should be addressed statewide. However, since then, the state has remained slow to address youth tobacco use. By repealing preemption and giving power back to the counties, the counties can enact policies to address tobacco use – and several counties have expressed or passed legislation indicating their desire to do so. Before preemption, Hawaiʻi County successfully passed an ordinance to stop the sale of tobacco to those under 21 years of age prior to the state doing so. Giving counties the ability to address the unique health needs of their communities quickly will result in better overall health 

Healthy Eating + Active Living

The Statewide Health Eating + Active Living (HEAL) Coalition has identified several priority bills focusing on overall health and food access this year.  

The HEAL Coalition is advocating for the Double Up Food Bucks (DA BUX) program to be made sustainable through dedicated, consistent state funding. DA BUX provides a dollar-for-dollar match on fresh, locally-grown produce for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. This program is a “triple win” for Hawai‘i: making healthy food more accessible for families in need, supporting agriculture and farmers, and keeping money within the local economy. Continued funding is needed to support this important program.

Establishing Universal Free School Meals for all public school students regardless of their family income is another priority for the HEAL Coalition. Eight states have implemented free school meals because of the positive educational outcomes related to well-fed students. A hungry student is not ready to learn, and sometimes, school meals are the only ones a child has in a day. Studies show that all students benefit when all children have access to free meals.

Paid family leave, an issue the HEAL Coalition has supported for several years, is a policy priority for the 2024 Legislative Session. When a person is able to take time off to care for their family without the stress of losing pay, we strengthen overall public health. New mothers are better able to initiate breastfeeding, resulting in positive health impacts for babies that continue through life. Paid family leave supports the health of all family members, as it also improves the management of chronic disease, healthier parents, increased care for our kūpūna, and results in overall increased health equity.

Oral Health

This year, Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) is championing legislation that will increase pathways to preventive care for school children by allowing hygienists to practice to the full scope of their licensure under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. Hygienists in school oral healthcare settings would be able to apply keiki dental sealants, which help reduce the risk of cavities. By enabling hygienists to practice what they are trained and licensed to do, we can eliminate the number of times families need to return to an oral healthcare provider and immediately receive the care they need.

To further explore ways we can improve oral healthcare in Hawaiʻi, HOHC is also supporting the formation of a Statewide Oral Health Taskforce. The task force would bring together various oral healthcare partners to explore, research, and suggest best practices for implementation in Hawaiʻi.

Farm to School & Food Systems

The Farm to School Hui continues to advocate for a statewide agricultural education coordinator within the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. This position will help to coordinate the educational curriculum for agriculture. It is integral that there is a strong, coordinated statewide curriculum that students are engaged with from pre-K to college to encourage and prepare future farmers and other agricultural-related employees for their careers. To reach food sustainability in our state, appropriately preparing the next generation of agricultural specialists is necessary.

The Farm to School Hui will also champion bills that bring clarity and accountability to the food system.

Alcohol Regulations

The Hawai‘i Alcohol Policy Alliance continues to advocate lowering the legal driving blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.08 to 0.05. Lowering the BAC is a strategy to prompt people to plan safe transportation before consuming alcohol to prevent harm to themselves and others.

Get Involved

These are just a few highlights of what’s to come in 2024 for public health at the Legislature. HIPHI is fortunate to work with a wide variety of dedicated, exceptional, and all-around unique groups and individuals who help to shape and support the policy priority agenda, and we hope you will join us.

Please sign up for our action alerts and register for the Policy and Advocacy Training (virtual) on January 13, 2024 from 9 AM – 11 AM to learn more about how to get involved in these and other issues. See you in the new year!

  For more information, please contact Peggy Mierzwa at peggy@hiphi.org or Kristell Corpuz at kristell@hiphi.org.

Summary of 2024 Policy Priorities

Tobacco Prevention & Control

  • End the sale of flavored tobacco products.
  • Restore local authority to regulate tobacco sales.
  • Protect dedicated funding for tobacco prevention & control.

 Healthy Eating + Active Living

  • State funding for the DA BUX so that SNAP purchasing power can be doubled when purchasing locally sourced produce.
  • Implement a state-funded Universal Free School Meals program for all public school students regardless of household income. 
  • Establish a Paid Family Leave program to allow workers to balance work and family kuleana by allowing workers to take time off to caregive without sacrificing income.

Oral Health

  • Increase access to oral health care by enabling hygienists to apply dental sealants in public school settings.
  • Develop an Oral Health Taskforce to review information and data on the status of oral health in the state and make recommendations for improvement.

Alcohol Regulations

  • Decrease the incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol by lowering the blood alcohol concentration to 0.05.

Farm to School

  • Secure funding for the University of Hawai‘i for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to establish one full-time permanent agriculture education coordinator position and provide programmatic funding.        
  • Support policies that bring alignment and accountability to farm to school programs.
Peggy Mierzwa

Peggy Mierzwa

Policy & Advocacy Director
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