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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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What Snacks Does Your School Serve?

For the 2014-2015 school year, only healthy snacks will be available during the school day at all Georgia public schools. These snacks will align with the updated USDA nutrition guidelines for children.  

Known as the "Smart Snacks" 
program, the purpose is to further promote healthy eating and help prevent childhood obesity. In 2007, Georgia ranked 2nd in the nation for overweight children. Now, that number has dropped to 17th according to the CDC. So we still have some work to do! 

If you're aware of the types of snacks available in the past at your local school, we'd like to hear from you. Were the snacks healthy? Did you feel comfortable with the snack choices your child made? Or are the snack offerings unhealthy and you're eager for change?

Are you willing to share your story? Click here to tell us today.

 

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Cory Wilson, Georgia

Cory Wilson, Georgia

Our Boy….

He was 6 pounds 15 ounces of sweet perfection.  He was all things good, and I loved him fiercely from the day he was born until the day he died on January 17th, 2013.  His death has ripped our lives into pieces and tested every ounce of our strength we have.  Our days blend into nights and into days again.  Things that once seemed so important are now barely noticed, and often it is a zombie-like existence moving through our lives without him.

It has been 537 days since our son, Cory Joseph Wilson, collapsed and died in his classroom at Georgia Southern University.  Though young, strong, and healthy, Cory was the victim of a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.  A proud brother of the Kappa Alpha Order of Fraternities, he loved spending time with his friends, his family and his Liv.  He embodied life, and his personality and his talent for telling stories drew people of all ages to his side.  Ironically the very people he touched have made the difference in our quest for survival since Cory’s death.

When Cory collapsed, there was no automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby.  Cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was started by a classmate, the one person in the class that did know CPR.  However CPR was delayed because Cory's symptoms were not immediately recognized as cardiac.  Though campus police were on the scene, they did not bring their AED inside.  It was not until EMS arrived that the opportunity for AED assistance was made available to Cory.  The delay in the chain of survival cost possible life saving minutes and CPR was simply not enough to sustain Cory’s life.  Doctors have said it is possible that the automated external defibrillator could have saved Cory’s life.  Possible.  That one word is like a kick in the gut, a breath stealing, heart wrenching, bile producing painful kick that threatens to rob us of any joy…but letting that happen would be a disservice to Cory.  His mantra to Live, Laugh, and Love drives us to hold on to those who hold us, lean on those beside us and move forward to hopefully make life better for someone else.

In Cory’s memory, many strides have been made to educate others about CPR and using AEDs.  Several businesses and churches have installed AEDs and implemented emergency plans, over 1500 people have received Hands Only CPR and AED education, $20,000 was raised by the Cory Joseph Wilson First Annual Memorial Baseball Tournament (this purchased AEDs for local recreational facilities and assisted with funding the Cory Joseph Wilson Memorial Scholarship at GSU), a second scholarship was established by the Delta Theta Chapter at GSU, and over 140 AEDS have now been placed on the Georgia Southern Campus, including one in the Kappa  Alpha house. Prior to Cory’s death, he had talked about getting his fraternity brothers to learn CPR.  When the AED was mounted in the house, the KA boys all received a brief in-service on Hands Only CPR and how to use their AED.  Finally, the school where I work, White Bluff Elementary, is the only school in our county to have every staff member trained in Hands Only CPR and AED usage.  We are also Chatham County’s only Project S.A.V.E. School. 

In October  Cory’s story was featured in Memorial’s THE BEAT physician newsletter and continues to be told locally and statewide.  Governor Deal recently had the opportunity to hear Cory’s story as well.  Cory’s crooked smile has radiated from computer screens, newspaper articles and even TV as his story has slowly moved from one place to another.  We have been deeply touched by the tremendous show of support shown to our family.  Though difficult without him here, our goal is to live life as Cory did, touching lives wherever we can and embracing every day.  As a family, Kenny, Morgan and I are moving forward with the message that CPR and AEDs can save lives.   We encourage you to learn CPR and how to use an AED.  You can learn the basics in minutes by watching an online video or learn the complete process by signing up for a local class or taking one online.  Whatever you decide, just do something.

It’s possible the person you save could be someone you love… and in this case, possible is a good thing.

- Written by Lisa Wilson, 7/8/14

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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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One Million Milestone

Did you hear the big news?  We’ve reached an amazing milestone in our campaign to teach all students to be ‘CPR Smart’!  17 states now require CPR training as a graduation requirement, which adds up to over one million annual graduates who are prepared to save a life.  Congratulations to all of the You’re the Cure advocates and community partners who have spoken-up for training our next generation of life-savers.   

But with every advocacy celebration comes a new call to action.  33 states still need to pass legislation to make CPR a graduation requirement and you can help us get there!  Here are a couple simple things you can do right now to get the word out:

1) Watch Miss Teen International Haley Pontius share how a bad day can be turned into a day to remember when students know CPR.  And don’t forget to share this PSA on social media with the hashtag #CPRinSchools!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

2) Do you live in one of the 33 states that have not made CPR a graduation requirement yet?  Take our Be CPR Smart pledge to show your support and join the movement.  We’ll keep you updated on the progress being made in your state. 


 

 

We hope you’ll help keep the momentum going as we support many states working to pass this legislation into 2015.  Several states have already had success in securing funding for CPR training in schools, but now need to push for the legislature to pass the graduation requirement and in Illinois, the Governor recently signed legislation that requires schools to offer CPR & AED training to students. 

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates when given right away and with 424,000 people suffering out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year, this law is critical to helping save lives.  Thank you for being part of our movement to train the next generation of life-savers!


PS- Inspired to be CPR smart too?  Take 60 seconds to learn how to save a life with Hands-Only CPR.

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