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Is childhood obesity a problem in Rhode Island?

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and, according to the annual report The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, we still have some work to do in Rhode Island!   

How does the Ocean State rank in The State of Obesity report?

  • 13.2% of 10- to- 17-year-olds are obese in Rhode Island
  • 10.7% of high school students are obese in our state  

Rhode Island has lower childhood obesity rates than many other states, but 13.2% and 10.7% are still far too high!  We have to make sure that all kids have access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active – we need to create a culture of health in our state where the default choice is the healthy one.  

Rhode Island's success can serve as an example to the rest of the country - but we can't put ourselves on a pedestal while leaving 10% of our kids behind.

The American Heart Association is starting a petition asking the Governor-Elect to prioritize childhood obesity prevention in our state – click the following link to sign today: http://www.yourethecure.org/composeletters_open.aspx?AlertID=35459

The petition will be delivered after the General Election in November.   
 
To view The State of Obesity report visit: http://stateofobesity.org/states/

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Poll Released on Parents Support for Healthier School Food Policies

The American Heart Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the PEW Charitable Trusts released a poll earlier this week which found the majority of parents support national nutrition standards for both school meals and snack food and beverages sold in schools.  Check it out below!

Parents Support Healthier School Food Policies by 3-to-1 Margin

WASHINGTON—The vast majority of parents of school-age children support strong national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during school, according to a poll released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings come as school districts implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, which set basic limits on the fat, salt, and calories in foods and beverages sold through vending machines, school stores, and a la carte cafeteria menus.

The nationally representative poll assessed parents’ opinions of nutrition standards for both school meals and snack foods and beverages. Among the findings:

  • Most parents favor nutrition standards for all food served in schools.
    • 72 percent favor national standards for school meals.
    • 72 percent support standards for school snacks.
    • 91 percent support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
    • 75 percent think salt should be limited in meals.
  • The majority of parents are concerned with the state of children’s health (80 percent) and with childhood obesity (74 percent).
  • Most parents hold a mixed or negative opinion of the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages traditionally sold in schools and consider them to be only somewhat or not at all healthy. This applies to    foods sold a la carte (69 percent), in school stores (72 percent), and in vending machines (81 percent).

The Agriculture Department’s "Smart Snacks" standards, which took effect on July 1, 2014, represent the first major updates to national guidelines for school snack foods and beverages in more than 30 years. To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar. These guidelines follow similar nutrition standards for school lunches that took effect during the 2012-13 school year and are being met by approximately 90 percent of school districts.

Research has shown that both student health and school food service revenue can benefit from selling healthier snack foods and beverages. For example, a health impact assessment conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that when schools implement healthier standards for snack and a la carte foods, students are more likely to purchase a school meal—a change that improves children's diets and school budgets at the same time, because schools earn reimbursements for meal sales.

The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and Ferguson Research. Data were collected via telephone surveys between June 19 and 28, 2014, among registered voters who are parents of public school students.

Pew, RWJF, and AHA are jointly supporting efforts to ensure all foods and beverages in schools are healthy. The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a collaboration between Pew and RWJF. Voices for Healthy Kids is an initiative of RWJF and AHA, with Pew providing additional expertise.

###

The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project is a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more at www.healthyschoolfoodsnow.org. 

Voices for Healthy Kids is a national advocacy initiative focused on uniting the movement to prevent childhood obesity. A collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, the initiative seeks to help reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by ensuring children have access to healthy foods and beverages, as well as safe opportunities for physical activity. Learn more about the childhood obesity epidemic and how you can help turn it around at www.voicesforhealthykids.org

 

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Letter to the Editor - MN Schools Reducing Physical Education

This weekend the Star Tribune ran an article talking about PE in Minnesota and the waivers schools are seeking in order to close the education gap. We know that fit kids learn better and less Physical Education isn't the answer. Please check out the Letter to the Editor that ran in the Star Tribune in response to this article from AHA's Rachel Callanan, who is the Regional Vice President of Advocacy for Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minneapolis Public Schools face great challenges in closing the achievement gap. However, reducing or eliminating physical education is not the solution ("No gym, no sweat" Sept. 7, 2014). In fact, data from the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey show that children who report being more physically active also report higher grades. There is a growing body of research that school-based physical activity positively affects student performance, improves classroom behavior, and improves cognitive function. With this evidence in mind, we should be giving students MORE opportunities to be physically active and learn lifelong skills for physical activity through physical education, not reducing them.

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The Salty Truth

Almost 60% of Americans have tried to reduce the amount of sodium they consume, according to a new survey.  But with excess salt in the processed and restaurant foods that we eat, it can be tough to avoid.  So, it’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of us, 75%, say they want to see less sodium in our food supply.
 
How can we make that happen?  It will take a vocal consumer base, food manufacturers and restaurants committing to changes, and Food and Drug Administration guidelines to give Americans more choice over the sodium we consume.

Help us continue to build the base of heart-smart consumers by spreading awareness about our country’s salty problem.  Just click in our new infographic below to share with family and friends.

For more information and resources, visit our sodium website. You can take the pledge to ‘break-up’ with salt, read the latest news on the Salty Scoop blog, and get helpful recipes and cooking tips!

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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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Back to School - Join us as we advocate for healthy kids!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

Whether or not you’ve got students or teachers in your home who are gearing up to head back to school, we can all agree on the importance of ensuring Oregon’s kids have a bright and healthy future ahead of them.

This time of year, many of us start to notice the kids in our neighborhoods walking and biking to school. Whether or not you see kids making the trek really depends on what neighborhood you live in, since many communities in the Metro area lack sidewalks or bike lanes to safely commute to school. There couldn’t be a more important time to give all kids this opportunity to get moving—1 in 4 kids in Oregon is overweight or obese, and they’re getting less exercise than any previous generation. Already, kids are facing chronic diseases earlier than ever and are threatened with a shorter life expectancy. In light of this, actively commuting to school—and leaving the car behind—has become a critical opportunity to help kids stay healthy. By walking or biking to and from school, Oregon kids can meet 60% of the daily physical activity recommendations. They’re also more likely to perform well in school. That’s why programs like Safe Routes to School are so exciting—by improving street infrastructure and educating parents and students about safety, we’ve as much as quadrupled the number of students getting active at some schools already. Join us this fall as the American Heart Association advocates for a Safe Routes to School program at every school district in the Metro region.

When it comes to healthy food for our kids in school, we’ve made incredible progress by improving nutrition standards. However, the junk food industry still spends $149 billion every year marketing to kids in schools—from logo-covered scoreboards and vending machines to fast food-sponsored school nights, junk food marketing sends the wrong message to our kids. It should be simple: If it’s not healthy enough to serve in school cafeterias, then you shouldn’t be allowed to market it in schools. The American Heart Association is partnering with Upstream Public Health (hyperlink) to ensure we get the junk food marketing out of Oregon schools with legislation in 2015. If you see examples of junk food marketing in your neighborhood schools, please let us know.

One other exciting issue we’re working on is our effort to make sure that every student in Oregon learns Hands-Only CPR in school. In less time than it takes to watch a TV sitcom, students can learn a skill that equips them to save the life of a loved one or a stranger. It’s simple: Dial 9-1-1, and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Nearly 400,000 cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital every year, and less than 11% of people survive—largely because there wasn’t someone there to step up and quickly perform CPR. Since the AHA started promoting Hands-Only CPR as an easier and just-as-effective option for the public, 18 states in the US have already made Hands-Only CPR a requirement for students. In Oregon, we could put 45,000 new lifesavers into our communities every year with this policy. There are some programs already at work in Oregon, from Medford to West Linn, Hood River to Clackamas, communities have come together to prove teaching Oregon students Hands-Only CPR is not only simple and possible—it’s effective and life-changing. Join us as we advocate for a bill in the 2015 legislature that would make Hands-Only CPR a part of every Oregon student’s curriculum.

With all of this important work ahead of us, we’re going to need your help. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping us tell the stories, share the expertise, and urge our decision makers to put Oregon kids’ health first—sarah.higginbotham@heart.org.

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Get Moving, Wyoming!

Hey YTC Networkers,

The below article was recently featured on Heart.org. Check it out and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. To improve overall cardiovascular health, we suggest at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember. You will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day.

For people who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, we recommend 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.

This includes things like climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, and include walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility.

The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It's enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It's easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.

 

AHA Recommendation

For Overall Cardiovascular Health:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150

    OR
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

    AND
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
  • An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week
 

What if I can’t make it to the time goal?

Something is always better than nothing!

And everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you've been sedentary for years, today is the day you can begin to make healthy changes in your life. If you don't think you'll make it for 30 or 40 minutes, set a reachable goal for today. You can work up toward your overall goal by increasing your time as you get stronger. Don't let all-or-nothing thinking rob you of doing what you can every day.

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Advocates Visit Congressional Offices, Promote Healthy School Meals in Oklahoma

As the summer draws to an end, You’re the Cure advocates across the nation have traveled to their respective United States Representative and Senator’s district offices to advocate of the reauthorization for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and ask  Congress to maintain the  nutrition standards.  The message was clear: Healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids and we are ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the necessary nutrition standards.  

Oklahoma You’re the Cure Advocates Donna McDannold and Thurman Paul helped deliver that message to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office by providing staff with  puzzle pieces containing important facts about how the school nutrition standards are working.  Advocates also shared their personal thoughts on why nutrition standards in schools is good for the state of Oklahoma and its youth. This meeting was the first of a continued dialogue between the Senator’s office and the American Heart Association.

Have you told your U.S. Senator or Representative to support reauthorization of the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act? Visit the Action Center and take action today! 

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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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