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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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One Step Closer to Protecting Our Youth from Big Tobacco!

We’re almost half way there! Last week the Senate passed legislation to protect kids from the dangers of tobacco! This critical legislation would strengthen our tobacco laws and once again make Massachusetts a nationwide leader in tobacco prevention and control.  The bill, if passed, will:

  • Increase the statewide age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21, including electronic cigarettes
  • Include e-cigarettes in the smoke-free workplace law
  • Prohibit the sale of tobacco products from any location which provides health care services, such as pharmacies
  • Require child-resistant packaging for e-cigarettes

 99% of all adult smokers report that they started smoking before the age of 25. Because most tobacco use starts in the high school years, 80% of youth smokers will become adult smokers and one-half of adult smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Most teens who smoke and use tobacco report getting cigarettes and other products from their friends. We can help stop our kids from being exposed to tobacco by increasing the sales age from 18 to 21, which will limit high school and middle school youths’ access to addictive products from older teens. This bill has an opportunity to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth, which will improve health, save lives, and reduce health care costs. 

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Will You Raise Your Voice to Help Prevent Obesity in Massachusetts?

Join us for our Heart on the Hill on May 23rd from 11-2 and use your voice to advocate for our key priorities because we believe our residents deserve healthy food and safe places to play.

 

  • Advocate for healthy food and beverage options in vending machines in all State Buildings.
  • Advocate for critical public funding to create the Massachusetts Food Trust, a Healthy Food Financing initiative, to increase the number of healthy food retail outlets (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, mobile markets) in underserved communities
  • Advocate for increased accountability reporting of schools to provide quality physical education in our schools
  • Advocate for funding so that road construction and reconstruction create complete streets that are safe and convenient for all users and all modes of transportation
  • Advocate for appropriations for state level reporting and implementation of shared use programs as well as incentives to schools to promote shared use

 

We will provide an advocacy training that day and you will have scheduled visits with your Representative and Senator (or their staff) to talk about our legislative priorities.

 

Please register today at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HZFWGGJ.  If you have any questions please contact Allyson Perron at allyson.perron@heart.org or (781) 373-4522 .

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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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How Complete Are Your Town’s Streets?

In New Hampshire we usually think of roads going through our towns as "complete" when we are able to drive our cars without having to avoid potholes.  But "Complete Streets" means so much more.  Complete Streets is a design approach that contributes to a community’s quality of life, encouraging residents to be physically active by creating roadways that are safe and convenient for all modes of transportation, including bicycles and pedestrians.  The NH Legislature is one step away from passing legislation to create a study committee to examine how a Complete Streets policy can benefit us all.  This is a unique opportunity for NH to improve public health and to create more walkable, liveable communities.  

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Local Schools Receive Life-Saving CPR Kits

Area school districts received a life-saving gift through a partnership of Great Plains Health and the American Heart Association.  The training kits were handed out to area school districts. North Platte Public Schools, North Platte Catholic Schools, Our Redeemer Lutheran School, Wallace, Sutherland, Hershey, Maxwell, Brady and Arnold public schools will have access to the training kits. The kits will allow students to learn hands-only CPR, which could help reduce deaths from the more than 326,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside the hospital setting annually. The kits contain a number of learning tools, including 10 Mini Anne Plus inflatable manikins, 10 kneeling mats, 10 practice-while-watching training DVDs, replacement airways and face masks among other items. A lesson plan and facilitator guide is also included in the kits.

NPPS will have two of the kits; one kit will be shared between NPCS and Our Redeemer; one will be housed at Brady and shared with Maxwell and Arnold; and the final kit will be shared between Hershey, Sutherland and Wallace.

For more on this story, CLICK HERE

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Hunger Has Impact on Growth and Development

According to a recent journal article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, both preschool and school-aged children showed that chronic hunger and food insecurity are significant predictors of health conditions, even when taking other factors into consideration. The results of this study were featured in a recent article in the Native Health News Alliance. The article states that nationwide, one in seven families experience food insecurity at any given point during a year, and the rates are higher in Indian Country, thus increasing the risks for the physical effects that come with poor nutrition. 

Hunger has a dramatic effect on the human body, and the influence of not having regular access to healthy food can be felt at a young age through its effects on childhood brain growth and cognitive function. 

For more on this article, CLICK HERE

Access to healthy, nutritious food can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.  Those Americans residing in certain parts of the U.S. with limited access to affordable and healthy foods area said to be living in “food deserts” – with lengthy trips to food markets.  These factors serve to make hunger among children a factor in poor health. 

The American Heart Association advocates for policies that will raise public awareness about the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle; and increasing the availability and use of fruits and vegetables, and other nutritious foods, particularly in our nation’s schools.  This includes monitoring the USDA study on “food deserts” and developing policy recommendations to address the study’s outcomes. 

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