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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.

As the old adage says, “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Advocacy helps us to speak up and out about issues that are important to us.  The more we do, the more our message spreads. As volunteer Peter Evans found out during our sugary drink campaign, speaking up, even on paper, can have an impact.

Evans wrote a letter to his local paper the Brattleboro Reformer emphasizing the importance of passing an excise tax on sugary drinks that would reduce consumption of these drinks and help fight the obesity crisis.

"We have only a few real options," Evans wrote. "Continue on our current course and let the cost of obesity continue to spiral, or take tangible, evidence-based steps towards improving healthcare through policy and prevention."

The paper agreed and wrote an editorial supporting the effort, “Sugary Drinks: Tax the heck out of them.” You can read it here. http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_27585726/our-opinion-sugary-drinks-tax-heck-out-them  And Peter’s message spread to hundreds of Vermonters.

You too can be a catalyst for change. Though the sugary drink excise tax did not pass this year, obesity is still a crisis and sugary drink consumption is far too high. Help us continue to spread the word by writing a letter to your own newspaper. 

Tell them a new study by the University of North Carolina reported this month that sugary drink sales dropped 6% on average after a sugary drink excise tax was implemented in Mexico. We should give it a chance here. Click here for a list of Vermont newspapers and the emails where you can submit your letter.

The American Heart Association and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island hosted the 2015 GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest Award Ceremony at the Rhode Island State House on May 20th.  The award ceremony recognized eleven outstanding students in grades K-8.  Winning students demonstrated how physical activity and healthy eating helps build healthy hearts, healthy families and healthy communities. Several hundred posters from all over Rhode Island were submitted for consideration this year.

Congratulations to our award recipients!

Grades K-1:
1st place – Averi Senecal from Winsor Hill School in Johnston

2nd place – Mackenzie Barrette from Wawaloam School in Exeter
3rd place – Kamaiina Jackman from Tiogue School in Coventry

Grades 2-4:
1st place – Mia Clancy from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Caroline Pesenecker & Casey Khuon from Winsor Hill in Johnston
3rd place – Michael Psilopoulas & Dante Iafrate from Winsor Hill in Johnston

Grades 5-8:
1st place – Isabella Luchka from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Isabelle Besser from North Scituate Elementary
3rd place – Sienna Fusaro from Westerly Middle School

The American Heart Association is committed to helping kids and families live heart healthy lives!  As we educate and lobby lawmakers to support policies that promote access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active in Rhode Island, we wanted to take the extra step to get students involved.

Many thanks to our generous sponsor: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island!

 

 

 

Warning that sippy cups were one of the worst inventions ever created, Vermont pediatrician Dr. Barb Frankowski recently urged House Ways and Means Committee members to take action to tax sugary drinks to fight obesity and improve dental health.

A portion of her testimony is excerpted below:

What do I see in my office?  Children drinking sugary beverages almost all the time.  I see it in the baby’s bottles and in the toddlers’ sippy cups.  Children and adolescents come in toting 20 ounce containers of everything from colas to sweetened iced teas to Gatorade.  How have we become such a thirsty nation?

Of course, the obesity epidemic is extremely complicated, and we can’t blame it all on sugary beverages.  BUT – sugary beverages do play an extremely significant role. 

Here are some facts:

  • Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has increased 500% in the past 50 years, and is not the single largest category of caloric intake in children, surpassing milk in the late 1990s
  • A person who drinks one can (only 12 oz) of soda a day would gain 15 lbs in a year
  • Pure liquid sugar also does not “fill us up” or induce satiety, the same way that fast food (that also contains fat and protein) does. These empty calories do not make us feel full.  Therefore, there is inadequate calorie compensation - people are more likely to drink these extra calories in addition to other foods they are eating, rather than instead of these foods.

What is the burden of obesity from the medical point of view?  Well, we all know about diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  I do see some diabetes and hypertension in my pediatric practice.  But what do I see even more? I see kids who are depressed, I see kids who are bullied at school, I see kids who are truant from school because of the bullying and - they don’t want to participate in PE!

What does the research show?

  • Children who become overweight as preschoolers tend to stay overweight throughout childhood and into adolescents.  Overweight and obese adolescents tend to remain obese as adults.  Preventing obesity can be difficult, but it is MUCH easier than treating it!
  • Studies suggest that a 10% price increase for beverages through taxation would decrease consumption by about 8-10%

Why not just educate people?

  • There is NOTHING in soda that is good for you.  Do people think there is?
  • Smoking is bad for you – are there people who think it is good for them?
  • Health education and behavior change is complex – it works much better to make the healthier choice the easier (and more economical) choice.

 

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