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NYC Smoking Rates Increase!

Scary but true - more New Yorkers are smoking today than they were just 4 years ago!  The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene just released data from their Community Healthy Survey that shows that smoking prevalence has increased to 16.1% in 2013 from a low of 14% in 2010.  For the first time in 7 years, New York City is home to more than 1 million smokers!  While our city has done so much to try to curb smoking, Big Tobacco is addicting more New Yorkers every day.  What is causing this increase?  We know there are three main pillars for effective tobacco control - a Smoke Free Air Law (check); a high excise tax (check - although we're no longer #1 in that category); and a well-funded tobacco control program.  Unfortunately, over the past 7 years, New York City's tobacco control program has been reduced by 36 percent.  We can do better.  We must do more to protect New Yorkers' heart-health!  Perhaps it's time that we revisit these three strongest tobacco policy interventions to see what more we can do!

If you want to ask your Councilmember and Mayor DeBlasio why we’re going in the wrong direction and to ask them to recommit to the fight to end smoking, click on the following link: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=35485

To learn more about the new smoking rates, visit the city's link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2014/pr035-14.shtml

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Protecting the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

written by Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director, Greater Los Angeles

The U.S. is in the midst of a full-blown obesity epidemic that has disproportionately affected our children. Currently, nearly one third of children are overweight or obese. The health consequences of obesity in children are staggering. Recent research shows that an obese child’s arteries can resemble those of a middle-aged adult and obese adolescents have an overwhelming chance of becoming obese adults. Students consume 35%-50% of their daily caloric intake at school, where they are often exposed to junk foods and sugary drinks that have little to no nutritional value. Schools can institute a healthy environment by promoting and proving nutritious meals. 

In 2012, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act went into effect and for the first time in generations, the national school lunch, breakfast, and competitive foods nutrition standards were updated.  We know that nutritious school foods are essential to heart health, teaching life-long healthy habits, and helping children perform better academically- and there is strong evidence that the new standards are making a difference. Yet there are some in Congress who want to turn back the clock and slow the progress in providing children healthy foods in schools. 

During the month of August, You’re the Cure Advocates made special deliveries to legislators across the county in support of healthy school meals and snacks.  Our message to Congress was that that healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids- and we are ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards. Advocates delivered over 70 puzzles, in which 4 puzzle pieces fit together to display a healthy school meal and 1 piece shows unhealthy food that doesn’t fit.

The USDA has reported that over 91% of schools are meeting the updated nutrition standards, up from just 14% of schools meeting the old standards in 2009-2010. This demonstrates that schools are willing and able to make these important changes. Experts also agree that the USDA is doing a good job in providing training and technical assistance to schools. They have been responsive to school food service feedback, adjusting guidance, and proving flexibility. Furthermore, Harvard researchers found the updated school meal(s) standards have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

Together we can take a stand and urge Congress to continue protecting healthy school meals. Kids are adjusting to the new meals and appropriate portion sizes. A healthy school environment helps improve children’s physical well-being, enhances learning, can minimize behavior problems, and increase attendance.

If you are interested in protecting healthy school nutrition standards in your community, please contact your local Government Relations Director for Volunteer opportunities. You can also call or write your local congressional legislator to take action now!

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Back to School - Join Us As We Advocate for Healthy Policies for Our Children

written by Marc Watterson, Government Relations Director, Utah

Like many of you, I look forward to the fall season! Truth be told I’m not a huge fan of the heat and I have always loved Utah’s cooler fall climate. Fall brings with it many wonderful things – the excitement of professional, college, and high school football, little-league soccer, shopping sales, and the beginning of a new school year.

This year was a completely new one for me as a parent as our oldest daughter began kindergarten! It was a bittersweet moment as we helped her get ready that first morning and watched her board the bus for her first day of school. Her excitement was contagious as she anxiously got to her seat and began waving to us through the school bus window. We continued to wave as the bus pulled down the street and out of sight.

I can only imagine how many times this same scene played out across the state as many of you watched children or grandchildren leave for school.

As parents – or even relatives – to these young children, we want the very best for them. We want them to grow up in a world full of opportunities, where they can fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Whatever the situation, wherever they might be, we want to make sure that children are provided with the best, and safest, environment possible.

This became very apparent to me this past year as – like many of you – we heard tragic stories of young children who were hurt or killed on their way to and from school. The stories pull at our heartstrings as we realize how important safe routes to school are and just how fragile life can be. It is the recognition of the importance of life that fuels us as advocates for the American Heart Association. Together, we have done amazing things!

Just last year we rallied together to encourage the Department of Health to create a new recognition system that identifies those hospitals in the state who strive for the very best in patient care when it comes to treating those who suffer a stroke. Many of you joined with us at the state capitol for our annual Heart on the Hill day where we successfully lobbied our state legislators to restore funding to the CPR and AED in Schools Training Program. Because of you, every sophomore in Utah will have the chance to be trained in CPR and how to use an AED as part of their Health class! Together, we have laid the framework that will help create a generation of lifesavers for years to come!

And while it would be easy to sit back and count our victories, there is still so much more that can be done here in Utah. This year, we set our sights on improving the health of all Utahns – especially our children.

The American Heart Association|American Stroke Association is teaming up with the Utah Department of Transportation to encourage our state and local elected officials to ensure our children have a healthier, more walkable pathway to school. We are asking all of you to join us as we encourage policymakers to increase funding for the state’s Safe Routes to School program. This program provides funding for schools and local cities to come together and identify areas of need in their communities. The Safe Routes to School program helps improve sidewalks, create crosswalks, and provide signage that help to keep kids and drivers safe. The AHA|ASA supports the funding of this program because of the potential safety and health impact this could have on our children and communities – all in the goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans!

As part of our efforts we will be hosting a booth at our upcoming Heart|Stroke Walk & Run 5K. We would love to have you stop by and sign a postcard in support of the Safe Routes to School program. We will be delivering these postcards to policymakers across the state! You can also click here to volunteer to help us at the event as we work to raise awareness of this issue amongst the thousands of Heart|Stroke Walk attendees!

As parents and those concerned about the children in our community we have many things that we worry about with our children; the last thing we should have to worry about is if our children have a safe route to travel to school. Please support us as we strive to create healthier, more walkable communities throughout the state!

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The 2014 Nevada Heart & Stroke Walk and Runs are Just Around the Corner

The Heart and Stroke Walk and 5K Run raises awareness and funds for the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Join us as we celebrate healthy lifestyles and honor those who have fought heart disease and stroke. We’re celebrating in two locations in Nevada:

We need your help! Bring your energy, your passion and your stories. There are lots of ways to get involved:

While you’re there, please don’t forget to stop by the Advocacy booth to sign a postcard in support of life-saving legislation.

This year’s walk promises to be an inspiring and exciting event.  We hope you’ll join us!

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The Power of Your Story: You can make a Difference

written by Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director, Nevada

I began my journey advocating for a healthier Nevada as the Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association about 9 months ago. During this relatively short time, I have worked on issues like CPR in schools, heart screenings for newborns, healthy vending, state wide wellness programs, smoke-free communities, and obesity to name a few.  I have realized the power of the voice of a dedicated individual with a story to tell.

So it got me to thinking that my experience is not limited to just the 9 months working at the AHA. My life is filled with personal and professional stories that have formed my passion for health and keeps me motivated to fight for heart healthy legislation on a daily basis.. For example, I am originally from Alaska (a state still working to pass CPR in schools legislation), I used to teach physical education so I know the importance of nutrition and staying physically fit, I recently lost a friend who was only 36 years old to a heart attack illustrating that heart disease can affect anyone at any time in their life, and my elementary school had a tradition of ending the school year with a 6 mile run that every student participated in which sparked my passion for running.

All of my life experiences can and have helped in my effort to advocate for a healthier tomorrow for my kids and my fellow Nevadans.  But I realize having a vehicle to achieve my goals of advocating for health is important. That is why I believe in being an engaged member of yourethecure.org (YTC). Personally I love the numerous fact sheets available in the Key Issues section of the website. In addition, I think the Action Center makes it easy to stay up-to-date on legislative updates and makes it extremely easy to communicate with key legislators to make a difference before critical votes. 

If you are reading this and want to increase your footprint on making Nevada a healthier place then get involved today. We are currently working on childhood obesity, clean indoor air, banning the use electronic cigarettes where smoking is already prohibited, CPR in schools, healthy vending, preventive benefits and much more. Call or e-mail me and let’s work together to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

~Ben Schmauss and his Brother Brad Schmauss pictured above

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The 2014 Anchorage Heart Walk is Just Around the Corner

The Heart Walk raises awareness and funds for the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Join us as we celebrate healthy lifestyles and honor those who have fought heart disease and stroke. We’re celebrating September 13th at the Downtown Anchorage Delaney Park Strip (on the west end near the rose garden).

We need your help! Bring your energy, your passion and your stories. There are lots of ways to get involved:

  • Register your Community Team! There’s still time to recruit friends and family to walk with you and raise money for a great cause. Get started today!
  • Volunteer at the event! Dozens of volunteers are needed each year to set-up, cheer on walkers, and hand out water.

While you’re there, please don’t forget to stop by the Advocacy booth to sign a postcard in support of life-saving legislation.

This year’s walk promises to be an inspiring and exciting event.  We hope you’ll join us!

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New Report...Troubling for Waistlines

A new report now ranks New York with the 10th lowest adult obesity rate in the nation (The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America)…sounds great, right? Wrong! New York's adult obesity rate is 25.4 percent, up from 21.2 percent in 2004 and from 9.3 percent in 1990. Obesity is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and the new report stresses the need to reverse a dangerous trend. This trend can be changed if New York State takes a proactive stance to fight obesity. The findings are troubling and highlight public policy areas that can help families and children live healthier lives. What can New York do more to promote healthy lifestyles?  

  • Let’s ensure affordable healthy food is available in underserved areas 
  • Increase Physical Education times – we know healthy kids perform better. 
  • Eating out? We still need nutritional guidelines for our kids’ restaurant meals. 
  • Take out the trans fat – these secret fats are hiding in meals near you. 
  • Promote and fund programs to help New Yorkers eat healthy and be physically active.

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What are we feeding our kids?

NYC parents will soon gain support in the effort to feed healthy, nutritious meals to their kids once a newly introduced bill is passed.  The bill, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos and co-sponsored by Council Members Stephen Levin and Corey Johnson would require that kids’ restaurant meals that include toys as incentives meet specific nutritional standards. 

 “Parents in New York City are fighting hard for the welfare of our kids,” stated Dr. Tara Narula MD, FACC – member of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association NYC Advocacy Committee and Associate Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital/North Shore LIJ.  “We fight for the best schools, the best programs, the best environment.  What we shouldn’t have to fight so hard for is healthy food in our restaurants.  As obesity remains a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, restaurants should make it easier for us, as parents, to offer healthy, nutritious meals to our children.  The healthiest option – one comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables and little unhealthy fat, sugar and salt – should always be the default option.  Unhealthy foods should be limited in their accessibility so that it’s easier for our kids to grow into heart-healthy adults.”

Send a message now to your Council Member: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=35455


 

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Dr. Jan Carney, Vermont

The American Heart Association recently released a new position paper on e-cigarettes and reconfirmed its desire for the Food and Drug Administration to take action soon to regulate these devices.  Vermonters like the Attorney General, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and Dr. Jan Carney, a member of the American Heart Association’s Vermont Board and Associate Dean for Public Health at UVM’s Medical School also think that’s a good idea. 

Dr. Carney recently talked about her concern that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students doubled in just one year.

Watch the whole interview here.  http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/story/the-dangers-of-e-cigs/d/story/PIPrZC8miEuUxV9blB8nBQ

The AHA worked with the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont and the Vermont Legislature this past session to ban the use of e-cigs in Vermont schools and daycares.

Join us in urging your legislators to also include restrictions on e-cigarettes in Vermont’s clean indoor air laws.

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Back to School Should Mean Exercise for Kids of All Ages

With our kids back to school, are they getting as much exercise as they did this summer?

This year, Vermont’s State Board of Education required Vermont schools to offer at least 30 minutes of physical activity to kids a day.  Ask your schools what they are doing. Physical activity can be easily integrated into the school day. Kids who are active do better academically. It’s a win-win. Smart and healthy!

Advocate for more physical education in school as well so your children can learn the life-long habit of being physically active.

And, remember that fun and exercise at school doesn’t have to be for just kids. Ask your schools if they are opening their doors to the community for recreational activities like open gyms and fitness centers for parents to use, or walking clubs for the elderly before or after school hours. Let me know what you find out. Tina.zuk@heart.org.

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