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Where in NC is PE?

When my granddaughter started elementary school, she had physical education (PE) class twice per week. At that time, we were disappointed that it wasn't every day. By the time she was in fifth grade, PE was only offered about twice per month. In her words, "How is that enough? I thought we needed PE every day!"

We can do better and now is our chance!

Tell our Public School Leaders to include PE in the state's education accountability plan. 

The federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in 2015 and now every state has to create an accountability plan. ESSA emphasizes a well-rounded education, prioritizing physical and mental health. We need to tell state education leaders PE should be included in NC's plan.

All students should have the opportunity to participate in PE - it not only helps their physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well. Just like my granddaughter, many students in NC do not get the physical education they need. With an ever-growing number of priorities competing for time during the school day, too many of our children have lost what was once a given: access to quality PE.

Will you help me save PE? Take action today!

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Back to School Season

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

As a parent, this time of year brings a swell of anxiety and relief. With the end of summer comes the crispness of fall and the beginning of a new school year.

I remember growing up walking to and from school each day. Some days were definitely more fun than others but never did I have to worry about if I was going to get to school safely. The neighborhood I grew up in was older, not very busy, and had sidewalks. Whether I realized it or not, this round trip walk of 1.8 miles ensured that I got at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each school day. Rain or shine, wind or snow, it was a constant during those early years.

As a parent, I now see myself on the other side of this equation as I find myself constantly worrying about the safety of my kids. I also am struck with the realization of just how fortunate I was growing up in an area where sidewalks were along every road and crossing guards were at every major intersection. Now, one need only pay attention to the news to realize that these essentials for child safety are not found in every neighborhood.

The past few years the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association has worked with students from BYU to help students, parents, schools, and city officials to recognize the threats that exist in their communities. Their findings have been staggering – if not frightening.

Throughout this blog you will see pictures and stories from students and parents. These situations are real and they are found throughout our state. Cities and the Department of Transportation stretch limited resources as much as they can to try and fix these issues but the reality is that they need to hear from you.

As you prepare for the upcoming school year take the opportunity to walk the path that your children or grandchildren will soon be embarking upon. If there are problem areas, take the time to help your little ones know how to navigate around them. Document where these trouble areas are with photos. Next month we will be providing an opportunity to share these pictures, locations, and stories with your locally elected officials to help them to understand the issues. With your help, and working with the State’s Safe Routes to School Program, we will make a difference for the children around us and help create safer, more accessible neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy.

Some examples we have seen in our community include:

From missing crosswalks:

Missing Crossing Guards:

Missing or damaged sidewalks:


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Back-to-School Already? Will You Continue to Support Healthy School Lunches?

Guest Blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Senior Government Relations Director, AZ

August in Arizona brings out the school uniforms, book bags, back packs, and school supplies. Each year we all get lists of what kinds of pencils, crayons, and notebooks to send with our kids to school. But what about the food that we send with them, or the food that is offered to them as part of the School Lunch and Breakfast Program? We are lucky in Arizona that we have a very strong School Lunch and Breakfast program that meets National Nutrition guidelines.


Current standards include reducing sodium, eliminating trans-fat; decreasing saturated fat, minimizing fried foods and offering fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, seafood and low-fat dairy at each meal. Offering nutritious meals during the school day, where most of our children spend the majority their waking hours, is important step to decreasing the next generation’s risk of heart disease and stroke.  Studies show that kids are now choosing healthier foods and are eating 16% more vegetables and 23% more fruit. Children who participate in the National School Lunch Program eat greater amounts of healthy foods, consume less sugar and calories, and have an overall better quality diet


While we are making progress, it is important to contact your Representative and Senators here to urge them to reject efforts to weaken federal guidelines for strong nutrition standards for school meals.


If you are interested in taking your advocacy to the next level, please contact me or Josh Brown, Grassroots Director, for ways you can get involved locally.

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Advocate Spotlight: Cindy Peterman

After 35 years of smoking, bouts with bronchitis and increasing prices, Cindy Peterman decided it was time to quit and she credits the recent price increase for tobacco products in Nevada with helping her.


“Last year on July 4th weekend when I went to buy cigarettes I realized with the increase I can’t do this anymore; I have rent to pay. I am so grateful for the increase. It led to me quitting for good,” said Cindy.

In addition to the tax increase, Cindy’s can-do attitude and positive outlook on life made it easier for her to quit. Prior to moving to Las Vegas to be near her son and grandkids, she owned both a restaurant and home in Texas. When the recent recession hit, Cindy lost the restaurant and then her home.


“After going through all that change, I thought I can make another change in my life,” she said. 

Upon deciding to quit, Cindy visited her doctor and received the patch (covered by Medicaid). While the patch has four cycles, Cindy only used it for the first cycle.


“I have not smoked or used the patch since,” she said.


Her son is overjoyed that she quit and she notes how important it is to be a good example for her grandkids. In her job at checkout at Walgreens, Cindy has discovered many of her customers are quitting since the tobacco tax increase. She shares her story to encourage them and now they have formed a small support group. Cindy also hopes by sharing her story with the AHA/ASA, she can inspire even more people to quit.


Most of all, Cindy is enjoying her new smoke-free life.


“At age 65, I enjoy having the time to start my life over,” she said.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing this wonderful example of how smart, strong public health policy can positively affect the lives of individuals and communities. Keep up the good fight, Cindy!

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Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice - Start with Blueberries and Help with Policy!

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, all I want to do is snack on fresh Vermont blueberries. Yummy! I put a bowl in the front of our fridge, and every time the door is opened, it’s hard for someone in my family not to grab a handful and pop them in their mouth.

That’s a great example of how a family can make the healthy choice the easy choice. Make what’s healthier easier to do than what is not healthy.

There are many organizations getting on board this simple, but effective strategy. And you can too!

Recently, the Vermont Department of Health launched its 3-4-50 campaign. This highlights that three behaviors are responsible for four diseases that cause fifty percent of the deaths in Vermont. Making healthy choices easier, is a big part of VDH’s plan to combat these chronic diseases. Click on their link to find out more ways that you can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

And make sure you take action on our advocacy issues as well to make healthy choices more accessible to Vermonters. Healthy restaurant kids meals, tobacco prevention funding, raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and helping to ensure complete streets that are safe for walkers and bicyclists are some of the issues we’ll be addressing when the legislature returns in January. We’re counting on you to help make the healthy choice the easy choice at home, work and in policies for all!

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Katie Towle - Supporting Families and Pushing for Critical Heart Tests for Kids

Katie Towle knows there are two things that can help a child when they are born with a heart defect – a life-saving test that can help detect it, and the support of other families with children who also have heart defects.

Katie helped promote the need for mandatory pulse oximetry testing for newborns at our legislative reception this winter. She’s a big advocate because her son Jack did NOT receive this test when he was born.

Katie said then, “Had this simple, painless test been done upon birth, we may have been able to have his repair surgery months earlier and avoided so many hospital stays with over 30 nights cumulatively away from our older child, our home and our jobs. Due to the delay in his surgery, Jack’s growth was significantly delayed and his physical development fell drastically behind the national standards.”

Katie will be promoting that pulse oximetry be the standard screening adopted when the Vermont Health Department undertakes a rulemaking to require congenital heart defect screening this year.

She also just formed a cardiac kids’ support group of parents and kids with congenital heart defects. We all had a great time attending the Lake Monsters game together this summer! If you have a child with a congenital heart defect, let me know. We’d love to connect you with this wonderful group and we would also love your help in requiring this test for newborns in Vermont. My email is

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CT Needs State-Wide Hospital Stroke Designation Program

In Connecticut, stroke has been one of the top 5 leading causes of death and the leading cause of disability. An abundance of medical literature demonstrates that stroke patients receive better care, have better outcomes, and have less treatment related complications at centers equipped to treat stroke within the context of a system of care.  A stroke designation system improves the care delivered to all persons with stroke, and is inclusive for all hospitals.

Stroke certified hospitals are required to comply with a number of standards related to access and availability of appropriate leadership and stroke expertise, written treatment and transfer guidelines and the ability to provide necessary diagnostic testing and interpretation. Stroke certification is essential because it assures the public and the EMS community that a hospital has the procedures and guidelines in place to ensure persons experiencing stroke systems will be rapidly accessed and given the most definitive treatment, or triage, as rapidly as possible.

The state legislature appointed a stroke task force, and one of its recommendations in its February, 2016 final report was to re-establish and maintain a state-wide, hospital stroke designation program. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming 2017 state legislative session that will accomplish this. Although the session does not begin until January, we are already at work forming a coalition of like-minded organizations and beginning to educate both advocates such as yourself and legislators. As this issue continues to develop we will keep you updated.

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New USDA Rules to Improve School Health Environment: What They Are and What You Can Do to Get Involved.

Teaching children healthy eating habits is critical to their long-term health. Parents strive to instill healthy habits at home, and schools have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school meals, snacks, and beverages sold in schools. Schools, especially, play a critical role in promoting health and wellness which is the reason why, in an effort to make school environments healthier, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) released regulations concerning local school wellness policies, one of the four final rules that has the potential to create a positive impact on the health and wellness of school aged children.

Each school district that participates in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program is required to have a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction. Because the policy is established at the local level, it should be used as a tool to guide the school districts efforts in promoting whole child health and wellness as well as meet the unique needs of each school within the community. Under the final rule for local school wellness policies, school districts must:

  • Establish wellness policy leadership who will have the authority and responsibility to ensure each school complies with the policy
  • Encourage participation by the general public including parents, students, food service representatives, teachers, school health professionals, and administrators in the development, review, implementation, and assessment of the policy
  • Review and consider evidence-based strategies in determining specific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness
  • Include nutritional guidelines for all foods and beverages available for sale on the school campus during the school day within the policy to ensure consistency with federal regulations as well as for other foods and beverages offered during the school day (classroom parties, snacks, or foods given as incentives)
  • Include policies for food and beverage marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards

The American Heart Association has been working with state and local partners to advocate for more comprehensive policies to support healthier school environments. Local advocate support is always needed to not only help bring awareness but to also lend your voice to the fight against unhealthy children in your community.  Want to get involved? Send an email to to sign-up to get helpful tips and ideas on becoming active advocate for change in your community.

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Healthy Kids Meals, Good for Kids and Good for Business!

Parents rely on restaurants often these days for meals given hectic work and family schedules. But even though dining out is fun, fast, and easy, it’s not always healthy for kids. We’d like to change that.

We’re working in Vermont to ensure that all restaurant kids’ meals meet nutrition standards to serve our kids better. When we surveyed Vermont restaurants last year, they said they could make changes to improve the nutrition of their kids' meals relatively easily. But they wanted to make sure kids would eat the meals, and parents would buy them. Now we have some good news.

New research from Tufts shows that when a restaurant group they studied eliminated fries and sodas from kids’ meals, orders of healthy entrees and sides went up! Check it out for yourself! 

Kids were able to eat healthy and restaurants still made a profit. Let your local restaurants know that healthy meals for kids are good for kids and business.

We’ll be serving healthy kids meals to the public for free this September at events at seven restaurants across Vermont. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll hook you up with a location near you!

Email me at tina.zuk@heartorg.

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AEDs in Schools is on the Move

Thanks to a small but mighty group of advocates, a bill requiring all public schools to have AEDs has passed the Senate. We are working with the House to quickly take it up by this fall.

A group of dedicated volunteers have shared their heartbreaking stories of losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest and it has truly made a difference. Families from across the State have come to the State House to knock on doors, have meetings, talk to the press and share their stories with countless legislators to help put a face to this lifesaving piece of legislation.

This bill has been around for over 15 years and I truly believe that thanks to our advocates this is its year! If you have not already joined the efforts and reached out to your State Representative their is still time, email me at and I will give you all the details.

With all of us together we can work to turn the tragic loss of children into a triumph to save hundreds more.  

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