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TAKE ACTION: Tell City Council that OKC Hearts Need Healthy Food

We’ve been talking a lot about food access lately, specifically how it needs improvement right here in OKC. Maybe you’ve been excited about helping to improve the situation, maybe you’ve been taking action, or maybe you’ve been asking yourself what does food access have to do with the American Heart Association?

If you fall into that third category, you’re not alone. The concept of food access can be confusing but the truth is, when it comes to heart health, food access matters every step of the way and you can help by taking action now!

CNN recently ranked lack of food access amongst America’s 9 biggest health issues. The article states, “It [lack of access] takes a real toll on their health. Families who live in these areas struggle more with obesity and chronic conditions, and they even die sooner than people who live in neighborhoods with easy access to healthy food.” Having access to healthy foods is detrimental to one’s heart health. It is both a before and after issue for cardiovascular related disease.

Being able to find affordable healthy foods is crucial in preventing heart disease and stroke, but it’s also necessary for proper recovery. Here in Oklahoma City, 62% of our citizens are classified as having low food access. This means finding healthy foods for their families is difficult, if not impossible. We want to change that. Our goal is to get nutritious, affordable foods into our neighborhood corner stores and convenience stores. This will help improve access to healthy snacks and meals for thousands of individuals and families every day, and will lead to improved health, lower incidence of chronic disease in our community, and ultimately lives saved as a result. This is why we are involved with this fight, and we hope that you will join us.

Please help by sending a letter to your City Council member telling them that proper access to healthy foods is important to you, your neighbors, and OKC hearts!


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Carol Sterling

Carol Sterling began her time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Ponca City, working with Heart Walk. Over the past few years, Carol became involved in the Go Red for Women campaign through the Passion Committee. Her first opportunity to learn about Advocacy happened when she attended her first Go Red Day at the Capitol event in February 2014, where she spoke to her state lawmakers about the importance of CPR training for High School students.
 
Since then, Carol has been an active member of the You’re the Cure network, and participated in many proclamation ceremonies for Stroke and Heart disease awareness. Carol is a Heart Disease survivor, and enjoys sharing her story with lawmakers because she believes it’s important to put a face to heart disease in Oklahoma.
 
Carol will soon head to Washington D.C. for the 2015 You’re the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day and will meet with members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation on important issues such as funding for the National Institute of Health and School Nutrition. 

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Oklahoma: State Legislative Update

With less than two months to adjournment, the Oklahoma Legislature remains hard at work to address critical issues facing the state of Oklahoma. At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, over 2,000 bills were introduced, ranging on topics health, taxation, and education.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has been hard at work advocating for evidence-based policies that will improve the health of all Oklahomans. An example is legislation that would adopt healthy nutrition guidelines for vending machines on all state properties. House Bill 1613 by Rep. Katie Henke and Senate Bill 621 by Sen. Kyle Loveless, were introduced this session and aimed to increase healthy options on all state property. This bill did not receive consideration this session but the AHA/ASA will continue to advocate for making the healthy choice the easy choice next session.

One bill that is still under consideration is House Bill 1463 by Rep. Elise Hall and Sen. Jason Smalley. This bill will update the current law regarding our stroke systems of care in Oklahoma by incorporating evidence-based practices and recommendations for stroke care. HB 1463 has cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The AHA/ASA has worked closely with public health partners to support legislation that would make all school property tobacco free, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  House Bill 1685 by Rep. Lee Denney and Sen. Jim Halligan, was just approved by the Senate and will return to the House before being transmitted to Governor Mary Fallin.

Lastly, as the state faces an estimated 600 million dollar budget deficit, the AHA/ASA will work to preserve critical public health and tobacco cessation program funding, so that evidence/based programs continue to support health outcomes in Oklahoma.

If you are interested in learning more about the AHA/ASA’s State legislative agenda, contact Naomi Amaha, Oklahoma Government Relations Director, at Naomi.amaha@heart.org

Have you taken action yet to ask your lawmaker to support of House Bill 1463? Take a minute and take action by clicking this link http://p2a.co/PLAYPzx

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Open Streets 2015

Last week the Healthy Living OK team participated in Open Streets and had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of neighbors about the need to increase access to healthy foods!

Open Streets seeks to promote wellness, walkability, and stronger neighborhoods by blocking off a main thoroughfare downtown so that people can explore their neighborhoods on foot! This event is put on my The OKC County Health Department’s Wellness Now Coalition and had over 30,000 people in attendance this year!

All of the AHA Oklahoma advocacy staff were out in full force chatting with families about how healthy foods, in both corner stores and in vending, can greatly effect the health of neighborhoods. The response was overwhelmingly supportive and many specifically stated they wanted to be actively involved in helping us further our mission. The team also made a "Healthy Food Hopscotch" near that table which proved to be a big hit!

Overall it was a fun day for the team to be in the community sharing information about what we love!

 

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Video: OKC & Food Access

If you have a car in OKC, chances are you can quickly cover the miles between you and the closest grocery store. Chances are, you don't have to think twice about where you can find healthy foods or how long it would take you to get there. Chances are, food access is not an issue for you. 

But imagine if you didn't have a car. Could you walk to a grocery store from your house? Even if it's close by, are there sidewalks or lights? Maybe you'd have to take a bus and haul heavy grocery bags back with you. Maybe you'd only be able to take that long bus ride once a month and have learned that buying fresh foods isn't very cost effective when you need groceries to last 30 days.

(Please visit the site to view this video)

For many in our city, low access to fresh & affordable foods is an every day problem. Finding the foods necessary for healthy heart is difficult, if not impossible, in many parts of OKC.

We believe that can change.

This year we are launching an initiative to bring healthier food into neighborhood corner stores and markets. This will help thousands of individuals and families to have access to healthy snacks and meals every day. Want to get involved? Sign a letter to your city council member and let them know that food access in our city is important to real people and real neighbors!

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Tania Boughton

Tania Noelle Boughton is Chair of the AHA State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention, the author of cookbook Eating Light, Done Right, and the founder of “Check the Light Before You Bite!” a healthy eating program in school districts, geared toward helping children make healthier food choices. But first and foremost, Tania is Mom to her two sons.
 
A few years ago, Tania saw what appeared to be a hole in the self-help/cookbook market. As she quickly dropped her baby weight and experienced droves of people at the gym asking how, began to she dig deeper. She realized that while she had made the decision to stop eating emotionally, many of these people had not. Herein lies the groundwork for Eating Light, Done Right: Simply Sinless Recipes from the Single Mom Next Door. Drawing on her experience in the military counseling troops on weight control, she quickly realized that she loved helping people face the demons within. This turning point redirected her life in a positive direction.
 
As a mom, Tania knows how important it is to make eating healthy fun for kids. That’s why she teamed up with the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to establish a program called “Check the Light Before You Bite!” to reward kids when they choose healthy food options at school. The program is in full swing with sponsors, teams and professional athletes signing on, however she quickly realized that her work needed to be taken a step further. Rewarding children for writing recipes, essays and making healthier eating decisions was progress, however it wasn't enough. As she traveled further into schools and the underserved areas, she realized that many of these children didn't have the option to eat healthfully, because they had little to no access to grocery stores and healthy food.
 
Tania understood that her journey to improve children’s health would not be complete without being involved in advocacy through You’re the Cure, to engage Texas lawmakers to change policies for the better. Tania came upon a poignant moment this past December when delivering holiday gifts to an elementary school in Dallas. The hallways were lined with children, Pre-K to fifth grade, waiting to go home. Each student was holding an apple or pear, given to them by the cafeteria staff because otherwise the fruit would have spoiled overnight.

Tania was struck by the fact that these apples and pears may be the only fruit, or dinner that the children would have at home that night. This moment was both heartbreaking and motivating, all in one. The Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign, in which Tania is an active participant through her role on the State Leadership Council, will work diligently to change this, so all Texas families can access grocery stores. Tania is passionate about engaging more volunteers in this effort, and the You’re the Cure Texas team thanks her for her dedication!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul is like many You’re the Cure Advocates connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at brian.bowser@heart.org to learn more about how you can take action!

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Stroke Bill Considered in the Oklahoma Legislature

An important bill that will help stroke patients get faster quality treatment is being considered in the Oklahoma Legislature.  We need your help to ask lawmakers to vote YES on HB1463!

Take Action Now!

This bill will allow for the development of emergency medical service protocols related to the care of stroke patients. Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability in our state and is the #5 killer.

The development of these protocols will help to help stroke patients receive quality care in a timely manner and improve outcomes. We strongly endorse this legislation because it will help get stroke patients the fast treatment and quality of care that is so essential.

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Youth Volunteers Advocate for Heart

On March 3rd, 41 Sweethearts from the Central Oklahoma region traveled to the State Capitol for the annual Sweethearts Day at the Capitol.  These youth advocates began the day with a training on the legislative process and learned about issues the American Heart Association support. 

From there, the Sweethearts went to the Senate Gallery for recognition by Oklahoma City Senator, David Holt. Senator Holt then met with the Sweethearts to discuss why he is a legislator and importance of being involved in the legislative process.  Afterwards, various Oklahoma State Senators visited the Senate Lounge for group photos and a meet and greet with their constituents. 

That afternoon Governor Mary Fallin spoke to the Sweethearts about advocating for heart health in Oklahoma, as well as why she is so passionate about improving health outcomes.

 

State Senator David Holt with AHA Sweethearts

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ICYMI: OKC City Council Election Results

On March 3rd, 2015 Oklahoma City City Council elections were held with seats for Wards 2, 6, and 8 up for grabs! In case you missed the results, here’s a quick recap!


 

 

 

Ward 2: The following candidates ran for the seat in Ward 2, James Cooper, Major L. Jemison, John Riley, and the incumbent Ed Shadid. Ed Shadid was re-elected to represent Ward 2 with 59% of the vote. [1]

Ward 5: David Greenwell ran uncontested and was therefore automatically re-elected.

Ward 6: The following candidates ran for the seat in Ward 6, Dario Alvarado, Bob Waldrop, and the incumbent Meg Salyer. Meg Salyer was re-elected to represent Ward 6 with 54% of the vote. [2]

Ward 8: Pat Ryan, the incumbent, did not run for re-election this year. The candidates who did run were Steve Curry, John Alan Ederer, and Mark Stonecipher.  Mark Stoneciepher was elected to represent Ward 8 with 60% of the vote. [3]  

 

New OKC City Council members will be sworn in on April 14th, 2015. Council members serve four-year terms.



[1] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

[2] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

[3] http://www.news9.com/category/193017/election-results

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