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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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Meet Your New Grassroots Advocacy Director

With $50 in their pockets and hope, my parents brought my sister and I from India to the United States when we were young. 4 years later, after studying at a Red Rocks Community College at night and working minimum wage jobs, they bought a house, two cars and 'a white picket fence'. Our story is like millions of others, a story of creating life, a future, from nothing but a dream. The immigrant’s life truly is art in its purest form. In that same vein, for the last 5 years I’ve been working on creating a strong, diverse advocacy and communications portfolio. With my background in health policy in Colorado, I'm eager to start making impacts at the American Heart Association.

For the last two years, I’ve worked as the Communications and Public Policy Director of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP). As a registered professional lobbyist advocating and monitoring over 80 bills at the Colorado State Legislature, I was the in-house government relations manager for 2,200 Family Physicians giving care to 2 million Coloradans. I monitored all health related bills in Colorado and Washington DC, wrote messaging for editorials, designed all CAFP materials for events, and organized physicians for legislative action at the Colorado State Legislature and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

I started my advocacy career working for Majority Leader and State Representative Crisanta Duran at the Colorado State Legislature. Soon after, I became the Communications Director for Daniel Kagan for HD3 – the largest house race in Colorado history. For the 2013 legislative session, I served as a communications fellow for Senator Mike Johnston and supported his efforts to pass SB213, a bill to change the school finance structure in Colorado. During my time at the State Legislature, I supported the mission and visions of my elected official offices with policy and communications like press releases, website support, writing and editing newsletters, and developing factsheets. 

I graduated two years ago from the University of Denver with a cum laude honors degree in Economics and Communications. At DU, I was the Managing Editor of the DU Clarion – a 47 employee staffed newspaper, ranking 13th for overall quality in the nation by peers. I created the DU Clarion website, managed a large budget and worked with colleagues to deliver a 36 page paper. I copyedited every article and wrote many of the major and minor pieces.

I serve on the Board of Directors for health advocacy organizations across the Denver metro area. I am active in the community and aim to serve

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Advocates in Action

Healthy meals help students live and learn better. Studies show that kids who are served nutritious meals at breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day perform at a higher academic level. Under school nutrition standards passed in 2010, kids are eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit, and surveys show more than 90 percent of parents support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.

Oklahoma State Advocacy Chair Amy Baden and You're the Cure Advocate Amanda Rowell, along with AHA staff Terri Bailey and Lori Costa, met with Congressman Cole to ask that he support strong child nutrition standards. It's visits like this that make all the difference to combat childhood obesity. To learn how to get involved, please email Vanessa.Fuentes@heart.org for more information!

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Join the #MoreAtMyStore Movement Today!

Did you know that 3.4 million Texans live in areas where it is difficult to buy fresh and healthy food? Some of those areas are right here in Austin.

This means that for many, their local corner store, which often carries only highly processed or unhealthy food, may be their only option. Texas's obesity epidemic affects both children and adults, and multiple solutions are needed to address this complex issue. One important way to improve the health of everyone is to bring healthy, fresh food to communities. Or, as we like to say, #MoreAtMyStore!

YOU can help make the healthy choice the easy choice. Show your local leaders why you support #MoreAtMyStore.

Together we can help all Austinites find healthier food closer to home!

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#SmokeFreeFay Ramps Up

American Heart Association staff in our Fayetteville office is excited about the local policy campaign underway for Smoke-Free Fayetteville!  Fayetteville was the first city to go smoke-free in restaurants, back in 2000, paving the way for our statewide law.  We are once again working with Fayetteville residents to improve the health of their city and lead the way in Arkansas with a comprehensive smoke-free policy that covers all indoor workplaces. For more information and to follow the campaign, please visit https://www.facebook.com/smokefreefayetteville?fref=ts.

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Oregon 2015 Legislative Session Wrap Up

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham

When our state leaders head to the capitol for the six month legislative session, they have a lot on their minds—not the least of which is the health of Oregonians. It’s the job of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and our allies in public health to ensure that decision makers know the most effective ways to improve the health of all Oregonians, and how to protect them from Oregon’s number one cause of death, cardiovascular disease, and our number one cause of preventable disability, stroke.

Oregon’s 2015 Legislative Session was a busy one for the AHA and our advocates. Here are the highlights:

  • CPR in Schools Passes: The AHA and a team of remarkable advocates led the charge to make Oregon the 23rd state to pass CPR in Schools legislation. Thanks to Senate Bill 79, all Oregon students will be trained in CPR before graduating, ultimately adding over 45,000 new lifesavers across every Oregon community. Thanks to all of the Oregon Legislature for unanimously supporting CPR in Schools, and a special thanks to Sen. Arnie Roblan, Sen. Mark Hass, Rep. Carla Piluso, Rep. Margaret Doherty, and Rep. Jeff Reardon for their leadership.
  • Improvements for Oregon’s School Food: The AHA supported continuing Oregon’s legacy as a leader in school nutrition by aligning our state’s school nutrition standards with the updated federal guidelines. House Bill 2404 will help ensure kids get the healthy food they need for a healthy future.
  • Funding for Tobacco Prevention: We helped to protect $4 million for fighting the harms of tobacco in Oregon. Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in Oregon, and our tobacco prevention programs have been effective at reducing consumption.
  • Funding for Physical Education: We helped to protect $4 million for PE in schools that will help schools hire teachers and get more active minutes into their day. This generation of kids is the most inactive in history, and it’s more important than ever that schools support healthy active living.
  • Increasing Access to Health Care: We helped pass a bill, House Bill 2468, that will put Oregon’s Insurance Division to work trying to make insurance plans more transparent and to help consumers access the care they need when they need it.

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There is a new way to keep up with the American Heart Association in Hawaii

We want to thank you for being amazing You’re the Cure advocates over the last year and we want to give you another way to keep up on what is going on at the American Heart Association in Hawaii. During the course of the year we do our best to update you on what is happening with our advocacy efforts but we want to invite you to follow us on Facebook as well.

On our Facebook page you will see even more about what the American Heart Association is doing in our community. We will post updates on our advocacy efforts but you can also find information on community events, healthy recipes, new scientific research on heart disease and stroke and so much more.

Just follow this link and click the “like” button us so that you see our updates on your Facebook feed.

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Every child in Utah deserves a safe route to school

Guest blogger – Kelsey Hamstead

Many of my young school memories involve waking up early to catch the bus to school.  I remember being so excited when I no longer needed to ride the bus, but instead I would be able to walk to the school near our house. However, my excitement quickly dwindled when I realized I would have to cross the busy street between my neighborhood and the school. It was a busy and wide street that only had a crossing guard stationed during certain times of the morning. I began dreading the walk to school and frequently begged my parents to drive me the two minutes across the street because I felt unsafe.

Today I attend Brigham Young University, and I still walk to school. I notice many of the same dangers here in Provo as I did back home in Georgia. Things like: lack of or discontinuous sidewalks, wide and busy roads with no crossing guard or lack of a crossing aid. When my Professor announced to my class that we would be assisting the American Heart Association with a project to promote safe routes to school, I was immediately interested.

Our class of about 20 undergraduate students were split into teams and then assigned school districts around Utah Valley. We split up the schools in our districts among our team members in a divide and conquer type of approach. Each of us then set off to the schools to collect data on the relative safety of the walking paths to the schools. One of the schools I visited was Franklin Elementary. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the very busy intersection on the northwest side of the school. I had arrived as school was getting out and there were crowds of kids eager to get home. In talking with the crossing guard stationed at this particular intersection, I discovered that there had been many near accidents. Her suggestion was to have another stop sign put in at the intersection to help the traffic move more smoothly and to keep drivers from speeding by the school.

In talking with moms who had come to the school to walk home with their children, they told me they would love for their kids to be able to walk to and from school on their own, but they felt the roads were too dangerous. However, they wanted their children to continue getting the exercise from walking to and from school so they now walk with their kids in order to ensure their safety. Some other worries included a crosswalk light being out of order at times and the lack of safe sidewalks.

When my team came back together we were surprised to see that we had all gathered very similar data on the same type of problems. Together we constructed a plan and presented our findings at the American Heart Association Lobby Day this past January. Later in April we invited representatives and school board faculty to come and listen to our proposals. As an undergraduate student, alongside the American Heart Association I feel passionate about this topic and we received great feedback from those who came to hear us.

My experience working on this project has taught me that anyone can make a difference.

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Every Idahoan Deserves Access to Affordable Healthcare

Right now in Idaho, approximately 78,000 individuals fall into what is known as the coverage gap. These are Idaho workers, veterans, and others who do not have access to affordable healthcare because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid programs, but not enough to receive tax subsidies to purchase their own insurance. This coverage gap must be closed and that is what the Healthy Idaho Plan wants to do.

The Healthy Idaho Plan was created as a collaborative effort based on recommendations from the Governor’s Health Exchange Working Group. This consisted of a diverse array of individuals and organizations including physicians, legislators, business owners, and non-profit organizations to ensure hardworking Idahoans are able to seek care and receive the necessary services they need in order to stay healthy.

Currently, Idaho is failing to take advantage of federal dollars that could go towards covering healthcare costs, while at the same time continuing to spend millions of dollars in catastrophic and indigent care. In 2015, it is calculated that by not accepting federal dollars, Idaho forfeited $173 million in savings.  Just think of the investment we could make in Idaho’s future with that money.

Under the Healthy Idaho Plan, federal dollars would be used to help Idahoans purchase affordable health care coverage in the private insurance market, while others would gain coverage through a new Medicaid plan focused on personal responsibility and accountability. This plan saves taxpayer dollars, eliminates redundant government spending, maintains our autonomy to make healthcare decisions, and addresses our state’s needs.

The American Heart Association supports these efforts to ensure all Idahoans have access to affordable health care. If you are one of the 78,000 without access to affordable care, we want to hear from you.  If you are living in the coverage gap, we want you to share your story. You can call 1.844.HELP78K (1.877.435.7785) or visit www.closethegapidaho.org/stories. You can also join Close the Gap Idaho on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, @closethegapID, and help show your support with #78000cantwait and #healthyID.

To learn more, visit www.closethegapidaho.org. Your support of American Heart Association and our coalition partner’s efforts will help us secure affordable, accessible health care for all Idahoans.

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Kids Cook With Heart

Kids Cook With Heart is an exciting new program aimed at teaching middle-school aged children how fun it can be to cook and eat healthy. This program was piloted in our state last year and is now in its second year.

Over the past 30 years childhood obesity has more than tripled, placing children at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. In order to fight the onset of obesity among children, the American Heart Association developed the Kids Cook With Heart program. Studies show that youth who are involved in preparing their own meals are more likely to eat nutrient rich foods and more fruits and vegetables.

Kids Cook With Heart is a 6-week program designed to teach students the basic skills required to prepare their own meals at home, as well as the information they need to make healthier choices.  The classes, taught by AHA volunteers with backgrounds in cooking and nutrition, are fun and educational. They’re also proving to be effective, with participants showing an average of a 25% improvement in the following measures:

  • Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables
  • Decreasing high sugar beverages
  • Increasing comfort level in at-home meal preparation

If you are interested in bringing this program to your student group or have questions, please email Cherish Hart at cherish.hart@heart.org.

Watch this short video to see the program in action. http://bcove.me/a8etya7p

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