American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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Act Now Before Vermonters Grow Any Bigger

When obesity is costing Vermont more than $290 million annually to treat the chronic diseases it causes, it should be a crisis deemed big enough for legislators to take action.

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. These are sobering projections of a dramatic decline in the wellness of Vermonters, but we can reduce these numbers significantly if we act now.

We’re urging lawmakers to help make the healthy choice the easy choice by requiring nutrition standards both for restaurant kids’ meals and for food sold and served by state government.

You can help. Contact the members of the House Human Services Committee where these bills sit and tell them you want action today before obesity has a chance to grow any further in Vermont.

Here are the members. Just click on a name and tell them it’s important to act, and act now.

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Bucket List

One of the great things about living in Maine is that you are never very far from some amazing nature.  This past weekend I was able to cross “stay at that amazing house on top of Morse Mountain” off my bucket list.  I have admired that house every time I have hiked the two miles up and down the other side of the mountain to Small Point Beach.  Luckily for me, my friend turned 40 and his wife bought him a weekend on the mountain to celebrate.  The weather was very un-Maine like, so we were able to enjoy hiking and playing on the beach without 10-below wind chill.  We were also able to enjoy watching all the hikers, from 8 months to 80 years old laughing, smiling and getting some good exercise.  Mainers know that, when the weather is nice, you have to head outside.  The nice weather could be fleeting.  I hope you all got outside for some fresh air and exercise last weekend and will do the same this weekend.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.  People who need to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol are advised to get 40 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity 3 to 4 times a week to lower their risk for heart attack or stroke. 

You can accomplish this by hiking a beautiful mountain, or as I did today (it is pouring outside) by walking laps around your office building.  I hope that, in honor of American Heart month you commit to taking care of your heart by getting the recommended exercise.  Oh, and if this 40-50 degree weather continues, get outside!


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New Policy Brief Calls for More Physical Education in Rhode Island Schools

Our partners at Rhode Island Kids Count recently released a new policy brief entitled, “Promoting Increased Physical Activity in Schools.”

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve strength and endurance, help control weight, and prevent chronic disease. It has also been shown to improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores. Research also shows positive effects on the brain, including improved attention, processing, memory, and coping. “Promoting Increased Physical Activity in Schools” provides an overview of current practices and policies regarding physical activity in Rhode Island schools (including recess and physical education), and includes recommendations for promoting increased physical activity in schools. 

To view the policy brief click here:,%20Issues,%20Oral)/Physical%20Activity%20%20Rhode%20Island%20KIDS%20COUNT%20Policy%20Brief-Phys%20Activity%20in%20Schools-Jan%202016.pdf

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Be Good to Your Heart this Heart Month!

February is American Heart Month and what better time to make simple, heart-healthy lifestyle changes?  Want to incorporate more physical activity into your day? Need healthy, low-sodium recipes? Would you like more information on controlling your blood pressure? It’s as easy as a click!

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New Hampshire Coalition to fight for Healthy, Active Kids

I am very pleased to announce that New Hampshire has received a grant from Voices for Healthy Kids to establish a coalition to bring partners together around policy solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic in the Granite State. These funds will enable the AHA and our partners to build advocacy capacity to develop and execute a multi-year policy agenda to address several policy priorities regarding physical activity and healthy eating. The first policy goal is to prohibit junk food marketing in schools, to support school nutrition leaders and parents in instilling healthy eating habits in children.  The long term goals are to work to improve community environments, to enable more safe and convenient opportunities for physical activity and more access to healthy food and beverage choices for children and families.  A campaign coordinator has been hired to lead the formation of this statewide coalition and other staff will be brought on to serve as a grassroots organizer of community members and groups with experience working with NH’s diverse and underserved communities.

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Act Now: A Fresh Start for OKC

According to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Community Health Status Assessment, Oklahoma City is ranked the 2nd worst city in the nation for food access. This means that our citizens have a harder time than most in our nation accessing healthy foods where they live. This isn’t the silver medal we want to bring home.

But we can change that. By investing in, and partnering with, local corner stores and convenience stores we can bring fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options directly into our neighborhoods and improve the health of  our city!

Join us in taking a stand for the health of Oklahoma City! Take 30 seconds to send your council member a letter encouraging them to support a healthy corner store initiative!


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Houston Advocates are Part of the Puzzle!

On Saturday, January 23, twenty-five inspiring You’re the Cure volunteers from the Houston area gathered for the Houston Advocate Summit!

Some volunteers were new to You’re the Cure, while others had a long history of volunteering with the State Advocacy Committee or Grassroots Action Team. All came together to discover how they were “Part of the Puzzle,” learning from volunteer leaders and staff about AHA’s Texas policy priorities, especially smoke-free and obesity prevention, before touring You’re the Cure and learning about online and offline actions and how to climb the advocate ranks. Veteran volunteers shared lessons about engaging with lawmakers, and everyone practiced answering tricky questions about grocery access by sticking to their “why.” In fact, the volunteers’ stories were central to the whole event, and this tone was set by the first activity of the day, a “Life is Why” icebreaker during which advocates decorated puzzle pieces with their “whys” and shared their stories. Together their pieces created one heart!

State Advocacy Committee member Dr. Sheryl Green and Grassroots Action Team members Carolyn Jackson, Courtney White, and TaShon Thomas were joined by Sandy Adams, Shaun Babineaux, Craig Bauer, LaShonda Cameron, Cassandra Harris, Jaleh Keshtkari, Naghmeh Azghandi, Lorena Levy, Deborah Meek, Anna Musslewhite, Yissela Ortega, Bianca Ortega, Brittni Paez, Judy Patel, Kadisha Rapp, Linda Romer, Susan Smith, Cheryl Solomon, Ashley Spiller, Leslie Stratta, and Emily Tapp. This event would not have been possible without the leadership of Kaitlyn Murphy, Texas Senior Government Relations Director, Alix Angelelli, ANCHOR Regional Campaign Manager, and Apiyo Obala, Communications Director.

The You're the Cure community is all about giving you, our advocates, the tools you need to raise your voice to fight heart disease and stroke in your communities. The Houston Advocate Summit was a great opportunity for us to do so, and to get to know you better too! Stay tuned for more of these Summits in Texas, and RSVP for the Austin Advocate Summit coming up on January 30!

Put your Why into action! Reach out to Vanessa Fuentes ( or Victoria Nelson ( to learn of upcoming You're the Cure opportunities in Texas.

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Smaller Stomachs Deserve the Healthiest Meals

New York City may be moving forward to help improve the quality of meals served to kids in our restaurants - but they're not going far enough!  The current version of the bill, just posted for a vote in the Council Health Committee - only affects meals that have a toy connected to it.  While these meals are clearly marketed toward our kids, there are many other restaurants that don't use toys for their promotion.  Kids meals on menus from 'family-friendly' restaurants are often among the most egregious culprits, with loads of salt, fat and sugar!  Let's make sure NYC gets this right so we can lead the country in the right direction!  All restaurants that have kids' menus should meet high quality nutritional requirements for those meals!

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Safer Routes to Schools means safer, healthier kids

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) means safer, healthier Idaho kids. SRTS is a project that provides funding to improve infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects that encourage walking and biking to school. Over the past several months, we have been working closely with partners to help educate policy makers on the need for funding SRTS.

Since the 1960s, the percentage of kids who walk or bike to school has decreased from 47% to approximately 12%, while those riding in personal vehicles has increased from 12% to 45%. Research shows that each hour per day spent in a car increases likelihood of obesity by 6%. We know that increased physical activity throughout the day helps reduce obesity and the associated health risks, and walking and biking to school is an easy way to boost the amount of active time in a child’s day.

Safety concerns for kids walking and biking on highly trafficked streets, as well as things like lack of sidewalks, walk or bike paths, and crosswalks are often cited for this dramatic change in how kids get to and from school. This is where SRTS funding is essential. SRTS provides dollars to school districts to support infrastructure changes, as well as non-infrastructure improvements, such as a program manager, or volunteer training for walking school buses.

Along with improved safety and health outcomes, we know that increased activity has a positive effect on academic performance. After physical activity, students show improved test scores, demonstrate better classroom behavior and reduced discipline issues, experience less absenteeism, and indicate a higher level of comprehension.

We will be focusing on SRTS in our youth advocacy efforts during the 2016 Legislative Session, because of the health, safety, and academic improvements that can be seen when Safe Routes are implemented effectively. We hope you’ll join us by reaching out to your local district, administrators, parents, and legislators, and encouraging everyone to support Safe Routes to Schoo

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