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State briefs for November 12

Honolulu seeks to reopen war memorial as saltwater pool

HONOLULU — Honolulu could remake a deteriorating war memorial swimming facility into an open-circulation saltwater pool, a city report said.

The city designated the “perimeter deck” plan as a preferred option for the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium in a final environmental impact statement.

The facility opened in 1927 as a monument to Hawaii residents who served during World War I, but closed in 1979 due to disrepair.

The statement estimated the construction price for a new saltwater pool at $31.8 million, including management and engineering costs. Annual operational costs of $967,000 would cover maintenance, supplies and a staff of 15 personnel.

The city council must approve a special use permit and funding for the project. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expects his administration will include money for planning and design in the fiscal year 2021 budget, but he gave no timetable for completion.

Funding remains an open question. A public-private partnership and nonprofit fundraising to develop or sustain Natatorium operations are options, according to the impact statement.

The saltwater pool’s capital cost is anticipated to be less than two other options.

Tearing down the bulk of the remaining structure and creating a “war memorial beach” is projected to cost $35.2 million, including a new parking area and replacement of the existing Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division office. Annual operations and maintenance under the scenario are projected at $356,000.

Another option is restoring the Natatorium’s original closed-pool system, which is projected to cost $42.7 million with estimated annual operations and maintenance of $1.13 million.

Caldwell said he prefers the memorial beach option because of the city’s need for beach space and because “I think saltwater swimming pools are a thing of the past.”

Study: Native Hawaiians have fewer healthy years than others

HONOLULU — Native Hawaiians experience fewer years of good health compared with other ethnic groups in the state, a public health study found.

The study by University of Hawaii researchers published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health found Native Hawaiians have 14 less years of healthy life than other groups.

The study was based on a self-reported survey that calculated the number of healthy years among the state’s indigenous people and those with Caucasian, Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese heritages.

Life expectancy data is based on death records collected by the state health department and population estimates from the U.S. Census. Researchers subtracted the number of years each ethnic group reported spending in poor health.

The study found Native Hawaiians have 62.2 years of healthy life expectancy, compared with 75.9 years for Chinese, 74.8 for Japanese, 73.3 for Filipinos, and 72.1 years for Caucasian Hawaii residents.

Native Hawaiians also have the highest rates of chronic health conditions — including coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers.

“Until we can fix those things, I imagine we’ll continue to see a similar pattern,” said Kathryn Braun, a University of Hawaii Manoa public health professor.

Although all ethnic groups are living longer and life expectancy has improved since 1950, a 10-year gap remains between Native Hawaiians and the longest-living group at any given time, she said.

“Differences in life expectancy are determined by many things but primarily by socioeconomic status,” Braun said.

A 2017 U.S. Census Bureau projected Native Hawaiians across the United States are living to about 80 years old, compared with 76.6 years in Hawaii.

“It’s very hard to stay healthy if you’re houseless or living in your car. If we had adequate housing, education and health care for all we would see those gaps diminish significantly,” Braun said.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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