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Little Tikes with a Big Message

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to get the message across. Sawyer Daniels and Jack Towle stole the show at our April legislative reception.

Sawyer is here today because his heart defect was able to be detected early thanks to a pulse oximetry test given shortly after birth – a defect that likely would have been fatal had he gone home without it being discovered.

Jack’s defect was not discovered right away as he did not receive a pulse oximetry test as a newborn and suffered the health consequences for months.

You can hear more about their story here. http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/parents-push-for-mandatory-pulse-oximetry-testing-on-vermont-newborns

Sawyer and Jack’s parents – Tessa and Elijah Daniels and Katie and Michael Towle -- also spoke and met with legislators at the legislative reception to encourage them to pass legislation requiring this test be given to al newborns. It made a difference.

That very week, the House Health Care Committee passed legislation instructing the Commissioner of Health to undertake a rulemaking to ensure all infants are screened for critical congenital heart defects. The House has also passed the measure and we expect the Senate to follow suit this week.

Stay tuned as we will need your help once the rulemaking process is underway to stress the importance of pulse oximetry as the standard. Thanks!

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With Your Help, Vermont Could Be a Leader in Setting State Nutrition Standards!

Vermont is poised to be a leader on setting nutrition standards for state agencies. But we need your help!

Legislation we’ve been promoting this session to require state agencies in Vermont to follow nationally recognized nutrition standards for the food they sell in food service, vending and institutions had stalled in the House after passing the Senate. However, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee amended a House-passed bill, H.812, to include our nutrition standards legislation. It’s been approved as well by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be voted on this week by the full Senate.

Please contact your senators at the following link and encourage them to support the measure. http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016

If the measure passes the Senate, the House would need to agree with the Senate’s changes. This will also need to be done this week! Please click on the following link to let your representatives know that H.812 is important to you because of its nutrition standards.

 http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016

Some key messages are included below:

  • Government needs to walk-the-walk to serve as a role model for other businesses in the state to assure access to healthy foods and beverages and address diet-related diseases.

 

  • This bill would have the Commissioner of Health set nutrition standards for state agencies that follow nationally recognized standards. It would ensure healthy food options are provided in vending, food service and institutional feeding. It offers the state flexibility since many standards require only a percentage of foods to be addressed.

 

  • The legislation would help us begin to bend the curve on obesity and diet-related diseases. In the United States, obesity and diet-related disease cost $190 billion annually in health care costs. Vermont spends approximately $290 million each year. About half of those costs are paid by Medicare and Medicaid. The other costs are paid by businesses and individual citizens.
           
          
  • Obesity-related chronic diseases are projected to sky-rocket if current trends continue.  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.    
      
        
  • Providing healthier food options on public property is a sensible, low-cost chronic disease prevention strategy.

 

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Winning the Fight Against E-Cigs in Vermont

Thanks to the hard work by many volunteers like you, the Governor will soon be signing legislation into law that would prevent e-cigarettes from being used any place smoking is currently prohibited in Vermont!

The Vermont House on April 26th, gave its approval to the changes made to the bill by the Senate. This was the last step needed before the Governor can sign the bill into law.  

This was a long process that was debated quite a bit this session. Our goal with the bill was to ensure social norms against smoking were not eroded, to protect Vermont kids as use of this unregulated protect is growing exponentially, and to ensure Vermont’s clean indoor air laws remain strong!

A special thanks to volunteer Jan Carney who was an invaluable resource during testimony on this issue, to the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility who reached out to the Senate Health and Welfare committee at a critical point and noted, “H.171 is a step toward a healthier future for Vermonters,” to the House Human Services Committee for giving the issue so much time before their committee and to senators’ impassioned statements on the floor such as the one by Senator *** McCormack who commented during an effort to roll back restrictions on smoking, “I think it’s important to fight for rights, but the right to smoke is not one of them.”

 

Great work everyone and thanks for your help!

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Good Food Access Fund is Ready to Take on MN's Healthy Food Access Problem!

More than 340,000 Minnesotans face both distance and income as a barrier to obtaining healthy, affordable food such as fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains, and lean meats and poultry.1 This problem is only worsening with 61% of Minnesota counties losing grocery stores since 2007.2 Limited access to healthy, affordable foods results in disproportionately higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related health problems.3 It is also one of the key contributing factors to the health disparities that currently exist in Minnesota among many communities of color.4

Last fall, the American Heart Association and the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition obtained a Voices for Healthy Kids grant to create a healthy food financing policy solution to address this state-wide problem. We knew that such programs in other states were successful where grocery stores were reopened in low access areas, improving good food access and revitalizing local economies. 

In true Minnesotan fashion, we decided to do things a little differently. Based on feedback garnered during our ongoing community engagement and in accordance with the Minnesota Food Charter, we knew that solely reopening grocery stores would not be the answer. Working with partners across health, food insecurity, agriculture, and community-investment interests, we proposed the Good Food Access Fund which would be established and funded by the Minnesota Legislature. It would provide grants, low-cost loans, and technical support for food-related enterprises in areas of the state where people don’t have the ability to choose healthy, affordable foods. Those enterprises could include new or enhanced grocery stores, mobile markets and farmers’ markets, fresh food refrigeration, and other innovative community-driven solutions. 

We introduced the Good Food Access Fund bill at the beginning of the Minnesota legislative session in early March. We expected this to be an introduction/education year for the Good Food Access Fund – but WOW!!! Thanks to our amazing chief bill authors, Senator Dan Sparks and Representative Rod Hamilton, and the work of all our partners, the bill got so much more attention and support than we anticipated. The bill went on a whirlwind tour of 6 committee hearings in 6 weeks!  The last of the hearings, was before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Equity, a new committee that represents the first time the legislature has taken a serious look at addressing racial disparities. The Subcommittee included our bill in their budget recommendations and appropriated $5 million in one-time funding!! This is far from the finish line and a final win is still a long ways away with many hurdles – but this is a HUGE accomplishment! The next few weeks of the legislative session will tell whether this $5 million appropriation becomes a reality. 

Our success this year really speaks to how relevant and important the issue of food access is in Minnesota; it crosses partisan and geographic divides. It’s not just an economic issue, it’s a health and equity issue as well. We have sent the message that improving food access is a priority in Minnesota! Thanks to all of the YTC members who have responded to our Action Alerts! We look forward to your continued support as we move forward! Please like and follow the campaign on Facebook for more information!

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[1] Mattessich, P. & Rausch, E. (2016).Healthy food access: A view of the landscape in Minnesota and lessons learned from healthy food financing initiatives. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and Wilder Research.

2 Center for Rural Policy and Development. Grocery Stores by the Number. Mankato, MN 2014.

3 Manon, M. & Kim, E. (2012).Food for every child: The need for more supermarkets in Minnesota. The Food Trust. www.healthyfoodaccess.org/resources/library/food-for-every-child-the-need-for-more-supermarkets-in-minnesota 

4http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/POC/POCSpring2009.pdf://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/POC/POCSpring2009.pdf


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Albany County Legislature Holds Public Hearing on Tobacco 21!

Last night, the Albany County Legislature held a public hearing on raising the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

Public Health advocates and community members came out in full force to discuss the reasons why raising the purchase age is so important. I was there beside my colleagues from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and our friends with the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition.

Only three people spoke out against the measure, including the Convenient Store Association who suggests this will hurt small businesses and it won't actually help decrease the rate of smoking. We helped dispel these myths with statistics that show otherwise.

Overall, I think the meeting went well and I think we will have enough votes to pass it through the Health committee in the next month. Stay tuned!

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Symposium Attendees Taught to "Rethink Your Drink"

Attendees at the Worksite Wellness Symposium learned just how much sugar is in their daily beverages. We started out our 15 minute breakout session with a Price is Right style game, "Higher or Lower?"  Attendees had three plates of sugary treats in front of them, next to a 20 oz bottle of soda.  They had 30 seconds to determine whether the treat had a higher or lower sugar content than the soda.  Before the next game they were given facts on how much sugar the American Heart Association recommends for adult women, adult men, children, and teenagers. 

The next game was "The Sugar Shuffle!"  Attendees had two minutes to match up the amount of teaspoons of sugar with the correct drink on the board.  They were surprised at how much sugar was actually in the beverages they and their family consume every day!

Before they moved on to the next session, we asked them to sign a "Rethink Your Drink" pledge card, pledging to consume zero sugary beverages for the entire month of March, which happens to be Nutrition Month.

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The Good Food Access Fund Campaign Kickoff was a Success!

This past Tuesday, the Good Food Access Fund Campaign Kickoff took place at The Wilder Center in St. Paul.  We were fortunate to have a group of more than 100 health, food, equity, agriculture and community-development advocates, led by the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition. The Good Food Access Fund seeks to address the insufficient access to healthy and affordable foods in Minnesota.

At the kickoff event, we learned about new key research findings surrounding healthy food access, availability, and affordability issues in Minnesota. We also spent time exploring ways to engage with and support the Good Food Access Fund Campaign.

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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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Minnesota You're the Cure Advocacy Summit - 2015

Last month we held the 2nd Annual You're the Cure Advocacy Summit in Minnesota for our insider advocates!

Our insiders started the day introducing themselves and painting their favorite fruit or vegetable.

 

 

 

The theme of the summit this year was "INSPIRED." Throughout the day advocates told us how they are inspired through the training and projects provided.

One of the new things brough to this year's summit was THE LEGISLATIVE GAMES, where advocates split into two teams and set up how the legislative process is run on game boards. At the end of the game, Annie threw in a wild card at them, one was what happens if your bill doesn't get signed by the Governor? Adovcates then had to show more ways that they reach the Governor and get them to sign, run a social media campaign, get petition cards signed, etc.

See more pictures from this year's summit HERE

Want to be a YTC Insider and be at next year’s summit? Start taking action at www.yourethecure.org and move up in ranks!

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Focus on Better Health Among Native Americans in New Key Initiative

Check out this editorial posted today in the Star Tribune. Voices for Healthy Kids is supporting the ‘gathering of some of the nation’s most respected national philanthropic organizations.'

Six months ago, Minnesota’s Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community garnered well-deserved praise when it announced a $5 million "Seeds of Native Health" initiative to tackle a daunting public health challenge: improving Native American nutrition.

With the first round of grant recipients just announced, this influential southern-metro tribal nation laudably isn’t pausing to take a rest. Instead, it’s poised to take an ambitious step to broaden the initiative’s reach. In mid-October, it will host a gathering of some of the nation’s most respected national philanthropic organizations to "specifically focus on this nutritional crisis in Indian Country,’’ said Lori Watso, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Community’s secretary/treasurer.

The goal of the gathering, believed to be the first of its kind, is not only to raise awareness but to enlist these organizations’ support to improve nutrition in Native American communities. The other philanthropies shouldn’t hesitate to join the campaign. This is an overdue public health need, one long neglected by the federal government, and a worthy use of these organizations’ resources. Continue reading here

Photo: David Joles, Start Tribune

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