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An Update from the Capitol: Different approaches to transportation funding in 2015

The Republican House Majority bill (HF 4 – Rep. Kelly, Red Wing) calls for $750 million over the next four years, through redirecting existing dollars, tapping the state’s budget surplus to the tune of $200 million, and through greater "efficiencies" at MnDOT. Their bill is exclusively dedicated to funding roads and bridges with zero money for transit or pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. House GOP leadership have stated that this bill is a starting point.

Taking a decidedly more long-term and comprehensive approach, the DFL Senate Majority’s bill (SF 87 – Sen. Dibble, Minneapolis) calls for a $800 million to $1.1 billion annual investment in a multi-modal transportation system that includes dedicated money for roads, bridges, transit, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The money would be generated from a combination of new revenue (wholesale gas tax, ¾ of cent Metro sales tax increase, etc.) and redirecting federal dollars. The DFL Senate bill would provide approximately $50 million per year for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Minnesota, $16 million of which is dedicated for Greater Minnesota. Safe routes to school projects are specifically named as an eligible use for these new funds.

Governor Dayton’s transportation budget (HF 847) proposes roughly $11 billion over the next 10 years in multi-modal investments using similar funding sources as the DFL Senate bill (wholesale gas tax, ½ cent Metro sales tax increase, etc.). However, Dayton’s proposed investment in walking and biking is just $8 million per year over the next ten years, far below the $50 million per year walking and biking advocates have called for to meet the needs across Minnesota. Of the $7.5 million per year to support walking and bicycling, Dayton would make roughly $3 million per year available to the Safe Routes to School program. However, those dollars would come from the General Fund, which is a less secure funding source than dedicated transportation dollars.


How can you help support walking and biking?

Active and healthy living advocates have a unique role to play by bringing a new voice to transportation funding discussions. Get involved and stay informed: Make sure you "like" the MN Safe Routes to School Coalition and Move MN Facebook pages.

Two new resources can help us communicate the need for pedestrian and bicycle funding to the public and lawmakers. Use them in conversations with friends, colleagues and legislators to elevate the importance of investing in a transportation system in Minnesota that supports walking and bicycling.

1. The statewide active transportation poll shows a significant majority (65%) of Minnesotans favor including additional funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in any transportation funding proposal state lawmakers consider.

2. The interactive online map shows funded and unfunded pedestrian and bicycle projects in Minnesota, including Safe Routes to School projects. Check out what is happening in your community.

The Bottom Line: Policymakers need to hear from YOU!

If Minnesota is to achieve significant, dedicated funding for improving the safety and convenience of walking and bicycling for all users, regardless of age or zip code, YOU need to take action and speak out! Watch for Action Alerts this legislative session to ensure walking and biking are a central part of the transportation discussion. And make sure to join us at the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition Day at the Capitol on March 25, 2015 so you can advocate for walking and biking infrastructure. Register here now!

Thanks for your ongoing support!

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Imagine!

Christina Bryan, You’re the Cure advocate, recently shared some words of wisdom with us, "My parents, life-long chain smokers, died prematurely as a direct result of their smoking addiction.  As a heart attack survivor, I have never smoked and advise current smokers to quit immediately and non-smokers to never start.  Don't put yourself in harm's way."

On Wednesday, February 25 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our state’s smoke-free law. As advocates we are building a healthier world.

Yet cigarette smoking continues to be the leading preventable risk factor for chronic disease. Did you know that overall tobacco use among North Carolina high school students increased from 25.8% to 29.7% between 2011 and 2013? During that same time period, the use of electronic cigarettes by North Carolina high school students increased 352%, from 1.7% to 7.7%. These statistics are going in the wrong direction.

Now imagine having a generation of kids that don’t become addicted to tobacco.

Tell your lawmakers to support funding for tobacco-use prevention and cessation programs.

In the last 50 years, 20 million Americans have died prematurely due to tobacco-caused illnesses. Currently North Carolina provides no state funding for tobacco use prevention and only $1.2 million for QuitlineNC.

We need your help to urge our lawmakers to fund tobacco-use prevention and cessation programs.

What do you IMAGINE for North Carolina’s tobacco-use prevention and cessation programs?

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Pennsylvania Lobby Day Scheduled For April 20, 2015

Make plans to join us on Monday, April 20th as we gather at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, PA to meet with lawmakers to talk about important public policies to help reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Advocates from across PA will meet with their legislators to advocate support for strengthening the Clean Indoor Air law to include NO exemptions, reduce smoking rates by increasing the tobacco excise tax, and creating a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate. We'll give you the tools and the resources - all you have to do is show up! 

REGISTER HERE

Schedule of Events

8:30-9:00am:            Registration  (Continental Breakfast available from 8-9am)

9:00-10:00am:          Issue Briefings

10:00-10:20am:        Press Conference (Main Rotunda)

10:20-10:30am:        Group Photo (Main Rotunda Steps)

10:30am-12:00pm:   Legislative Meetings (Member Offices)

Directions to the PA State Capitol

Downtown Harrisburg Parking (Walnut Street Garage is recommended for parking)

If you would like additional information or have questions, please contact:

Kim Ross at (717) 730-1706 or kim.ross@heart.org

David Greineder at (717) 730-1751 or david.greineder@heart.org

Melissa Brown at melissa.brown@heart.org 

 

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Pulse Oximetry Screening Rules - Closer to Reality

Many of you helped us in 2013 pass SB 98, Require Newborn Pulse Oximetry Screening.  The Governor’s signature of the law was a big step forward to ensuring all newborns were screened but the work isn’t done yet.  The law required rules to be written to implement screening all newborns with pulse oximetry.   In July 2014 temporary rules were adopted by the Rules Review Commission as the first step in implementation. 

On February 11, 2015 Dr. Gerri Mattson presented the proposed permanent rules to the NC Public Health Commission.  This work was the culmination of months of work by a large stakeholder group of professionals from all across the state.  You’re the Cure advocates Valerie King and Kristina Smith traveled to Raleigh for the Public Health Commission Meeting to hear the discussion.  As mothers of babies born with critical congenital heart defects, they know the importance of pulse oximetry screening for all newborns. 

Following Dr. Mattson’s presentation the Commission discussed the rules and the screening.  Both Valerie King and Kristina Smith provided expert testimony in support of the rules and shared their own personal stories.  Their personal experiences were moving and helped ensure the unanimous vote of the Commissioners. 

The next step in the process is for the rules to be voted on by the Rules Review Commission in March 2015.  If adopted by the Rules Review Commission the rules will be effective April 1, 2015.  We will be there to report on the vote. 

Many thanks to Valerie King and Kristina Smith for sharing their time and stories to make a difference for all newborns! 

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Study Shows More Deaths Linked to Smoking

 Check out this article from the Public News Source posted today! Smoking is deadlier than we have thought! (Picture - Franco/Flickr)

ST. PAUL, Minn. - While many of the dangers of smoking have been well known for some time, new research shows that the consequences may be larger and deadlier than previously thought.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 21 different causes of death are attributed to smoking, with some 480,000 deaths in the United States each year. A study co-authored by epidemiologist Brian Carter with the American Cancer Society examined the corollary health impacts even further.

"We identified at least six new causes of death that we think are probably associated with smoking," Carter said, "and if you look at these as an aggregate, that would add about 60,000 deaths per year to that 480,000 number." Continue reading here

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Latest diet advice issued today by nutrition experts

We would like to introduce Suzie Sodium. She is a registered dietitian who is regularly posting content and updates over at www.sodiumbreakup.heart.org.

She is bringing us some breaking news today, so take it away Suzie!

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In the American Heart Association’s quest to help Americans build healthier lives, promoting healthy eating habits is a key strategy. Because nutrition recommendations are based on the best evidence available, they shift over time. As we gather more evidence and use new research techniques, we get an increasingly clearer picture of what a healthy diet should look like.
 
One of the most important sources of nutrition guidance for our country is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). By law, this document is updated every 5 years. It is jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). The DGAs give us advice about what to eat for optimal health, according to the latest science.

The DGAs are used for much more than just educating the public about healthy eating. They help the federal government set nutrition standards for school meals, child care centers, and food assistance programs. Federal food and nutrition education programs are based on the DGAs. They also impact the information provided by nutrition facts panels and other nutrition labeling on food packages. Doctors, dietitians, and other healthcare providers use the guidelines as the basis for the nutrition guidance they provide to patients. As you can see, the guidelines have a broad impact.

So how do these guidelines come to be? In the first stage of the process, the government appoints a committee of the nation’s top experts in nutrition and chronic disease prevention. This group is called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The committee reviews the previous edition of the DGAs as well as any new evidence that’s been published in the meantime. They also hear from expert guest speakers and consider oral and written comments from the public. The committee then writes a scientific report with its recommendations and submits it to the federal government.

Today, the committee’s report to the federal government was released to the public. The report emphasized an overall healthy eating pattern with lower levels of salt, saturated fat, and added sugars than Americans’ current diets. It described a healthy eating pattern as rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish/seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in non- and low-fat dairy products and alcohol; lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains (i.e., grains that are stripped of some of their nutrients and thus are not whole grains). Overall, the American Heart Association says that the report’s recommendations are a shift in the right direction, and if accepted by HHS and USDA, will help steer the public toward a more heart-healthy path in their daily diets.

Over the rest of this year, HHS and USDA will use the advisory committee’s science report to create the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They will also consider comments from others in the government and from the public as they develop the final report. Stay tuned to learn more about what the final guidelines will say, and what they will mean for your food choices.

Do government nutrition guidelines influence the food choices you make for yourself or your family?

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When The Surgeon General Comes To Town…

A special thanks to our guest writer, Dr.Sandra Burke of Charlotte, for her contributions to this story!

Recently, the American Heart Association in the Greater Charlotte Region had an excellent opportunity to share its Health Priorities with the newly named U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy is undertaking a nationwide listening tour to determine first-hand how his office can best address public health issues, based on initiatives that are currently working effectively in local communities.  Key representatives from healthcare organizations across the region gathered at Care Ring (formerly Community Health Services) in Charlotte to participate in this 2-hour forum.  In his introductory remarks, Dr. Murthy stressed the importance of working together and sharing best practices, and feels that the most effective way to achieve this goal is to hear how organizations are making an impact on public health challenges they face in their communities.  

Dr. Murthy asked each of the nearly than 30 attendees to speak for 2 minutes, and to share how each organization was working to impact public health.  Dr. Sandra Burke, a member of the Greater Charlotte Board of Directors, represented the AHA during this session, and provided an overview of the key issues that resulted from our recent Community Assessment process.  She discussed the two specific areas where our board members and AHA staff feel we might make the biggest impact.  These include our efforts to strengthen tobacco control in North Carolina by protecting the state’s smoke-free law from efforts to weaken it, increasing excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products and restoring funding to tobacco use and prevention and cessation programs.  She also discussed our focus on improving worksite wellness by changing procurement policies at both the local and state levels and providing healthy vending and food service initiatives.  Finally, she touched on our efforts to increase access to healthy foods through healthy corner store initiatives, and of particular importance, the efforts to ensure that all North Carolinians have access to health care by expanding Medicaid.

The latter effort was stressed by a number of participants in the forum, including Madison Hardee, a staff attorney from Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont, who discussed the fact that one of their biggest challenges is the fact that NC has still not expanded Medicaid.  Similar sentiments were expressed by Dr. Steven Keener, Medical Director for Mecklenburg County, who participated on behalf of Dr. Marcus Plescia, County Health Director.  In response to Dr. Murthy’s emphasis on the importance of coalitions to impact healthcare across communities, Ms. Hardee described a coalition of organizations called Get Covered Mecklenburg, which provides outreach to low income families that need access to affordable health care.  Krsiten Wade, Assistant VP of Clinical Services at Carolina Healthcare System, provided input on MedLink of Mecklenburg, a collaboration of healthcare providers with community clinics embedded in neighborhoods to deliver a variety of services to diverse populations who might otherwise have issues with transportation in seeking healthcare.  Another interesting and important approach was described by Ed Connors, CEO of Heudia Health, who has received a small business innovative research grant from the Department of Agriculture to develop a technology to address community healthcare.  Launched in Lenoir County, NC and piloted in Charlotte with Dr. Michael Dulin, a primary care physician at Carolinas Healthcare System, Heudia Health uses a mobile navigator to assist people in finding healthcare services when they have barriers, including lack of adequate insurance, and limited knowledge regarding how to seek healthcare. 

Overall, the forum was an impactful session that allowed not only Dr. Murthy and his staff to hear about local community health efforts, but enabled those interested in improving health of all citizens to hear of other innovative solutions currently underway around the region.  We were privileged to be a part of that process!

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Stroke Center Designation Rules Approved!

On January 15, 2015 the NC Rules Review Commission approved new stroke center designation rules by unanimous vote.  These rules were developed as the result of Session Law 2013-44 Designate Primary Stroke Centers that was signed into law on May 8, 2013.  The rules include designation for acute stroke ready hospitals, primary stroke centers and comprehensive stroke centers.

The NC Stroke Advisory Council and You’re the Cure advocates worked together with the Department of Health Service Regulation and Office of Emergency Services to develop the rule language.  As a result of a great team effort the rules were perfected and presented to the Rules Review Commission for approval on January 15, 2015 where they were unanimously approved. 

Peg O’Connell, Vice-Chair of the NC Stroke Advisory Council, member of the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Council and You’re the Cure member stated, “Six years ago, I lost my dear husband and our Insurance Commissioner Jim Long to a severe stroke.  I know what it means to lose someone you love in such a sudden and tragic way, but we were fortunate because when Jim's stroke occurred, we knew what to do and where to go.  Everyone in our state needs to have this knowledge.

It has been a journey in North Carolina to build strong stroke systems of care.  Many people have come together to ensure that all North Carolinians, regardless of location can access quality acute stroke care and I was proud to be part of that effort.  These rules are a critical part of our state’s stroke system of care and inform both EMS and the public where stroke centers are located in the state.”

North Carolina already required EMS authorities to have transport protocol plans and procedures and now with the addition of designating all three tiers of stroke centers became the second state in the country to take this step in establishing strong stroke systems of care.

Many thanks to all the You’re the Cure advocates that supported this effort.  You are making a difference!

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Breaking News! Grocery Access Legislation Introduced

Thanks to advocates like you, legislation was just introduced in the Texas House and Senate that would create a Texas Grocery Access Investment program. This investment would support business and create jobs. It also would bring grocery stores to communities where it is difficult to buy fresh and healthy food, help families be healthier and fight obesity, and ultimately drive down the costs associated with unhealthy living.

It’s critical that you ask Texas legislators for their support. We believe that everyone deserves the right to healthy food in their communities. If not for yourself, speak up today for the health of your more than 3.4 million fellow Texans who lack access to grocery stores. Ask House and Senate committee members who oversee this legislation to grow businesses and create jobs by supporting Texas Grocery Access Investment.

Click here to ask Texas legislators to fund this bill now!

Texas Grocery Access Investment Act – Highlights

The Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund is a grant and loan program to bring new grocery stores to underserved communities, as well as support renovation and expansion of existing stores to ensure access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, poultry and seafood products.

This critical program aims to help healthy and affordable food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers to entry into low-income and underserved communities—barriers like land acquisition financing, construction and workforce development.

A modest, one-time public investment of $10 million for the 2016-17 biennium in the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund would improve public health by providing access to healthy foods in order to reduce diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This program is an investment in the economy of underserved areas since grocery stores create quality jobs and contribute to the revitalization of rural and urban communities.

Grocery Access Investment – How it Works

  • The legislation would create the Texas Grocery Access Investment Program at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). 
  • The program’s fund will be comprised of money appropriated by the Texas Legislature, as well as federal, state, or private grants or loans and/or any other financial assistance to be utilized for the construction, expansion or renovation of grocery stores to provide access to healthy foods in underserved areas. 
  • The agency would be able to contract with a non-profit or community development financial institution, which would administer the program, establish program guidelines, raise matching funds, promote the program statewide, evaluate applicants, underwrite and disburse grants and loans, and monitor compliance and impact. 
  • TDA will develop rules, regulations or other procedures to carry out the program. No more than 10% of the funds appropriated can be used by the agency for administrative and operational costs to manage the program.   

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