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For many years, Gloria Hobbs lived with her husband on the south side of Youngstown, where there was a grocery store a few blocks away. Unfortunately, the passing of Gloria’s husband and the economic downtown precipitated many changes in her life.  She now lives in subsidized senior housing downtown and is no longer able to drive, which unfortunately means she no longer has convenient access to a grocery store. 

For Gloria and the 300 other seniors living in the complex, a trip to the store now entails four buses. It also changes what they can buy. “Going by bus, I can only carry two, maybe three grocery bags,” Gloria said.

Some seniors opt to avoid the walk to the bus stop and waiting in the cold, heat and rain, by taking senior rides to the store.  While the senior housing will subsidize these and it allows for more than a few bags of groceries, Gloria’s neighbors have shared that it still costs between $10 and $20 per ride.  This is a substantial amount when living on a fixed income.  

“My only choice downtown is to get food at the convenience store around the corner. They don’t sell greens or meat. They do sell apples, oranges, bananas, and potatoes, at twice the rate of a grocery store. Seniors on fixed income can’t afford to pay twice the going rate for healthy foods,” Gloria shared.  She believes since moving downtown, her health has deteriorated in ways related to lack of items for a healthy diet.

Gloria supports efforts to make a change. She believes development of an Ohio Healthy Food Financing program will positively impact Ohioans who live in areas like hers, that currently do not have a grocery store. Learn more about Healthy Food Financing efforts and how we can all help.

A long-time advocate for a sugary drink excise tax in Vermont will now chair the American Heart Association’s Vermont Advocacy Committee and help promote nutrition standards and the removal of sugary drinks in restaurants kids’ meals.

Professor Jane Kolodinsky is also the chair of the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics.  Addressing the AHA’s goal of setting nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals makes sense to her as it’s a topic she is familiar with.

Jane is a co-author of a chapter entitled, Childhood Obesity, Food Choice and Market Influence” in the book “Global Perspectives on Childhood Obesity.” One of the findings discussed in the publication is that the number of kids eating at fast food restaurants has increased over time.  Fast food restaurants are so popular that adolescents tend to eat at them twice a week and, on a typical day, 30% of youth aged 4-19 consume fast food.

Jane notes that with fast food being higher in fat and energy, children get a disproportionate number of their recommended daily calories at these establishments. Improving the nutrition of all restaurant kids meals will be an important step as dietary patterns are formed early in life.

Libby Char, Hawaii

Despite her extremely busy work schedule as an emergency physician, as the Medical Director for the Honolulu Fire Department and for American Medical Response in Hawaii, and serving on the American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board, Libby Char, M.D. still finds time to support American Heart Association policy efforts to make Hawaii healthier.

She sees the value of using policy change as a way to more quickly and efficiently change public norms that will result in improved public health.  Dr. Char has supported our efforts this year to require all newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects, requiring all high school students to receive CPR training prior to graduation, and development of policy aimed at improving Hawaii’s stroke system of care. 

As an example of her commitment, Dr. Char serves as the AHA’s volunteer representative on the Hawaii State Stroke Coalition which worked on successfully passing state legislation that will result in the creation of a state stroke data registry. Requiring that all of Hawaii’s acute stroke care hospitals collect stroke patient data and submit that data to the state Department of Health (DOH), the DOH will then create data reports that the Coalition will use to identify areas of weakness in the state’s stroke system of care and work together to improve them. The ongoing effort is expected to reduce geographic disparities in levels of care and improve stroke patients’ health outcomes.

Stroke remains the third leading cause of death in Hawaii, while nationally it has fallen to the fifth leading killer. It is also Hawaii’s leading cause of major disability. Efforts in other states, similar to those underway in Hawaii, to improve stroke systems of care have been credited with the reduction in stroke deaths nationally.  Coupled with the implementation of new stroke treatment guidelines released by the AHA in June, and the AHA’s ongoing efforts to boost stroke prevention through lifestyle changes, the long-term outlook for stroke patients and their families in Hawaii are looking brighter.