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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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Help Kids Be Healthy for Years to Come!

Obesity has tripled among children and adolescents in the last 30 years.  It’s time to act! Establishing strong obesity prevention programs in child care settings is a great place to start.

The Vermont Child Development Division is currently updating its licensing regulations for child care centers across Vermont and is seeking public comment from Vermonters on its proposed regulations. We need to ensure that strong nutrition, physical activity and screen time standards are included.

Take a minute now and click on the following link for a letter you can print and send in as your comment supporting the American Heart Association’s recommendations for the child care setting. https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

Your support can make a difference!  Because children develop food preferences within the first years of life, exposing them to healthy diets early can have an immediate benefit but also reduce chronic disease risk for years to come if these healthy habits are continued into adulthood. The same holds true for physical activity.

The AHA is recommending the child care regulations follow the nutrition standards set by the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program and the physical activity and screen time standards set by YMCA’s Healthy Eating Physical Activity Standards. Lend your voice of support today for a healthier generation of kids! https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

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Biking Injuries and Deaths Spike as More Adults Pedal

An article posted by NPR Minnesota Public Radio this week, talks about the increase of injuries and deaths that coming with the increase adults biking. Check it out below!

More adults across the country are strapping on helmets and hopping on bikes to get to work. That's good news for people's hearts and waistlines, but it also means more visits to the emergency room.

Hospital admissions because of bike injuries more than doubled between 1998 and 2013, doctors reported Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. And the rise was the biggest with bikers ages 45 and over.

"There are just more people riding and getting injured in that age group. It's definitely striking," says Dr. Benjamin Breyer, who led the study at the University of California, San Francisco. Continue reading here

Photo Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Health Challenge for Minnesota Families Starts in September

The Minnesota News Connection posted an article today on the Life Is Why Family Health Challenge!

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The number of children who are overweight or obese in Minnesota has been swelling for decades, but a month-long event starting Tuesday aims to gain some traction in reversing that trend.

The Life is Why Family Health Challenge is broken down into four themed weeks. American Heart Association volunteer Carrie McLeod says the first component is focused on the foods people buy at the grocery store and is called My Cart is Why.

"Which helps your family to understand the importance of fruits and vegetables and has some fun, easy activities for the children to take part it," she explains. "So that it can really be a fun thing and not an 'Oh, gosh, you have to eat your broccoli' kind of thing." Continue reading here

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What is the state of obesity in Austin?

Austin is known for being fit. We jog Lady Bird Lake, swim Barton Springs, and snack on healthy bites. Austin has a healthy reputation that can't be beat. But did you know that 39 percent of Austin-area adults are overweight, and another 21 percent are obese? Our children are affected too: nearly 1 in 4 fourth graders, 1 in 5 eighth graders, and 1 in 5 eleventh graders in the Austin area have obesity.

How is childhood obesity affected by access to healthy foods?

To grow up healthy, children and their families need many things in their communities. One thing is a store selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Did you know, 14% of Texans - that's 3.4 million people! - live in neighborhoods lacking healthy food options? Some of those areas are right here in Austin. Five City of Austin ZIP codes (78617, 78653, 78721, 78725, 78744) are without a grocery store, limiting families' access to healthy and fresh food.

This takes a toll on the city's health. Only 30 percent of Greater Austin residents meet the recommended daily allowance of fruit and vegetables, and the obesity rate within Greater Austin is 25 percent. What's in store for people with limited access to healthy fruits and vegetables? A higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Do you support increased access to fresh, healthy food for Austin neighborhoods?

Join the #MoreAtMyStore movement today! Add your name to show your support. You'll also receive notices of opportunities to take action in your community, to help make the healthy choice the easy choice in Austin neighborhoods.

We believe healthy living in Austin is right around the corner.

 

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Jane Kolodinsky, Vermont's New Advocacy Committee Chair

A long-time advocate for a sugary drink excise tax in Vermont will now chair the American Heart Association’s Vermont Advocacy Committee and help promote nutrition standards and the removal of sugary drinks in restaurants kids’ meals.

Professor Jane Kolodinsky is also the chair of the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics.  Addressing the AHA’s goal of setting nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals makes sense to her as it’s a topic she is familiar with.

Jane is a co-author of a chapter entitled, Childhood Obesity, Food Choice and Market Influence” in the book “Global Perspectives on Childhood Obesity.” One of the findings discussed in the publication is that the number of kids eating at fast food restaurants has increased over time.  Fast food restaurants are so popular that adolescents tend to eat at them twice a week and, on a typical day, 30% of youth aged 4-19 consume fast food.

Jane notes that with fast food being higher in fat and energy, children get a disproportionate number of their recommended daily calories at these establishments. Improving the nutrition of all restaurant kids meals will be an important step as dietary patterns are formed early in life.

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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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