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It's a Wrap! A Summary of the 2015 Vermont Legislative Session

This legislative session proved to be one of the most exciting and frustrating. I am incredibly proud of the hard work of AHA volunteers in trying to pass the first in the nation excess tax on sugary drinks to reduce obesity. We made great progress.

Preventing Obesity: Though our effort to pass a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks didn’t become a reality this year, this was the best campaign I have ever been a part of and our volunteer effort was simply amazing. There is no doubt this tax will become a reality in the near future. Until then, we need to keep up the chant to fight obesity and the impact of sugary drinks.

Sugary drink tax: We made history by becoming the first state to pass a sugary drink excise tax through two legislative committees.  Recognizing the importance of addressing obesity in Vermont, the House Health Care Committee passed a two cent per ounce excise tax early in the session as a way to fund important health care priorities.  The House Ways and Means Committee later passed a scaled down excise tax of ½ a cent per ounce. Though it was much less than what we hoped for, it is a real testament to the work of our Alliance and volunteers that the committee did, in fact, pass any SSB excise tax. We had hoped to move the issue through the House and bump up the tax amount in the Senate or a committee of conference so it would have a real impact on obesity in Vermont. However, with fatigue in the House setting in following battles over two other revenue bills, and a somewhat uncertain Senate, no vote was ever held in the House on the sugary drink excise tax. Lawmakers instead, chose to substitute the sugary drink excise tax with a small increase in the tobacco tax as a way to fund health care priorities. Volunteers should be very proud, though, that we kept the issue alive and constantly in the media and legislative discussions up through April. That’s pretty amazing. Thank you all for your help!

Vermont Public Radio also recently published a short summary of the SSB tax effort that you can access here. http://digital.vpr.net/post/issue-issue-2015-legislative-wrap#beverage  

Sales tax on soft drinks: The legislature this year extended the sales tax to soft drinks as part of its revenue bill. This will mean beverages that are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, including beverages with less than 50% real fruit juice, but not milk, will be taxed.

This is not the sugary drink tax we championed.Since it is a minimal tax that is only seen on the receipt after the sale (versus a significant tax per ounce of beverage where the price is seen on the shelf) it won’t change behavior. AHA board member Dr. Mary Cushman recently published an opinion piece in VT Digger discussed this importance difference and the fact that the legislature has now put Big Beverage before Vermonters twice. See below.

Big Beverage 2, Vermonters – 0 http://vtdigger.org/2015/05/20/mary-cushman-beverage-industry-2-vermonters-0/?utm_source=VTDigger+Subscribers+and+Donors&utm_campaign=3f382fa80a-Weekly+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc3c5486db-3f382fa80a-405514605

No tax on bottled water: Though a sales tax on bottled water was originally included as part of a revenue package proposed by the Senate Finance Committee, we testified against the tax stating Vermont should not allow any barrier whether it be real or perceived to make water more costly, and the tax was removed.

Obesity prevention spending:  As noted in Dr. Cushman’s piece above, lawmakers this year actually took a step backwards in the fight against obesity by failing to restore the Governor’s $300,000 cut to CHAMPPS obesity prevention grants to communities.

Positive obesity steps: The House did pass an amendment that would have required the Health Care Reform Oversight Committee to study the impact of obesity in Vermont, especially on health care expenditures, and policy efforts the legislature could take to address obesity. Though the study requirement passed the House as part of the health care funding bill, the language was removed in the Senate.  House Health Care Committee members tried to get the study reinserted in the bill during the conference committee, but without success. 

During the debate, however, Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Claire Ayer said she would make obesity the first priority of her committee next session.   

Tobacco Prevention: We were successful in saving tobacco control program funding but the increase in the tobacco tax fell short.

Tobacco program funding: Though the Governor had recommended cutting $199,000 from Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program including funding for the independent Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, its administrator and evaluation efforts, we, along with our partners in the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont worked to get legislators to restore $175,000 to keep the board independent, retain its administrator and fund evaluation efforts.

Tobacco tax: Though a significant increase in Vermont’s tobacco tax was raised a few times this session, even going as high as a $2 increase at one point in the House and Senate champions working to get a $1 increase in the Senate, the final tax that was passed fell below the 10% increase in the total pack price that is needed to have a public health impact.

Lawmakers passed a $0.33 tobacco tax as the sole revenue source to raise the $3.2 million for the health care funding bill.  With a pack of cigarettes currently selling on average for $8.10 a pack, the tax would have needed to be around $0.81 to have a positive health impact – urging smokers to quit and to prevent youth from ever starting.

E-cigarettes: During the debate on S.139, the health care bill, that House passed language that would have instituted a tax on e-cigarettes the equivalent to half of that currently imposed on cigarettes, and included a ban on the use of e-cigs in workplaces, public places and cars, the Senate removed the language. This is an issue of increased interest to lawmakers since the use of these products by middle school students has tripled.

Health Care Reform/Health Access: Though the health care bill ultimately passed by the legislature was significantly whittled down it did include positive provisions: 

  • The continuation of $760,000 in cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Vermonters.
  • $940,000 to help stabilize Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers
  • $1 million earmarked for the state's Blueprint for Health managed care system.
  • $300,000 in educational loan repayments for physicians, the cost of which is split between state and federal sources.
  • The bill also added three new positions to the Green Mountain Care Board to start setting rates for health care providers and pursuing an all-payer model. 

Charitable donations: Though a cap on charitable contributions was included in an earlier version of the revenue bill, the cap ultimately was removed.  The final bill limited limited the amount filers can deduct when filing their income taxes to $15,000 for an individual and $31,500 for a household and charitable contributions and health care expenses are exempt from the cap.

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ICYMI: OKC City Council Election Results

On March 3rd, 2015 Oklahoma City City Council elections were held with seats for Wards 2, 6, and 8 up for grabs! In case you missed the results, here’s a quick recap!


 

 

 

Ward 2: The following candidates ran for the seat in Ward 2, James Cooper, Major L. Jemison, John Riley, and the incumbent Ed Shadid. Ed Shadid was re-elected to represent Ward 2 with 59% of the vote. [1]

Ward 5: David Greenwell ran uncontested and was therefore automatically re-elected.

Ward 6: The following candidates ran for the seat in Ward 6, Dario Alvarado, Bob Waldrop, and the incumbent Meg Salyer. Meg Salyer was re-elected to represent Ward 6 with 54% of the vote. [2]

Ward 8: Pat Ryan, the incumbent, did not run for re-election this year. The candidates who did run were Steve Curry, John Alan Ederer, and Mark Stonecipher.  Mark Stoneciepher was elected to represent Ward 8 with 60% of the vote. [3]  

 

New OKC City Council members will be sworn in on April 14th, 2015. Council members serve four-year terms.



[1] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

[2] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

[3] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

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Fairport Central School District recognized as "CPR Smart"!

Congratulations to Fairport Central School District!  The district recently received the "CPR Smart" recognition from the American Heart Association for committing to prepare their students for an emergency by teaching CPR.

As part of the program, the district will teach students how to identify someone in sudden cardiac arrest, to call 911, to begin performing Hands-Only CPR, and how to use an AED.

Why is Fairport's recognition so important?  More than 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States. Sadly, about 90 percent of victims die most likely because they don’t receive timely CPR.  The community will now have more lifesavers thanks to Fairport Central School District!

The American Heart Association applauds the staff, students and board members of the Fairport Central School District for their CPR Smart School recognition.  

A school can become a CPR Smart School by adopting a written policy that ensures students:

  •  learn how to recognize when someone is in possible cardiac arrest,
  •  learn hands-only CPR and practice compressions
  •  learn the importance and basics of an AED. Student certification is not required.

For an application or more information to become a CPR Smart School contact the American Heart Association’s New York State Government Relations Director Julianne Hart at julianne.hart@heart.org.

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New maps provide insight on access to supermarkets in New York State

For millions of people around the country—many of them children—the fast choice is the only choice when it comes to food.  Newly created maps paint a picture of the problem.  View below to see maps outlining supermarket sales and income data in New York State.  Additional blog posts on yourethecure.org outline supermarket sales and income in New York City, Syracuse and Buffalo.

 

 

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Go Red For Women this Heart Month

Go Red For Women is about much more than wearing red on National Wear Red Day. It’s about making a change. Here are a few ways you can make a change today: Go to GoRedForWomen.org to learn what you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Encourage your family and friends to take small steps toward healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke, too.

Explain “What it means to Go Red” by sharing the following acronym:

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, be physically active and eat healthy.
  • Raise Your Voice: Advocate for more women-related research and education.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Donate: Show your support with a donation of time or money.

Cardiovascular diseases cause one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases. 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke. 80% of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented. Cardiovascular diseases kill more women than men. Unfortunately, fewer women than men survive their first heart attack and women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men. Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.

For more information, please visit GoRedForWomen.org.

The facts show that women who are involved with the Go Red movement live healthier lives.

  • Nearly 90% have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third has lost weight.
  • More than 50% have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% have checked their cholesterol levels. One third has talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
  • More than 620,000 women have been saved from heart disease and stroke over the past 10 years.

About 300 fewer women are dying per day

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Me, Affected by Obesity?

Think about whether your life might be affected by obesity. Now think again.

Over 60% of Vermont adults and 29% of our kids are overweight or obese.

Are you paying for that?

New estimates from the Rudd Center for Food Policy shows it’s pretty likely. Obesity-related health care costs among Vermont adults are estimated at $202 million per year, and that doesn’t even include obesity costs for children.

All taxpayers are affected. Public funds, such as Medicare and Medicaid, pay for almost 1/2 of all adult medical expenditures in Vermont attributable to obesity ($57 million per year by Medicaid and $41 million by Medicare).

How about at work? Yes, there too.

Annual cost of obesity-related absenteeism in Vermont is $14.5 million[i]  and that’s equal to 7.7% of the total costs of absenteeism in Vermont’s economy.

Isn’t it time we did something about it?

The Rudd Center also estimates Vermont would raise more than $34 million in new revenue from a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugar-added drinks.This funding could be used for obesity prevention and health care.

Sound good? We think so. You can help. Find out more.

https://www.facebook.com/HealthierVT

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Finkelstein, EA, Fiebelkorn, IC, Wang, G. State-level estimates of annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity. Obesity Research 2004;12(1):18–24.

Andreyeva T, Luedicke J, Wang YC.  State-level estimates of obesity-attributable costs of absenteeism. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2014, in press.


http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/sodatax.aspx

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Research & Advocacy = Results

In the last decade, U.S. hospitalization and death rates for heart disease and stroke have dropped significantly!  That means our research and your advocacy are paying off!  Let's keep it going to reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal — to improve the heart health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.  Learn more here:

http://blog.heart.org/study-finds-significant-drop-in-hospitalizations-deaths-from-heart-disease-stroke/

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Burlington event focuses on sugar's impact on cardiovascular disease and health

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 150 calories of 9 for teaspoons for men. But the reality is people are consuming far more. And sugary drinks are the primary source of added sugars in American diets.

Learn more about the impact of sugar on your health, including sugary drinks, from a local and national expert.

AHA volunteer and University of Vermont Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Pediatrics Rachel Johnson, R.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., will be speaking about sugar’s impact on health at Community Medical School at the UVM College of Medicine in Burlington on October 7th at 6 pm. The event, which takes place in Carpenter Auditorium in the Given Building, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 802-847-2886.

The following are excerpts from Professor Johnson’s February 2013 testimony to the Vermont legislature about sugary drinks and their impact on health.

On average Americans consume 22 teaspoons - or 352 calories - of added sugars a day, the equivalent of about 2, 12 ounce soft drinks. Teens (age 12-17 years) and children (age 6 – 11 years) average 17 percent of their total calorie intake per day from added sugars.

The majority of Americans’ added sugars intake comes from sugar-sweetened beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, sport drinks and fruit drinks account for about half of our added sugars intake. Regular calorie soft drinks are the NUMBER ONE single source of calories in the US diet.  This means that nutrient-void, empty-calorie soft drinks contribute more calories than any other food and beverage consumed by Americans. 

A systematic literature review published in 2010, concluded that “all lines of evidence consistently support the conclusion that the consumption of SSBs has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” 

There has been a proliferation of public health campaigns designed to limit Americans’ SSB consumption. 

Why do these recent public health interventions solely target SSBs and not foods like candy, cookies, cakes or other sugary treats? One primary reason is because energy consumed as a beverage is believed to be less satiating than energy consumed as solid food, and the body does not adjust for the liquid intake. According to the American Public Health Association’s policy statement on SSBs they “trick” the body’s food regulatory system and add to total energy intake rather than displacing other sources of calories. Another reason, also pointed out in the APHA’s statement, is that “food is essential to life, but SSBs are not. SSBs are a food-like substance that contribute only empty, nutrient void calories to the diet and exacerbate many chronic health problems.” Lastly, unlike food, there are many beverage options that have no-calories or are low in calories. 

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NYS Legislative session off and running...

State legislators have returned to Albany... and there has been of flurry of activity in the first month back.  Here's what's happening now:

Governor's Budget - 16.2% of adults across the state still smoke.  And 8.5 million adult New Yorkers are considered overweight or obese.  At a time when NYS needs to make obesity prevention and tobacco control a priority, we are concerned that the Executive Budget calls for consolidation of funding for some public health programs - making it difficult to determine the real funding amounts.  It's time to restore transparency - and make tobacco control and obesity prevention a top priority.

CPR in School legislation - Why is it so important to keep pushing for CPR in Schools?  Nearly 400,000 people suffer an out of hospital sudden cardiac arrest each year - and only about 10% survive.  We're happy to report a new bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Grisanti.  While this means we must go back and ask all Senators to sponsor the new bill, we are confident that with strong grassroots supports that we will have a long list of sponsors soon.  AHA continues to highlight schools with successful CPR programs. 

AEDs in Golf courses - Legislation to ensure golf courses are equipped with AEDs is moving quickly thru the Assembly.  The legislation has passed two committees and is currently waiting for a full vote from the Assembly.

Food Marketing to kids - Are food companies targeting unhealthy, high-calorie items to kids?  Are your kids tempted by the shiny toy?  How about letting kids keep the toy and serving a healthier meal at the same time?  Legislation calling for nutrition standards for meals marketed to kids (with a toy or similar incentive) has passed the Assembly Health Committee and is now before the codes committee.

Want to know what you can do to get CPR in Schools passed or how to promote our policy agenda?  Contact: julianne.hart@heart.org

 

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Soup on a cold rainy day…

I love soup, especially tomato soup.  So, when I stepped out at lunch to run errands on this 36-degree damp day, I stopped at a chain restaurant to buy some soup to bring back to my desk.  When I returned, I decided to catch up on emails from Nancy Brown.  Nancy, as most of you know, is the CEO of the American Heart Association.    Her newsletters have a ton of great information.

One of Nancy’s recent newsletters discussed the latest sodium recommendations from the American Heart Association:

“The AHA has long recommended no more than 1,500 milligrams based on scientific evidence. 

The new guidelines suggest that 2,400 milligrams per day is an acceptable "step-down" limit for people with high blood pressure, and that people can reduce their risk of hypertension even more by going down to 1,500 milligrams per day. The main point to remember, however, is that Americans need to reduce their sodium intake drastically from the 3,400-plus milligrams they currently consume -- which puts them at increased risk of hypertension, stroke and other major health problems.” 

As I sat there and sipped my soup, I decided to try to look at the nutrition information.  Because I went to a chain-restaurant, the information was available on line. 

Well, it was not as bad as I feared, but still pretty high.  The soup itself had 510 mg of sodium, about a third of my daily ration.  However, my breakfast had very little sodium, so this was ok.  Right?  However, I did add the little bag of about 6 croutons that they gave me and had (unfortunately) already eaten them.  Darn.  That was a totally unnecessary 170 mg of sodium. 

Luckily, I had not chosen the bread that comes with the soup.  That little piece of bread has 440 mg of sodium.  If I had eaten that bread, my lunch would have come pretty darn close to my daily sodium intake.

Lesson learned….don’t eat the croutons…choose the apple…and pay attention.  Little changes can make a big difference.

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