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Why do restaurants make it so difficult?

It's been a long day. You started off before dawn, ran the kids out of the house, dropped them off at school, put in a full day's work, picked the kids up at their after-school program and have just a few precious minutes before getting them settled into bed before the next marathon day. But wait...they're hungry!  You're hungry!  There's no time to pull ingredients together, so grabbing take-out is the only option. Wouldn't it be great to know that the meals you purchase off of the kids' menu are as healthy as possible?  For far too many busy parents in New York, finding fruits or vegetables on the kids' menu is downright impossible. And if you're worried about the other ingredients in the meal, you have to find the time to research on restaurants' websites or ask for their nutrition pamphlet (make sure you bring your magnifying glass!)  You shouldn't have to work so hard!

Both New York City Council and the State Legislature are considering ways to better support parents and encourage restaurants to help make the healthier choices, easier to find. At the recent hearing for the bill in New York City, business advocacy groups claimed that this policy will be a huge burden on restaurants, and we should just allow them to put the menu together however they deem best. But a quick analysis of kids' meals shows an alarming level of sodium, fat, sugar and calories. We shouldn't force parents to choose between hunger and health. 

Do you have a story to tell about this issue? Do you agree that kids' meals should be healthier? If so, comment below and we'll follow up with you!  And watch for action alerts on these bills in the Action Center. We appreciate your help!

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New York State Lobby Day on the State Budget was a great success!

American Heart Month was kicked off on February 1st by our advocates descending on the New York State Capitol to lobby state legislators in support of funding to make New York more heart-healthy. This year, we are supporting funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and funding to implement the CPR in Schools requirement.

The morning began with a training session facilitated by Government Relations Directors Kristin Salvi and Martha Auster, recapping the budget issues and sharing tips on a successful lobby day visit. Participants then broke into regional teams to rehearse their pitch, and then everyone hit the Capitol. By the end of the day, we met with over 20 state legislators and staffers!  

The Upstate New York Team met with Assemblymembers Fahy, Steck, and Hunter as well as Senators Breslin, DeFrancisco and Funke.  The team from Westchester/Hudson Valley  met with Assemblymembers Otis and Lalor and Senators Lattimer and Serino.  The New York City team met with Assemblymembers Seawright and Rosenthal, and Senators Klein and Serrano.  Our leadership team met with Senator Kemp Hannon and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried who Chair the Health Committees as well as Chairmen of the Economic Development Committees Sen. Phil Boyle and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. The day was rounded out by meetings with staff from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

These meetings are where the magic can happen when a legislator or staff becomes a champion for our issues. This is when a well-prepared advocate can answer specific questions about how funding for a program will help constituents in a legislative district. In fact, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright reiterated for the New York City team how important it is for groups like the American Heart Association to bring their message to Albany ~ it really does make a difference!

Two Final Thoughts:

  • Please look for advocacy alerts and make your voice heard in support of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and funding for CPR in Schools. Every letter, phone call and visit truly makes a significant impact on our campaign efforts! 
  • Initially we thought the favorite moment of the day was when the New York City Team was invited to the Assembly Rostrum, a position usually occupied by the Speaker!  But it ended up being at the very end of the day during a meeting with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, when his chief of staff said an AED in a school gym saved her friend’s life when he collapsed during a workout. Our mission at work!

You all are LIFE SAVERS!!

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You're the Cure Advocates Go Red!

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s campaign to raise awareness about women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and empower them to take control of their heart health.  It is a year-long campaign that culminates in February for Heart Month.  All of the markets within the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate celebrate with events throughout February and into the spring.

Advocacy work goes hand in hand with the Go Red For Women movement in many ways.  One way is our advocates work with their local government officials on proclamations that declare the first Friday in February as Wear Red Day.  In North Carolina, the town of Matthews, Huntersville, Cary, and Winston-Salem passed proclamations.  As did Spartanburg and Columbia in South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. 

The District of Columbia took their support of Wear Red Day to the next level with several local councilmembers taking to social media to express their office-wide support.   Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1, Jack Evans of Ward 2, and Charles Allen in Ward 6 sent out tweets to their followers of their offices dressed to the gills in their finest red. Councilmember Yvette M. Alexander emailed her constituents to urge them to be diligent in keeping their lives free of cardiovascular disease with helpful tips and facts. 

Another great example happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, when advocate Dr. Sandra Burke presented to the Mecklenburg County Board of Directors about heart health and continuing collaborative efforts to improve the health of the local community.  And here, the women of the Virginia General Assembly went red on 2/9 to bring awareness to heart disease.  

Go Red is a nationwide movement that unifies communities in prevention and education about the risk factors and warning signs of cardiovascular disease.  We are proud of the policies and changes you are influencing to make strides toward a world where we are free of heart disease and stroke.

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Jane Kolodinsky - Good food sells!

Telling legislators that french fries are the most common vegetable served to toddlers, AHA volunteer Jane Kolodinsky urged Senate Health and Welfare Committee members at a recent hearing to implement nutrition standards for restaurant kids meals.

Jane, the chair of UVM’s Department of Community Development and Applied economics, has published research on childhood obesity. Among her findings?  Going out to eat isn’t just a treat for families anymore. Away-from-home food accounts for nearly half of all food dollars spent. Improving the nutrition of that food can make a difference in the fight against obesity.

And does good food sell? You bet. Jane reported to the committee that a recent survey conducted about the nutrition improvements that were made in the food service at the UVM Medical Center found that the hospital now gets 14% of its business from people coming from outside the hospital just for the great food!

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E-cigs - Creating a Whole New Crop of Smokers

A whole new generation of smokers may be on the horizon thanks to e-cigarettes.

More and more youth are turning to e-cigarettes and studies show that when they do, they are also likely to turn to traditional cigarettes.

The use of e-cigarettes by kids tripled last year and new data from Vermont shows that more than 30% of high school students have tried e-cigs with 15% now using them regularly. In fact, more Vermont kids are now using e-cigarettes than are smoking. But the e-cigarette use could start to bump smoking levels back up.

Given new studies, including one from Dartmouth, showing kids who vape are also much more likely to smoke -- even kids who said they would never try it -- Vermont should act to prohibit vaping in the same places where smoking is prohibited. Protecting the social norms we’ve created about the dangers of tobacco is important if we want to protect our kids.

Take action today to urge lawmakers to support including e-cigarettes in Vermont’s clean indoor air laws.

https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

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Act Now Before Vermonters Grow Any Bigger

When obesity is costing Vermont more than $290 million annually to treat the chronic diseases it causes, it should be a crisis deemed big enough for legislators to take action.

The Robert Wood Johnson Annual State of Obesity report shows Vermont’s 38,000 cases of heart disease will climb to 190,000 in the next 15 years if we don’t act now.  The 50,000 cases of diabetes will rise to 77,000 and obesity-related cancer cases will increase from 10,200 to 27,700 cases. These are sobering projections of a dramatic decline in the wellness of Vermonters, but we can reduce these numbers significantly if we act now.

We’re urging lawmakers to help make the healthy choice the easy choice by requiring nutrition standards both for restaurant kids’ meals and for food sold and served by state government.

You can help. Contact the members of the House Human Services Committee where these bills sit and tell them you want action today before obesity has a chance to grow any further in Vermont.

Here are the members. Just click on a name and tell them it’s important to act, and act now.

http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/16

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Smaller Stomachs Deserve the Healthiest Meals

New York City may be moving forward to help improve the quality of meals served to kids in our restaurants - but they're not going far enough!  The current version of the bill, just posted for a vote in the Council Health Committee - only affects meals that have a toy connected to it.  While these meals are clearly marketed toward our kids, there are many other restaurants that don't use toys for their promotion.  Kids meals on menus from 'family-friendly' restaurants are often among the most egregious culprits, with loads of salt, fat and sugar!  Let's make sure NYC gets this right so we can lead the country in the right direction!  All restaurants that have kids' menus should meet high quality nutritional requirements for those meals!

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This years legislative session looks like it will be a busy one

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season these past few weeks! I had a chance to spend some wonderful time with my family and recharge my battery as we now prepare for the busiest season of all: Legislative Session!

As you are aware, the State of Utah will begin our annual legislative session in a few weeks. While every session has its moments, this year looks to be quite busy as our elected officials debate several issues that could have a profound impact on many Utahns. Often the American Heart Association is asked to “weigh-in” on several of these issues. As our top volunteers I wanted to give you a chance to see a bit of what goes on behind the screen and see where we sit on what continues to be one of the top issues in the state: Affordable Healthcare Coverage.

By now, it would be hard to find many people in the state who have not heard of Governor Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan (in its various iterations) that would improve the access to affordable healthcare coverage for many in our State. We commend the state of Utah for trying to find an option that best suits the needs of all Utahns in regards to medical insurance coverage.

Utah is known for its culture of hard-working and compassionate people. We feel that the Healthy Utah Plan finds the right balance. In 2011, hospital charges for cardiovascular disease alone exceeded $600 million in Utah. And in 2013, more than 4,000 Utahns died from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the number one cause of death in Utah. There is no question that if there was an increased access to care and an opportunity for individuals to affordably visit their healthcare provider, many of these lives would not have been lost.

While there will be many issues that the legislature will discuss in the coming months, few have the potential to effect so many lives as this does.

I hope that you will join us during this session for our annual Heart on the Hill Lobby Day on February 5th! It looks to be an exciting time for our staff and volunteers to assemble and have a chance to speak with our legislators about issues that our close to our hearts. Please bring your family and friends who are able to attend and don’t forget to RSVP for the event here.

See you then!

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Keep in touch with us online

With legislative session set to start in just a few weeks we want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for your support and for being amazing advocates for public health in Hawaii. As part of our efforts to keep you up to date on what we are working on we have created some new social media accounts on Facebook and we want to invite you to “like” our pages so you can keep up to date on our current projects.

On our Facebook pages you will see even more about what the American Heart Association is doing in our community. We will post updates on our advocacy efforts but you can also find information on community events, healthy recipes, new scientific research on heart disease and stroke and so much more.

American Heart Association Maui

American Heart Association of Hawaii

Mahalo for your support.

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Join Us in Missoula on February 19th

On February 19th, 2016, American Heart Association of Missoula is hosting the Annual Go Red For Women Luncheon. The Luncheon is designed dispel myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of women. The Luncheon will focus on educating, honoring survivors, and inspiring lifestyle changes.

February’s event, to be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton, will feature a program highlighting local survivors who will share their experiences to break the stereotypes around heart disease.  Keynote speaker Joey Traywick, R.N., will motivate, educate and provide tools to help guests take control over their health no matter how busy their lives.

The American Heart Association is determined to break gender inequality in heart related research. Funding from Go Red For Women Missoula will help increase gender-specific research which will help close the gap in information physicians need to treat women. Currently, only 24% of participants in heart-related research are women.

We are hard at work across the state of Montana with a focus on identify gaps that lead to slower and less effective cardiac patient care. A generous grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Mission: Lifeline is helping healthcare providers to close those gaps through changes in protocols.

Maureen Buke will share her story of survival. Maureen suffered from a STEMI heart attack in Stevensville, MT days before the local emergency service was granted a 12-lead. While Maureen did not benefit from the life-saving equipment, she is thankful for the program that now covers 98% of the state:

“My community now has one. I am so thrilled as now many lives will be saved through this generous gift. If the ambulance would have had one last year when I started having problems, I probably would not have had a heart attack and my story would be much different.” 

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