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Advocacy Staff Attends Policy Summit in Minneapolis!

The last week of June was a busy one for myself, Robin (NYC) and Patricia (Boston). The three of us spent a few days in Minneapolis at a Voices For Healthy Kids Policy Summit, where we discussed campaign work around Healthy Food Financing Initiatives, Physical Education, and Complete Streets. We met colleagues all across the country that are either working on similar campaigns as we are or have successfully implemented one of these campaigns in their own state.

Attached is a picture of the Twin Cities Mobile Market - which was an old Metro Transit Bus that they converted into a grocery store on wheels. This bus brings affordable, healthy foods to under-resourced neighborhoods. The bus stopped by to pay us a visit and let us tour their very successful enterprise!

We came away with so many new tools and resources to use in our upcoming campaigns and all three of us are anxious to get home and get to work!

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Significant Funding Headed to NYC Schools for Physical Education!

Thanks to the incredible efforts of American Heart Association advocates and our partners in the Phys Ed 4 All coalition, New York City is investing some serious funding in our mission to improve physical education for every student!

New York City Council approved a $9 million appropriation, originally proposed in the Mayor's executive budget proposal, that will ensure every elementary school has a certified PE teacher, and enough training and resources to make sure every school complies with the state standards for quality physical education.

This is a significant win that wouldn't have been possible without the years of effort that has come before it.  From the moment the American Heart Association's Advocacy Committee in NYC released the results of our survey research which showed rampant non-compliance in early 2013, we have been pushing the city to help find a solution.  The passage of the city's new PE Report Card law in November has instigated a remarkable focus by this administration to work proactively toward PE improvements.  The PE Works initiative, funded by Council last year, and the Mayor's new investment, will go a long way to change the current reality for NYC kids.  Thanks to their leadership, our mission to make sure every student has access to quality PE will soon be realized!

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A Victory for NYC's Sodium Warning Icon Law!

The saga that surrounds New York City's Sodium Warning Label continues.  But every step has been a strong show of support of this policy which will help to empower consumers to make healthy decisions about the food they eat when dining out at chain restaurants.

On Thursday, May 26, the New York State’s Appellate Division, First Department denied a requested injunction by the National Restaurant Association which delayed the enforcement of the rule initially approved by the Board of Health in 2015.  You can learn more about the latest development here:  http://news.heart.org/new-york-city-can-now-enforce-sodium-warnings-on-menus/

Every challenge brought by the National Restaurant Association has been denied.  While the court case continues to assess the merits of the policy, the American Heart Association believes firmly that the sodium warning labels will help to address the public health urgency as American's continue to consume too much sodium.  These warning labels will highlight food items on the menu have more than the recommended daily limit for sodium, thus putting diners in danger of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

It's time that the National Restaurant Association stopped fighting this common sense law.  In the meantime, we look forward to seeing the rule enforced beginning next month!

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FDA Announces New Rule Overseeing All Tobacco Products Including E-Cigs!

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced exciting news that they finalized a rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, among others. This move will help improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco.

Before today, there was no federal law prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18. Today’s rule changes that with provisions aimed at restricting youth access, including:

  • Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online);
  • Requiring age verification by photo ID;
  • Not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility); and
  • Not allowing the distribution of free samples.

This move will also help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks.

For more information, check out the press release here: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm499234.htm 

One step closer to protecting our youth against the dangers of nicotine!

 

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Yuki Courtland - PE Advocate in NYC!

Yuki Courtland is an advocate. She sees something wrong in her world and pushes to make the necessary change to help.  As the chair of our Advocacy Committee in New York City, she has been leading the way to help make sure every student, regardless of where they go to school, learn how to embrace physical activity.  Thanks to her efforts, NYC schools are on their way to making significant improvements. 

Recent successes include the passage of the new PE Reporting Law which will serve to create more transparency around our schools' PE programs beginning in August when the first report card is issued.  Additionally, thanks to Yuki's work with the Advocacy Committee, Mayor de Blasio is now pledging to dedicate significant dollars in the FY 17 budget. 

Her work isn't over yet.  But we are lucky to have her tireless commitment to help make NYC a healthier place to live!

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#PE4All Victory in NYC!

It's almost too good to be true!  After years of advocacy, more emails than you probably want to remember and countless hours of work with our community partners in the Phys Ed 4 All coalition, New York City is poised to make significant progress in our goal to improve physical education for every student!

In his executive budget proposal, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to dedicate $9 million to help improve PE in city schools.  He specifically referenced the goal to help get every school in compliance with state law.  (It's good to note that the state laws currently require just 120 minutes per week of PE for elementary students and 90 minutes per week in secondary school.  These requirements don't yet meet national benchmarks which would make sure elementary kids get 150 minutes per week of PE and 225 minutes for the older kids.  But before we can even think about that, we have to make sure NYC schools are able to meet the basic requirements.  Unfortunately, AHA research in 2012 showed that a majority of schools do not comply with state laws and there were several other red flags related to the quality of PE that was being offered to students.)

Mayor de Blasio hopes this is just the beginning.  Building on the success of last year's PE Works initiative, he's asked for $9 million to be provided for PE this year, and potentially $44 million in the next year.  And if he has his way, that won't be the end of it.  He'd like to see $100 million in city funds dedicated for physical education by the year 2020.

This funding will go a long way to hire more certified PE teachers, provide support and resources to improve PE curriculum and perhaps most needed, restore gym spaces to a safe, adequate size for PE classes.  We're not done yet.  The obstacles in the way for quality PE are complicated and vast and we expect many more to come to light with the first issuance of the PE Reporting Law this August.  Even the $9 million isn't locked in yet. City Council will determine the final version of the state budget before July 1.  But with the Mayor's announcement to support quality PE, we are finally gaining momentum!

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UPDATE: Tobacco 21 Moves Through Committees in Albany County, Goes to Full Vote!

On Wednesday, April 27, the Albany County Health Committee and the Audit & Finance Committee voted to move Local Law "C"  through to a vote with the full legislature on May 9. Local Law "C" would raise the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. In addition to moving the bill through the committees, three new legislators also signed on in support of the bill which brings the number of legislative sponsors to 18.

Thank you to our volunteers in Albany County who made phone calls and sent emails to their legislators letting them know why raising the purchase age is so important. Check your email for additional action alerts as we get closer to the full vote!

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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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New Stroke Advocacy Video Coming Soon!

Yesterday, staff at the Albany, NY office met with local paramedics and AHA volunteers to create a new video highlighting the advances in stroke treatment and why it is important for states to have stroke systems of care, including designation of stroke hospitals.  In New York, the AHA/ASA is advocating for legislation to designate three levels of stroke hospitals and coordinate EMS response and transport.  on the importance of Stroke Designation Legislation.   

Each person interviewed discussed why changes in stroke treatment options make can save lives and reduce disability if patients are transported quickly to the  a hospital equipped to treat stroke. 

Paul Symansky the AHA Stroke Ambassador for the Capital Region of New York, talked about her own experience of having a stroke and how appropriate and timely treatment helped her get back to living a productive, happy life.

Stay tuned for the release of this short video coming in May!

--Martha & Kristin

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A busy Albany comes to a stand still as Legislators go on break

You would never have guessed that yesterday more than 20,000 people came out to rally in support of three different candidates all vying for the 2017 Presidential bid. With supporters and protesters lining the streets of downtown Albany in hopes to see Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, or John Kasich, the scene was more than chaotic.

Today in Albany was much different.

The halls of the Capitol were quiet as many legislators were finishing up their work for the rest of April, preparing to go back to their districts for a much needed two week post-budget break. Knowing full well that May will bring on a flurry of legislative asks, Senators and Assemblymembers will enjoy the next two weeks at home before the madness of session swings into high gear. With only May and June left of the 2016 legislative session, AHA will be working hard on passing legislation that would raise the purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 21; include e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act; implement quality PE standards in schools, and many others.

Stay tuned for ways to help with these campaigns throughout the month of April!

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