Chamber of Commerce lends hand to homeless
The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is providing first-aid kits for Oahu's homeless.
The state spends a million dollars a year for medical care of the uninsured at community health centers, so the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is to be commended for providing basic first-aid kits enabling the homeless to prevent the need for hospital treatment. The program is limited to Oahu but should be extended to other islands.
More than 1,000 Save-a-Life Safety Kits have been distributed to Oahu's homeless since the program began in 2006. The kits contain basic sanitary supplies such as toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers and files, bandages, soap and antibiotics, acquired through a $10,000 grant by the chamber's Public Health Fund Committee. Similar amounts are needed to purchase kits for each island.
The kits could be crucial since homelessness precludes healthy nutrition, good person hygiene and basic first aid. The rate of hepatitis B, C, HIV/AIDS and other infections are two to three times more frequent among homeless than the general population, according to Ken Akinaka, executive director of the Hepatitis Support Network of Hawaii.
Those diseases "run rampant in the populations of the homeless who cannot care for themselves, who don't have the resources that the rest of us do," said Dr. Alan Tice, a University of Hawaii-Manoa professor and private-practice infectious disease physician.
Children who are uninsured are more than four times more likely to have delayed medical care. The Census Bureau determined several years ago that 20,000 of Hawaii's children are uninsured, but a pilot program approved last year provides free medical care to all uninsured children - the first such program in the country.
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