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Teaching Gardens Plant Day at Oak View Elementary

On September 30, Oak View Elementary in Decatur, GA hosted their first American Heart Association’s (AHA) Teaching Garden Plant Day.

That morning, PTA volunteers, teachers, and volunteers from Aetna, our Teaching Gardens sponsor, gathered outside with students as the DJ kicked off the celebration with Pharell's song "Happy."

Oak View Elementary Principal, Rodney Mallory, welcomed the group and spoke about the exciting work ahead. Praising students for their enthusiasm and reminding them to not only work hard in their garden but to be brave enough to try healthy fruits and vegetables like the ones they will grow.

AHA Metro Atlanta VP, Michael Privette, gave rousing remarks, congratulating the school on their beautiful garden and thanking Aetna, our generous sponsor, for providing students and families of Oak View Elementary with this wonderful opportunity. He highlighted how Teaching Gardens can combat the health threat that childhood obesity presents. He also presented gifts to Kim Ellison, Teaching Garden School Champion and Master Gardner, and her associate Frances Bishop for their spectacular efforts.

Joining over 270+ Teaching Gardens nationwide, Pre K – 5th grade students at Oak View Elementary will learn how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons will teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while students have fun in the fresh air and work with their hands.

With one third of U.S. children being classified as overweight or obese, the AHA is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a lifetime appreciation for healthy foods. The Teaching Gardens is just one excellent way the AHA is working hard to help kids live heart-healthy lives.  

For pictures and videos from Plant Day at Oak View Elementary, please visit the American Heart Association's Metro Atlanta Facebook page. Together, we can dramatically change the way America thinks about and consumes food. 

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Georgia State Advocacy Subcommittee

We're excited to announce that Brad Alexander and Ann Mintz will chair the 2014-2015 Georgia State Advocacy Committee. The committee is responsible for establishing public policy priorities and participating in grassroots and lobbying activities,  in an effort to advance policies that improve cardiovascular health and reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke in Georgia.

This year, the committee is rounded out by a diverse group of experienced and passionate volunteers:

  • Kimberly Goodloe is a brave and vocal survivor who shares her story at health fairs, to the state legislature, and on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC as an American Heart Association ambassador.

  • Doug Joiner has worked with youth and the childhood obesity epidemic for many years, most recently in helping children find safe routes to school in local communities.

  • Rhonda Briggins serves as the Senior Directors of External Affairs for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority where she oversees the Office of Government Affairs and Office of Community Relations on a federal, state and local level.

  • Uriel Casteneda, M.D. is a pediatric resident at Emory University/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He has also studied at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Casteneda is a member of the Latino Medical Student Association.

  • Veronca Toscano de Leger is an advisor for the Advisory Council to the Institute for Mexicans Abroad and has served as an interpreter for the Douglasville, Georgia Public Defenders office.

  • Lisa Wilson is a school nurse in Savannah, Georgia and has been a CPR instructor for many years. In January of 2013, Lisa’s 21 year-year-old son Cory collapsed during a college class. No AEDs were in the building, and no one administered CPR. Cory was rushed to a local hospital, but passed away from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

  • Cynthia Arnsdorff is a survivor and active writer and blogger about cardiovascular health and the risks associated with autoimmune disease.

 We invite you to follow You're the Cure Georgia on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information.

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Meet Our Georgia Advocacy Subcommittee Leaders

We're thrilled to announce that the 2014 – 2015 Advocacy Subcommittee will be led by veteran government affairs professionals Brad Alexander and Ann Mintz.

Brad Alexander, also the incoming 2015 Chair of the Metro Atlanta Advisory Board, has more than 20 years of work in the public policy field. He currently leads the McGuire Woods Consulting team in Georgia and serves as the Senior Vice President of State Government Relations. Previously a longtime partner with Georgia360 Public Affairs, Brad also served as the former chief of staff to Georgia Lt. Governor and Senate President Casey Cagle, press secretary for a U.S. House member.

Ann Mintz, M.P.A. brings a wealth of government affairs, community relations, research, and communications experience and currently serves as the Public Policy Director for the United Way, Greater Atlanta. Ann ran her own government affairs consulting group for many years, served in the Governor’s office, and is the former Legislative Director of the Association of County Commissioners in Georgia. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association, and Junior League of Atlanta. Ann graduated from the Atlanta Regional Commission Leadership Institute, Class of 2012.

The American Heart Association looks forward to announcing its 2015 state public policy agenda. Stay tuned and be part of making cardiovascular health a priority in Georgia!

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Which Snacks are Smart Snacks?

New U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines are ensuring that healthy snacks are offered in school stores, vending machines and outside of the school lunch line. But those guidelines only apply until 30 minutes after the last school bell rings. After that, schools can sell snacks that are high in salt, fat, sugar and calories.

To highlight the differences in snack options, the Georgia advocacy team showcased two snack options at the Sept. 20th Atlanta Heart Walk. Passersby couldn’t help but check out two large baskets of snack food at the You’re the Cure table. One basket contained processed foods and sugary drinks, while another was filled with popped chips, fruit, pretzels and water. Visitors voted for which basket they thought should be sold in schools; adults voted with red tickets and kids with blue tickets. The healthy snack basket won 3-1 over the unhealthy basket with most kids choosing junk food as suspected. Many kids had no idea that certain foods were unhealthy, that too much salt and sugar can make your heart sick; and more than a few adults admitted they were unaware the healthy options were actually healthy.

The other popular draw to the You’re the Cure table was the petition to raise the cigarette tax by $1. Right now, Georgia has the third lowest tobacco tax in the nation at 37 cents a pack. People lined up in three lines – each 10 deep – to sign the petition. Many folks were passionate about the issue because of a relative who smokes. This petition will be incredibly effective when we share with legislators how many constituents support raising Georgia’s tobacco tax closer to the national average.

True advocacy occurred that day at the Heart Walk. A total of 105 folks joined You’re the Cure, with 63 people signing the tobacco tax petition. The Georgia advocacy team plans to replicate this effort at the Oct. 25th NW Georgia Heart Walk.

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CVS Quits Tobacco

The first national pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco said all 7,700 stores had halted sales by Wednesday — about a month earlier than planned — and announced a name change from CVS Caremark to CVS Health to reflect its commitment to health.

CVS announced its tobacco-free plan in February, saying the profits are not worth the larger cost in public health. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity each year.

CVS Health also announced Wednesday a new “comprehensive and uniquely personalized smoking cessation program” developed by national experts.

Read more at blog.heart.org.

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A Puzzling August Recess

During the month of August, You're the Cure advocates across the country dropped by key congressional offices in support of strong school nutrition standards that are part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

Carlin Breinig delivers our puzzled message to Rep. Tom Price's office.

Advocates shared a clear message with members: healthy school meals "fit" into a successful school day for kids and we're "puzzled" by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards. To illustrate the message, advocates delivered four puzzle pieces that fit together to display a healthy school meal and one piece showing unhealthy food that doesn’t fit. Each puzzle piece contains a fact on the back.

Here in Georgiia, we'd like to thank You're the Cure advocates Kendra Small, Carlin Breinig, Cynthia Arnsdorff, Delores Horton and Lindsey Olexy Bryant for delivering the message to key members.

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Carlin Breinig, Georgia

Carlin Breinig, GA

Last month, Carlin participated in our fun August Recess activity and urged Rep. Tom Price to support the strong school nutrition standards that are part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

In December 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update national nutrition standards for school meals and for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day. School meals were updated to include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and to limit sodium, saturated fat, and trans fats. The law also has had numerous other positive effects on school nutrition and health, such as strengthening local wellness policies and updating nutrition standards for foods sold on the school campus (outside of the meal program) throughout the day.

This issue of child nutrition is important to Carlin. “I was very happy to make the August drop off, to share the importance of healthy nutrition at school. I've been a personal chef for 16 years. When I first started my business, my customers were mostly busy people who needed help with meals. This has changed over the years. More recently, requests have been from people who are also busy but have been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol and now have to change the way they eat."

I have been involved with Chefs Move to Schools since its inception and have worked to change school food to be more appealing while following the standards. I know that for some children, the meals at school could be the only meals they get during a day. So their meals need to be nutritious and delicious so they are consumed. 

Carlin says, "I support the American Health Association because of their educational programs and the proactive approach they take. I am very interested in the school nutrition standards because I believe change can start with young people."

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Smart Snacks Vote Report

On July 1, 2014, all public schools in Georgia implemented the latest USDA guidelines for snack food sold in schools. Designed to attack the childhood obesity epidemic by ensuring students have easy access to healthy snacks,  the guidelines included some flexibility in allowing exemptions for on-campus food fundraisers. While most states chose not to allow any deviation from the guidelines and committed to providing only healthy snack options at school, the Georgia Board of Education (BOE) voted to allow 30 exemptions each lasting three days. This means Georgia schools can sell junk food to kids – during school hours – for 90 days or half the school year. 

The American Heart Association led the charge in pressuring the Georgia BOE to vote against the proposed exemptions, and launched a statewide digital ad campaign and web page encouraging the public to speak out in support of Smart Snacks in schools.  

Visit the USDA's website for more information about the guidelines.

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American Heart Association Response to 8/21/14 GA BOE Smart Snack Vote

Today, Georgia’s Board of Education voted to allow 30 exempt fundraisers, each lasting 3 days. That equates to half the school year – 90 days – which could provide potentially unhealthy food options in the name of school fundraising.

The American Heart Association remains committed to improving cardiovascular health through sound policy, including ensuring our children are offered only healthy food and beverages while at school.  Georgia’s childhood obesity rate is well above the national average, and we encourage the state to enact policies that prioritize the health of our children over revenue. Allowing unhealthy foods to be sold in schools half the school year, and allowing districts to petition for additional exemptions does just the opposite. Children consume up to half of their calories at school each day. Choice is a good thing, but when it comes to our kids, choices offered at school should be healthy ones. Thirty states do not allow any exemptions for school fundraiser, and this policy drives Georgia to the bottom percent for good nutrition policy by adopting the weakest fundraiser policy in the nation. We can and should do better. The American Heart Association will continue to encourage schools to follow models of health by turning away from enticing kids with foods that are loaded with fat, salt, and sugar and, instead, embracing successful fundraising models that focus on healthy alternatives to fundraising, as have the majority of Georgia schools.  

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New Study: Hospitalizations, Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke Drop in the U.S.

The rates of U.S. hospitalizations and deaths from heart disease and stroke dropped significantly in the last decade, more so than for any other condition, according to a study released Monday in the journal Circulation

A research team led by Harlan Krumholz, M.D., national American Heart Association volunteer and director of the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, said the drop was mainly due to a steady increase in the use of evidence-based treatments and medications, as well as a growing emphasis on heart-healthy lifestyles and behaviors.

The study examined data on nearly 34 million Medicare Fee-For-Service recipients from 1999 to 2011 for trends in hospitalization, dying within a month of being admitted, being admitted again within a month and dying during the following year. Age, sex, race, other illnesses and geography also were considered.

Read the full article on blog.heart.org.

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