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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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Kids Health Before Balanced Budgets

Is requiring snacks that are sold at school be healthy government “overreach?” Should schools be raising money by feeding children food that is high in sugar, fat and salt? Metro Atlanta Board President and cardiologist Dr. Paul Douglass shares his thoughts in an editorial scheduled to run in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on August 16, 2014.

How many times a week or month is your child buying snack food at school from a club or team raising money? Are those snacks healthy? Or are they full of sugar, fat, salt, and empty calories? Overweight children are at an alarming risk of being overweight or obese adults, which puts them at risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In an effort to address the childhood obesity epidemic the USDA issued updated guidelines for snack food sold in public schools last year that took effect July 1, 2014. The nutrition standards only apply to snacks sold on campus during normal school hours and up until 30 minutes after the last bell rings. It does not apply to concession stands at sporting events, fundraisers that occur off school property, or to food that a student brings from home.

State Departments of Education were granted some flexibility in allowing a set number of exemptions during the year for on-campus food fundraisers. Twenty-five states have chosen not to allow any deviation from providing only healthy snack options at school, unfortunately Georgia is poised to not be one of them. Last week, Georgia’s Board of Education recommended 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. Is it wise or even responsible as adults and parents to balance school budgets on the backs of our children’s appetites?

Many school systems in Georgia have moved away from food-fundraising altogether and seen their revenues rise. Hall County Schools recently piloted a switch from sports drinks to water, despite anticipating a decline in revenue. When that didn’t happen, schools realized they truly didn’t need to depend on unhealthy food and drink to raise money when other avenues, like fun runs, were more profitable. Hall County also expected parent backlash after limiting outside food for school celebrations to twice a year. Instead, parents have expressed their gratitude. Most snack vendors offer healthy alternatives, and schools have found the switch to be seamless. Non-food fundraising also allow for higher profit margins.

Critics, including State Superintendent Barge, call the USDA guidelines “government overreach.” But children are getting over 50 percent of their daily calories at school. Some in lower income districts are receiving 100 percent of their meals from school. Should that food be laden with fat, salt and sugar? If all the available snack choices are healthy, then children will make a healthy selection.

Children can’t learn properly after consuming donuts and candy bars, and teachers can’t run an effective classroom under the physical influence of junk food. We have a childhood obesity epidemic locally and nationally that must be addressed through healthy food options for children, especially when the parents aren’t present to shepherd those decisions. Nearly one in three (31.8%) U.S. children (23.9 million) ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.

The American Heart Association calls on the State Board of Education to change the proposed policy to ensure that all school snacks are healthy and further guide schools to apply those standards to food fundraisers as well.

Dr. Paul L. Douglass

President, American Heart Association – Atlanta Advisory Board Cardiologist, Metropolitan Atlanta Cardiology Consultants, P.C.

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Stephanie Dempsey, Georgia

American Heart Association volunteer Stephanie Dempsey of Blairsville, Georgia, testified Tuesday, July 15, in Washington, D.C. about the impact of chronic disease.

The hearing was to begin a conversation on chronic care, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Oregon.

Dempsey, age 44, said she has suffered from multiple chronic conditions for most of her life.  She has coronary artery disease, lupus, a seizure disorder and arthritis. She told the committee that her chronic conditions have led to a loss of independence, financial security and family.

“I have always considered myself a middle class American. I had a well-paying job. I owned my own home and was happily married,” Dempsey said.  “Unfortunately, this is not the case today.”

Dempsey was diagnosed with hereditary coronary artery disease at age 21, which has affected all the women in her family. Her only sister died from it at 28.  At age 48, her mother had quadruple bypass surgery.  Dempsey herself had quadruple bypass surgery at 30 and since then has had another bypass surgery and received 27 stents.

She takes 19 medications a day, in addition to doctor-recommended supplements.

Due to her debilitating conditions, she lost her job and her home.

Fighting tears, Dempsey said that the strain caused by her chronic health conditions also ruined her marriage and that she had no choice but to move in with her parents, who take care of her. Her specialists are more than two hours away and due to her seizure disorder, she is unable to drive and her parents must take her to appointments.

The lack of coordination between her specialists caused one to prescribe a medication for lupus that can cause seizures.  He did not remember that she had a seizure disorder.  It took several days and “much persistence” to adjust her treatment.

Dempsey says that she has to be her own healthcare coordinator.

“Although I consider myself an educated person, navigating this maze is very difficult and very exhausting. But it is my life at stake, so I have no choice except to remain engaged,” she said.

It took two years, but she now receives Medicare. Yet, she said she still struggles to pay her medical bills.

Despite her struggles, Dempsey said she felt fortunate to be at the hearing to present her testimony.

“I am confident that you will not forget me and countless other people when you develop policies that will help all of us,” Dempsey said. “Our goals are all the same – to live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Sen. Wyden said at the end of the hearing that it was overwhelming to hear Dempsey’s story.

“My own judgment is that chronic disease has really gotten short shrift in the big debates. I don’t think it happened deliberately,” said Wyden. “What you heard today from Senators again on both sides of the aisle is that those days are over — when chronic diseases get short shrift.”

Photo courtesy of Courtney Doby. Story originally published on blog.heart.org.

For more information:

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Heart Walk Season is Around the Corner!

The American Heart Association is committed to reducing the devastating impact of heart attacks and stroke, the No. 1 and 4 killers in America, respectively. A successful Heart Walk affords us the opportunity to dedicate critical resources toward research and education. You can walk as an individual, join a team, have your employer join, or start a team of your own.

The American Heart Association looks forward to seeing you at any one of our many fall Heart Walks throughout our great state. 

If you're interested in volunteering for the You're the Cure table at any of the above walks, email us at gsa.advocacy@heart.org. We'd appreciate your help!

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Georgia Proposes New School Nutrition Rules

The Georgia State Board of Education’s proposal of 30 exemptions from the USDA’s nutrition guidelines for in-school, on-campus food fundraising is concerning.  In 2007, Georgia ranked 2nd in childhood obesity. Today, it ranks 17th. Continuing to thwart efforts to make food choices healthy for children only sets us up to reverse the improvements we’ve made.  Even with the USDA’s provision allowing states to choose the cap on food fundraisers per year, half have chosen zero, including NC, SC, MS, KY and AR.  Moreover, Alabama’s school nutrition standards are already stricter than the USDA’s guidelines. Georgia’s are among the nation’s weakest. The suggested changes allowing 30 fundraisers – each of which can last up to 3 days  -- ultimately allow our children to purchase unhealthy food without parental input for 90 days. That’s half the school year.  The Department of Education and Board of Education acknowledge the childhood obesity problem, but offer no solution.  The most obvious remedy is to model other Georgia schools that have increased their revenue through non-food fundraising and not depended on donuts and candy bars. We will continue to educate the Board of Education on the importance of healthy food selections in schools and profitable alternatives to food fundraising.

For more information about the American Heart Association's position, please visit http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/issuedetails.aspx?IssueId=Obesity and select the article entitled Nutrition in Schools.

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