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Take Action for Corner Stores Today

We would all like the option to make a healthy choice, right?  We need your help now to speak up for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. Legislative session is moving fast and the NC House will be debating the state budget next week. It is important that the $1 million appropriation for Healthy Corner Stores is included.

Ask your legislators to fully fund the Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

Over 1.5 million of our North Carolina neighbors live in communities where healthy foods aren’t affordable or accessible. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative can help change that by bringing healthy, local foods into small stores in neighborhoods that need them most.

We all deserve the right to make a healthy choice. Tell your lawmakers today that you want all North Carolinians to have that right and ask them to include full funding for Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

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Kids Cook with Heart Maui

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.

While participating in the program, students learn 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. This is the first year of the program in Hawaii and we think it was a great success!

The program was offered at Lahaina area elementary, middle and high schools thanks to a grant to the AHA from the Saunder’s Family.

Recently students at Lahainaluna High School completed an eight week “Teen’s Cook With Heart” program that included an “Iron Chef” style healthful cooking competition. During the competition students were presented with a mystery bag of ingredients, and with what they had learned through participation in the program and the help of their chef mentors they prepared a healthful salad, dressing and entrée for a panel of judges. The winning team members won gift cards to a local grocery store.

At the end of the program all of the students received aprons and a cook book with healthy recipes.

We hope to continue this program in other local schools. If you have questions or would like to find out how your school can participate contact Lesli Yano at 808-377-6641.

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Active Communities are Healthy Communities

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

For the last 12 months the American Heart Association and our coalition partners have been working diligently on educating legislators on the benefits of investing in the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. Investing in making our communities safer for people to walk and bike is vital to improving our state’s overall health.

During Lobby Day this year, we helped Legislators understand the benefits of Safe Routes, beyond just the increase in physical activity for children. When we invest in making it safer for children to walk and bike to school we make it safer for everyone in the community to get out and get active. SRTS legislation would dedicate state dollars to funding infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects that would make it easier, safer, and help encourage kids to walk and bike to school every day.

We know there are long term benefits to health, education, transportation, the environment, and in communities across the state.

With session over and legislators back in their home districts, we are working to expand the information people have about SRTS and how these programs can improve their communities. We are reaching out to more organizations for support of this work, and to all our wonderful volunteers who know how important physical activity is to children to prevent heart disease and stroke risks.

Our Idaho Heart Walk is on Saturday, May 14th, where we will continue to talk about the benefits of Safe Routes to School, and encourage individuals to sign on to support SRTS funding in the 2017 Legislative Session. This is the perfect opportunity to join us to celebrate heart health and encourage kids to be more active. Please join us by signing up at www.boiseheartwalk.org, and come to the AHA/ ASA booth to learn more about Safe Routes to School, and help support active transportation and improved health!

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American Heart Association Heart at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Ashley Wicklund. Government Advocacy Intern – Sacramento

The AHA hosted Heart at the Capitol, formerly known as Lobby Day, on April 14th this year and it was a great success. As an integral part of the planning team, it is very fulfilling to have seen it go so well. I am a Government Advocacy Intern for the AHA, and I was tasked with setting up all the meetings with the legislators for the event. As you could imagine, sending emails to all the legislative offices and coordinating with legislators or their staff took some time. When I first heard about Heart at the Capitol and began setting up meetings, I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of the event. But after I had confirmed about 85 meetings with the offices of Senators and Assemblymembers, I began to realize just how important this event was.

 

Heart at the Capitol provides an opportunity for volunteers and constituents to come to the Capitol and talk to legislators about the important legislation that the AHA works so hard to pass. The AHA’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This is why the AHA focuses its energy toward legislation that seeks to require high school graduates to learn Hands-Only CPR (AB 1719) in order to increase the number of people who are able to save lives in the case of a heart attack; legislation that adds a distributor fee onto sugar-sweetened beverages (AB 2782) to invest in communities that are disproportionately impacted by health issues associated with over consumption of sugary drinks; and legislation that would ensure that the Medi-Cal population has access to tobacco cessation programs and resources (AB 1696) to help people quit tobacco use. The AHA commonly uses the phrase “life is why” – life is why the AHA does what it does, to create healthier lives for Californians and Americans around the country.

 

As the event began, more and more people were arriving and checking in, anticipating the exciting day ahead of meeting with their legislators and listening to motivating speakers tell their own stories about heart disease or stroke. From the eyes of an AHA intern, it was great to see the turn-out of constituents and volunteers.  We had a crowd of over 150 attendees from all across California including over 80 students coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The level of enthusiasm our advocates had to go in and speak with Senators and Assemblymembers about such important issues was thrilling! Once we got into the meetings, it was clear how much they cared about the topics at hand and how excited they were that legislators and staff shared their enthusiasm.

 

The meeting-filled morning passed by and opened the door to an afternoon of guest speakers. The afternoon kicked off with a press conference from Assemblymember Rodriguez about the CPR in schools bill, who talked about the importance of a bill like this and thanked everyone for coming out for the day. Next, was a very moving story by a man named Steve Griffiths, who survived a heart attack thanks to the actions of his young son and his knowledge of Hands-On CPR. The story was eye-opening and drove the bill home by telling a personal story of how a kid who knew hands-only CPR saved his life. Here’s part of the story.

 

The last speaker of the day was a 9-year-old girl named Savanna Karmue, who wrote her own book titled “Happy Heart.” She learned that heart disease is the number one cause of deaths in America and decided to write her book to spread the word about how to keep a happy heart. Please see her speech here.

 

Reflecting back on Heart at the Capitol, it is easy to see the success it had. The attendees were overjoyed to participate, the legislators had genuine conversations about the AHA’s heart healthy priorities, and the speakers all had personal and inspirational stories that promoted the goals of the AHA and bills. I only hope the participants enjoyed it as much as I did, and that future Heart at the Capitol events will be this successful!

 

To see a glimpse of the experience, please see the photos here.  I’m the one pictured on the left!

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#ProtectPE for our kids' hearts... and brains!

Kickball, crab soccer, dodgeball, jump rope – for most adults, all these activities bring back memories of fun times spent in PE. It was a great way to burn off steam and learn something about a new sport, all while absorbing the importance of staying physically fit. PE definitely contributes to teachers actually being able to do their job (and preserving their sanity in the process!) by giving kids a place to release all of their pent up energy, so that they can then buckle down and focus on their school work. Unfortunately, the next generation may grow up without those same memories and all the benefits that come with them.

Due to how common it has become for PE to be removed from our nation’s schools, Voices for Healthy Kids and SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, just released an update to the Shape of the Nation report on the state of physical education and physical activity in the American education system. The report, which is designed to help advise physical education policies and practices, shows significant and sometimes striking differences in statewide policies regarding physical education programs in the schools.

For example, only Oregon and the District of Columbia meet the national recommendations for weekly time in physical education at both elementary and middle school levels, which is currently set at 150 minutes for elementary students and 225 minutes for secondary students. On the other hand, few states set any minimum amount of time that elementary, middle school/junior high and high school students must participate in physical education. Texas is among those states, requiring students to take physical education in grades K-8, but does not have a requirement for the number of minutes. For high school students the findings are particularly troubling, with only six states establishing minimum times that students must participate in physical education, even though the positive impact on their physical, mental, and emotional health is well-documented. Studies show that active children consistently outperform less active students academically in both the short and the long term. They also demonstrate better classroom behavior, greater ability to focus, and lower rates of absenteeism.

When you consider that 32% of the nation’s children and adolescents are at an unhealthy weight, and the majority are living sedentary lifestyles, you quickly realize that this issue should be a top priority for lawmakers. Creating and nurturing opportunities in schools for students to get the recommended amount of time in PE, while addressing the quality of instruction as well, is one of the most cost-effective approaches to combating this growing health crisis. That’s why Voices for Healthy Kids created the #ProtectPE campaign designed to unite parents, community leaders, and public health advocates around local and state-based efforts to strengthen physical education in the schools; advocates like LaShonda Cameron of Houston, TX, a Physical Education teacher who knows first-hand how important PE is to the health and future of Texas’s children.

For National Physical Education and Sports Week, LaShonda shares her perspective:

"Physical education is very important to the well-being of growing youth.  Inactive and unhealthy youth turn into inactive unhealthy adults, so this is not a generational issue.  Students need to be taught the benefits of having an active lifestyle versus a sedentary one if we hope to improve the chances of a healthy adult lifestyle. 

In my experience, students are very receptive to knowledge about their bodies, fun ways to stay active, and the benefits of a life with movement incorporated.  For this reason, I am puzzled as to why the thought of removing physical education from school is even a discussion when there are an abundance of studies that find significant benefits, both educationally and physically, for students.  I see this proven every day for myself. It brings me joy as I see the students in my classes realize that being physically active is not complicated, fun with innovation, beneficial educationally, and most importantly, rewarding.  Even better, with this insight, I have seen students positively influence their friends and families with the knowledge they have obtained. In this way, PE in schools has the potential to influence not just the students, but the community as a whole.

My students are making informed decisions about diet and exercise because of what physical education provides, something that no other subject does. The simple fact that it betters the chances of an active adult lifestyle should be reason enough to #ProtectPE because the next generation will be tomorrow's leaders.

Join me to #ProtectPE by informing your elected officials how important PE is for both our kids and our communities. Use this easy action alert to send your emails now. #Protect PE, it's a no-brainer!"

~LaShonda Cameron
Physical Education Teacher
Elsik 9th Grade Center
Alief Independent School District

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Rhode Island Lobby Day a Success

You’re the Cure advocates from across the Ocean State descended on the RI State House on May 4th for the American Heart Association’s Lobby Day. Their message to lawmakers: cast a vote for children’s health!    

Advocates spoke with legislators about two important proposals:        

  • The first bill would update Rhode Island’s school nutrition standards to ensure that Rhode Island meets – and continues to exceed – new federal guidelines for snacks and beverages sold in schools. 
  • The second bill would ensure that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised and marketed to children on school property. 

Both bills have been approved by the Senate and await a vote in the House.  For more information click here: (Please visit the site to view this file)

Many thanks to our amazing Lobby Day Team: Dr. Steven Fera, John Potvin, Laurie Stephenson, Miriam Plitt, Nancy Blasdell, Lisa Deck, Kathy Harrington, Dina Mihos, Karin Wetherill, Kelly Swanson, Michelle Karn, Amanda Komorek, Christa Danilowicz, Andrea Larocque, Bill Thompsen and David Day.

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They Want to Hear From You!

Even though Connecticut is indeed a small state, it still consists of no fewer than 169 towns and cities. Within those towns and cities are 151 state representatives and 36 state senators, all of whom are re-elected every two years. You are a constituent to one particular state representative and state senator, and their job is to represent you in Hartford. As an advocate of the American Heart Association, it is important that you know who your own legislators are, and just as important that they know who you are. 

To create this relationship requires little of your time and could start as easily as you sending them a short email introducing yourself as a constituent and letting them know about an issue that you are passionate about, such as heart disease, childhood obesity, unhealthy school marketing or tobacco use.  Once you have exchanged an email or two with your legislators, follow it up periodically with a short note, such as wishing them a fun and relaxing summer, luck in their upcoming elections in November, and a happy holidays. This way they will remember your name and when you need a word with them, their door will be open. Remember, they represent you and really do want to hear from their constituents!

To find your legislator go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp. You will be asked to pick your town and to enter your street address and will then be provided with a link to their bio’s containing contact information. You can also email me at james.williams@heart.org, and I am happy to help set up and facilitate meetings.

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You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day: Issues At A Glance

State Lobby Day is almost here!  These are the issues that we will be discussing with our lawmakers. 

We will have two asks this year, and have included talking points for each issue below.  We know that State Lobby Day this year will be as successful as all of our other years, and we cannot wait for our advocates to join us!

Ask One: Support HB 250/SB 296: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act with full funding

  • North Carolina has at least 349 food deserts across 80 counties, impacting over 1.5 million North Carolina residents in both rural and urban areas.
  • Communities without access to healthy foods are disproportionately impacted by diet-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
  • Without easy access to healthy ingredients, families have a harder time meeting dietary guidelines for good health, such as eating fruits and vegetables and lowering fat intake.
  • North Carolinians across the state overwhelmingly support this effort: A recent poll found over 70% of registered voters support a state-funded Healthy Corner Store Initiative. After learning more information, support rose to 76%.
  • A healthy corner store initiative would: help make healthier food options more accessible, provide small business owners with marketing and technical assistance to stock and sell healthy foods, and create new markets for farmers and fisherman. 

Ask Two: Support increasing access to health care

  • Heart disease is the second and stroke the fourth leading cause of death in North Carolina.
  • Of adults (aged 18-64) who report having heart disease, hypertension or stroke, approximately 15% are uninsured.
  • Nearly half of the uninsured with cardiovascular disease cite cost as the reason they lack coverage; 36% cite a lost job or new employer.
  • The uninsured also report being unable to afford prescription drugs nearly four times more often than those who are insured (43% versus 11%).
  • Providing health insurance coverage will help people gain access to the care they need, which improves health outcomes.

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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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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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