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AHA Looks at Healthy Food Financing Initiatives in Florida

The crunch of a celery stalk. The crisp sweetness of a red bell pepper. The warmth of a freshly baked loaf of bread. We don’t just eat healthy food because we know it’s good for us — we eat it because it makes us feel good too.

But for 29.7 million people living in the United States, enjoying healthy food is difficult at best and impossible at worst. That’s because they live in “food deserts,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s term for areas without easy access to grocery stores. And although the term “desert” conjures up faraway places, food deserts are all over America: in cities and in rural areas, from coast to coast.

Not having a local grocery store can have far-ranging impacts on people’s lives. Families who live in communities where they can’t find a bag of apples or a head of lettuce are at greater risk of becoming overweight and obese. Studies show that the closer we are to neighborhood supermarkets, the more likely we are to have healthier lives and lower body weight too.

We can’t sit back while tens of millions of people in America lack access to the kinds of foods that keep us all healthy. Now is the time for families, community leaders, health advocates, business owners and elected officials to come together and find ways to improve access to healthy, affordable foods.

Right now, in many places across the country, public-private partnerships that support healthy food financing initiatives are working to bring full-service grocery stores or supermarkets into the communities that need them most. These efforts are addressing the immediate need for quality produce, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meats and other nutritious foods, and they’re helping evaluate just how food access impacts the future for our children and our communities.

The American Heart Association will work to bring Healthy Food Financing Initiatives across the State of Florida. Please make sure to check your inbox for You’re the Cure alerts regarding more information on this topic and others.

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U.S. News Speaks with Experts about CPR in Schools

Last month, the American Heart Association achieved an exciting milestone in our nationwide campaign to teach all students to 'be CPR smart!' Thanks to the help of You're the Cure advocates, seventeen states now require CPR training as a high school graduation requirement, adding over one million annual graduates who are prepared to save lives. Thirty-three states, including Florida, still need to pass legislation to make CPR a graduation requirement.

Recently, U.S. News spoke with experts about CPR in Schools to address the four common questions parents have about the requirements, which are:

  1. Are teenagers strong enough to perform CPR?
  2. How long does the instruction take?
  3. How much does CPR training cost schools?
  4. What happens if you perform CPR incorrectly on someone in cardiac arrest?

Read full article here to find the answers!

Each year, 424,000 people suffer out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest. Considering bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates when given right away, this law is critical to helping save lives. Stay tuned for future You're the Cure alerts on how you can be part of our movement to train the next generation of life-savers!

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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email teachinggardens@heart.org to find how you can get involved.

               

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Katie Seay, Florida

Sometimes staff can make great advocates for the American Heart Association. Take Katie Seay, Patient Market Manager, for example. Until recently, she worked as the communications director for Jacksonville, Florida and handled media advocacy efforts across the state. Katie's passion for the American Heart Association - and interest in advocacy - certainly came into play during the 2014 legislative session.

A bill was moving through the House and Senate with very good intentions. The bill, if passed, would prohibit minors from purchasing e-cigarettes and force retailers to sell the e-cigarette and other nicotine dispensing devices behind the counter like other tobacco products. So after the Senate had passed the bill, the House was moving along nicely when a bomb exploded in the form of a preemption amendment. The language would strike all existing local county and municipality tobacco ordinances from the books and prevent them from adding more as we went forward.

Enter the American Heart Association and its tobacco control partners. Through the collaboration of all the organizations involved, an action plan was created. Katie, along with several coalition partners, worked the highly successful media plan. First steps for the group were to create letters to the Editor (LTEs), Op Ed pieces, press releases, media event releases, talking points for volunteers and then coordinating all media outlets around the state. Katie, taking the lead, coordinated all the edits and changes to all the documents, made sure each organization signed off on the final product.

The kick off to the media campaign was to hold a press event at the capitol. Katie and fellow PR person, Lisa Hall, coordinated all the media outlets and we received massive coverage from the event. Once the press event was over, Katie released the hounds, so to speak, working with communications directors across the state to launch LTE after LTE with Op Ed’s and phone calls and interviews.

With Katie’s efforts we managed to rally around a press event in Tallahassee, publish over 90 online and print articles about the preemption language, garner massive public support around our issue and ultimately with her efforts in the media and working with our coalition partners, we were able to remove the bad preemption language from the bill.

While the successful campaign was a true team effort, we want to thank you, Katie Seay, for helping us protect our youth from the highly addictive drug nicotine.

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Help Make Florida School Meals an "Easy A"

Education isn’t easy. It takes a lot to master reading, writing, arithmetic and the skills that turn children into productive and successful adults. Add in the pressures of growing up, and there’s already plenty on a kid’s plate. The last thing they need is more junk food at school that will distract them from making healthy choices.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working on the state rule now. Click here to let them know what they can do to make our schools healthier.

In 2013, the USDA released updated nutrition standards for snack and a la carte foods and beverages—the entrees, snacks and beverages sold in schools outside of the main National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs. These snack and a la carte foods and beverages, often found in places like snack bars and vending machines, tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutritional value than what the main cafeteria line has to offer.

The updated standards, called “Smart Snacks in School,” are a great start toward giving our kids the healthy choices they need in school. We need your help to create state and local policies that will ensure these standards are implemented in order to make healthy snacks a reality in every school in the country. Picking out nutritious snacks at school shouldn't be hard.

Please join us in our effort to make food choices an “easy A.”

 

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You're the Cure on the Road

As Grassroots Director for the GSA, Julie Howell has the responsibility to increase our volunteers participation around many of our advocacy issues. So partnering with Florida’s Government Relations Director, David Francis, they set off to meet, greet, educate and recruit not only current members of You’re the Cure but bring in some new blood as well.

The trip began on a Tuesday afternoon when Julie landed at the Orlando International Airport around 2:30 pm. David, having driven down the night before had been meeting with legislative staff in the area while waiting for Julie to arrive, pulled into the airport to pick up Julie, drove to the downtown hotel and began to plan the rest of the week. They decided to head over the American Heart Association's Orlando office to meet staff and make sure they were ready for the training taking place the next day.

After some hand shaking and greetings, Julie and David head over to the meeting site, which had been generously donated by Walgreens. When they arrive at the Walgreens store, David and Julie met the hospitable manager, Jacques, who showed the two to the community space in the store.

Day of the event, we expected about 20 people to show up at the meeting and that's exactly how many folks showed up; we were quite happy. The volunteers both new and old to American Heart Association were engaged, asking questions about policies, providing suggestions with helping our cause and generally interested in our overall goals and how to get them accomplished. The volunteers ranged from a 20 year stroke survivor to a 17 year-old teen beauty queen, who are all passionate about our mission.

After a hour and a half training on all things grassroots and advocacy, we said goodbye to our new friends hoping they have a better understanding of what we can offer them. With Orlando in the rearview mirror, Julie and David headed to Tampa for a late evening meeting with a group of power Go Red for Women volunteers followed by meetings the next day with the Tampa Bay Board of Directors and local staff.

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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
 
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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Big Tobacco Reverts to Old Tricks

You would be surprised to learn that we opposed a bill in the Florida Legislative Session this year that would limit access of e-cigs to minors, but that is exactly what we did.

Along with our tobacco coalition partners, we opposed House Bill 169 which had the intent to limit access of e-cigs to minors. However, during the legislative process some bad language was put into the bill that preempted local and county governments to regulate the product. For many years preemption has been a tactic of big tobacco companies to slow down the regulation of regular cigarettes and with this new popular product, they went back into their bag of tricks. For more information, read this article by The Ledger.

In the end, the preemption language was stripped out of the bill and the bill passed both the House and the Senate. The bill is now waiting to be signed by the governor.

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Dr. Fely Curva, Florida

Dr. Fely Curva has been a longtime advocate of issues relating to education, nutrition, children’s health.  For the past three years, Dr. Curva has worked closely with the American Heart Association on several issues including: physical education, shared use agreements and school food nutrition.

Most recently, Dr. Curva has stood side by side at the Florida Capitol with the American Heart Association supporting efforts to bring opportunities to children and families to go out and exercise.  While supporting the American Heart Association's effort to increase Shared Use Agreements, Dr. Curva has testified in committee, visited lawmakers and participated in grassroots activities with her volunteers to increase awareness of the issue.  “We all remember playing at our schools on the weekend and during the summer, it’s a shame that schools must protect themselves by locking up their facilities,” says Dr. Curva.  “The more opportunities kids have to play, the healthier they will be and that is something my clients can get behind.”

Dr. Curva received her Ph.D. from the Florida State University, Department in Reading and Multilingual/Multicultural Education; a Masters of Science degree in Education and Research and Evaluation; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Valdosta State College. She has been an invaluable resource for the American Heart Association’s advocacy staff in Tallahassee and will continue to work with the American Heart Association in the future.

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Shared Use Bill Encounters Obstacle

On March 25, Senate Bill 396, Shared Use was heard in its first committee of reference.  Unfortunately, Senate Education Committee member, Senator Maria Sachs, drastically changed the substance and intent of the bill with an amendment.

This bad amendment does the following:

  • Creates a guaranteed pool of money trial attorneys can tap into if someone is injured during the use of a shared use agreement;
  • Takes away the school board’s ability to negotiate shared use agreements because the amendment mandates criteria;
  • Will create more lawsuits for schools and third parties to have to deal with; and 
  • Will decrease the number of shared use agreements schools enter into.

Let Senator Sachs know how disappointed you are in her decision to pursue her amendment and choose profits over children.

Stay tuned as the bill moves forward and we work to undo this bad amendment.  Together, we can help encourage schools to offer our children the chance to play on their recreation facilities.

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