American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Advocates Deliver "Lunch" and a Message

August was a busy month for many of our fantastic You're the Cure advocates as they met with members of Congress and their staff in their home districts to urge their support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Advocates from across the country, like Grace Oberholtzer of Pennsylvania, pictured at left with Congressman Dent, delivered special puzzles to lawmakers throughout the month to highlight that nutritious food 'fits' into a successful school day for every child.

Our sincere appreciation also goes out to the many other advocates who made "lunch" deliveries in the AHA Great Rivers Affiliate: Sandy Larimore, Cary Hearn and Malenda McCalister of Kentucky, Hilary Requejo, Elaine Bohman, Holly Boykin and Felicia Guerrero of Ohio, Theresa Conejo and Marlene Etkowicz (pictured at right ) in Pennsylvania, Dr. Dan Foster and Cinny Kittle in West Virginia, and Sarah Noonan Davis and Lynn Toth in Delaware.

It's not too late to raise your voice too. Speak-up for quality food in schools!

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The Truth Lies in the Lunch Bag

During August, while Congress is on recess, advocates are keeping the importance of child nutrition standards in front our lawmakers!

We have been working to support the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides strong nutrition standards for school meals.  Congress is working on appropriations, and the school nutrition standards have been a hot topic in the agriculture appropriations debate.  The House bill would allow schools to get waivers from these standards and the Senate bill would delay the sodium standards we support.  Because members of Congress are on recess, this is the perfect opportunity to urge their support for keeping the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act strong. 

On August 20th, You’re the Cure advocates Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Michelle Ballasiotes, Dr. Sandra Burke, Tracey Perry, and Judd Rupp, along with advocacy staff, Kim Chidester, met with Travis Manigan, Charlotte Regional Liaison for Senator Kay Hagan.  In that meeting, they discussed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and how important it is to the students and families in North Carolina for Senator Hagan to support this legislation. 

Michelle Ballasiotes shared the reasons why, as a high school student, she brings her lunch to school and has for years: the food isn’t very good and she’d rather bring her food than buy at school.  Her testimony is evident of the larger problem: students in North Carolina, and across the county, need and want nutritious foods to eat for lunch – and with some students being given only 20 minutes to eat, a quick and healthy meal is vital to their well-being.

The meeting was very positive, and it was indicative of how easy it is to become involved in the political process as a You’re the Cure advocate on local and federal issues.

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August Recess Visit: Rep. John Kline

You’re the Cure advocate and Minnesota State Advocacy Committee member, Jolene Tesch and her two little ones Charlie and Raina visited Minnesota Representative John Kline’s office today to deliver a few special puzzle pieces highlighting nutritional foods that "fit" into a successful school day for every child. Like other advocates across the country, Jolene was puzzled by some Members of Congress are trying to roll-back strong nutrition standards for school meals. She especially wants to make sure her two little ones have healthy school lunches!  Thanks Jolene, Charlie and Raina for being great advocates and delivering this very important message and even snapping a picture while you visited the office.

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Research & Advocacy = Results

In the last decade, U.S. hospitalization and death rates for heart disease and stroke have dropped significantly!  That means our research and your advocacy are paying off!  Let's keep it going to reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal — to improve the heart health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.  Learn more here:

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August Recess: Representative Peterson

You're the Cure advocates like Mary Bertram and Minnesota Advocacy Committee member, Jo DeBruycker are puzzled why some Members of Congress are trying to roll-back strong nutrition standards for school meals. So Mary and Jo made a visit to Representative Colin Peterson's office, delivering a special puzzle highlighting that nutritious foods "fit" into a successful school day for every child. They also made sure to grab a photo while there and even managed to get Rep. Peterson in the picture (even if it was only a picture of him).


Want to help too? Speak-up for quality food in schools: #SaveSchoolLunch

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Study Released on Childhood Obesity Policy

Health Talk (University of Minnesota)  posted an article today on Childhood Obesity Research.  Check it out! AHA's RVP of Advocacy, Rachel Callanan was co-author!

How our legislators make decisions depends on a variety of factors such as expert beliefs, constituents’ opinions, political principles and research-based evidence. And while we’d like to think more decisions are made utilizing research-based evidence, a new study by researchers at the School of Public Health and the Medical School at the University of Minnesota along with collaborators at the American Heart Association and the Public Health Law Center found only 41 percent of all formal legislative discussions over childhood obesity-related bills in Minnesota from 2007-2011 cited some form of research-based evidence.

The new study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked to quantify the extent to which research-based evidence compared to non-research-based information was used in legislative materials about childhood obesity, an issue that continues to be prevalent not only in Minnesota but across the U.S.

"Quantifying how legislators make decisions regarding childhood obesity is important because public health researchers, like those at the University of Minnesota, have produced a considerable amount of policy-relevant research," said Sarah Gollust, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "Research evidence regarding obesity costs, causes, consequences and the impact of potential policies could be of great value for policy decisions if it is translated to decision-makers effectively." Continue reading the article here

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Help Us Promote the Child Nutrition Act in Colorado

Your Congressman or Senator could have the power to ensure kids are getting quality, nutritional meals in schools. As they return home from Washington DC for a break in August, the American Heart Association is coordinating efforts across the state to meet with legislators and show our support of federal school nutrition funding, and guidelines.

We could use your help! These legislators will be most responsive to the people in their state. We are asking volunteers to attend a scheduled information drop-off at their Member’s offices.  Will you join us?

For more details contact Erin Hackett at

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Advocate Spotlight: Quality Physical Education - What is it?

Breon Schroeder Derby Spearfish SD and Chadron NE

Some individuals may remember a time where ‘gym’ class revolved around an unstructured chaos of playing dodge-ball, being picked last for teams, and sitting on the sidelines while the instructor focused on getting his or her athletes prepared for the big game. This ‘roll out the ball’ era is a stigma that continues to plague the field of physical education.

Having progressed well beyond ‘gym’ class, the field, as its name suggests, focuses on education; a continuous process that provides individuals with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources necessary to enhance their well-being throughout their lifetime. Unlike other content areas, physical education focuses on the development of the whole child by emphasizing the three domains of learning: 1). Cognitive, 2). Affective and, 3). Psychomotor.

Physical education not only provides individuals with the opportunity to engage in physical activity, but it also offers a diverse, standards-based curriculum and a variety of quality assessment practices so that each student can find something they enjoy and will continue to participate in throughout their lifetime. In addition, the physical education environment fosters real-world skills essential to being successful in today’s competitive job market, such as teamwork, cooperation, and responsibility. Physical education also plays a crucial role when it comes to high stakes testing and financial gain for school districts, as several studies have shown a link between physical activity and academic success.   “Exercise improves learning on three levels: first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus” (Ratey, 2008, p.53).  It has been proven that healthier students learn better (CDC, 2014a). Quality physical education can aid in student success by decreasing absenteeism, increasing fitness levels, and enhancing cognitive function.

However, despite the vast advantages physical education provides, including the education on the one thing people use every day, their bodies, it is often the first content area to be let go when school districts are faced with budget cuts.  With over $147 billion dollars spent annually on preventable, obesity-related illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (CDC, 2014b), educating students on the importance of lifetime physical activity through quality, daily physical education could have a substantial impact on both the health and economic status of our nation. If people are truly concerned about the success and well-being of our students, our future, they will get informed and become an advocate for quality, daily physical education.

Breon Schroeder Derby has a B.S in Physical education with minors in health and coaching from Black Hills State University in Spearfish. She has a M.Ed in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in PE from Chadron State College and is currently working on her dissertation to complete her Doctorate in Health Education from A.T Still University. Breon taught physical and health education at Lead Deadwood High School and for the past two years was an instructor in the HPER department at Chadron State College. She currently serves as instructor of HPER at BHSU.

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We've Come So Far Because of You, South Carolina!

The 2014 Legislative Session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation while providing us room to continue in 2015.

Senate Bill 1094: School Nutrition Guidelines
This would have required stronger nutritional guidelines for competitive foods sold on school grounds during afterschool hours. Competitive foods include foods sold in vending machines, snack stores, and a la carte items in school cafeterias. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the Senate Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full Senate once the bill was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Bill 160: CPR in Schools
This would have required all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED awareness as part of the already required high school health education class. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the House Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full House once the bill was placed on the House calendar.

This issue continues to be vital to residents of South Carolina, even during the summer months when the legislature is not in session. Please email your elected officials today and let them know you support CPR in schools.

Tobacco Control Funding
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $8 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories
Three more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, joining 55 other South Carolina municipalities, for a total of 58 cities/counties, covering 39% of the state's population!

As part of the You're the Cure team, you've helped us make GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2015 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do. You are our hero.

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Combating obesity in all our communities

Guest Blogger: Ashleigh Sharp, American Heart Association Multicultural Initiatives Intern

While obesity rates have increased in communities nationwide, the obesity epidemic has disproportionately affected the Native American population. With 1 in 3 suffering from obesity, Native American children have one of the highest rates of obesity in the county. This statistic is a major concern for the Native American communities because obesity increases the risk for serious lifelong illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for Native American women.

To address the issue of obesity and heart disease in Native American populations, awareness and preventive efforts are crucial. With obesity increasingly developing in childhood, Native American mothers can play a vital role in preventing childhood obesity. Empowering Native American women to take an active role in reducing risk factors associated with heart disease will not only improve their own health but also the health of future generations.

The American Heart Association is helping to tackle heart disease in Native American communities by providing easy, practical and culturally relevant information on achieving heart health. One such initiative is Healthy Native Hearts, a wellness event held in Great Falls, Montana. A main focus of the event was providing Native American women with the skills and knowledge needed to provide adequate nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their families. Activities for Native American youth were also incorporated into the event, which including a children's area where kids could be active, have fun and stay engaged. Health screenings were also offered and tips were given to help prevent health risks.

An additional resource to help reduce this health disparity in Native American communities is the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” program. The “Life’s Simple 7” is a free program available online for anyone to use. It entails seven easy ways to help control a person’s risk for heart disease. “Life’s Simple 7” helps participants to manage heart risk by understanding the importance of getting active, controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar and stopping smoking. Events such as Healthy Native Hearts and teaching “Life’s Simple 7” can provide Native American populations the knowledge needed to reduce obesity and heart disease in their communities and lead healthier, longer lives.

Obesity is an epidemic in our country and the American Heart Association is working hard to improve the health of every community we serve.

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