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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.

Margo Knefelkamp, Indiana

While working full-time and earning her MBA, Margo adopted healthier habits that helped her lose 100 pounds.  She joined a CrossFit gym and exercises multiple times per week. She cut sugar-sweetened beverages and began eating healthier foods. The results have been an inspiration to her family.

Jamie Schneider Nebraska

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, taking the lives of one in three each year. Sometimes, that statistic does not seem alarming because it is easy to trick yourself into thinking that the one person will not be you. Heart disease is for other people. But as the youngest of three daughters, and the proud aunt to three nieces (the picture is me with my sisters, sister-in-law and two nieces at my wedding in November), the chances are that if it is not me, it will be someone I love. A family member. A friend. And it is scary to think of that.

The greatest opportunity I have had since joining the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association as the Nebraska communications director in January 2015 is the opportunity to share lifesaving information with the women (and men) I love – and so many people I will never meet. About 80-percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease are preventable. Life is why it is important to communicate about heart-health.

Every day when I come to work, I know I have the extraordinary opportunity to change someone’s life for the better. Whether it is connecting with a local journalist for a heart-healthy story on tonight’s broadcast or posting a stroke fact on our social media, I know there is a conversation happening in someone’s home, a conversation that helps save lives. I have never worked for an organization where people are so passionate and so empowered to make a difference. Life is why we have such a fire.

Being involved with the American Heart Association is truly a work of heart. With help from advocates like you, the moments that make life worth living are a reality for millions of people. People who are saved by heart research. People who are saved by F.A.S.T. People who are saved by CPR. People who are saved by Mission: Lifeline. People who are saved by Jump Rope for Heart. People are saved every day because of the American Heart Association. 

Numbers and statistics can be scary but silence is even scarier. Today, I encourage you to start a conversation about prevention of heart disease or stroke. I promise I will do the same. Together, we can further this life saving mission.