Tuesday, April 26, 2011

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown says CDC Report on Children’s Food Environment Underscores Need for Strong Public Policies

Our nation’s youth face major roadblocks to good health with easy access to calorie-laden snacks, sugary beverages and other unhealthy foods in their schools and communities. With about 1 out of every 6 children in the U.S. considered obese, we are condemning our kids to a bleak future of premature health problems such as type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. The CDC Report: Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report is a painful reminder that many children continue to lack access to fruits, vegetables and nutritious food close to home. We must place a greater emphasis on making healthier food choices more accessible and affordable, particularly for families living in food deserts where the nearest supermarket could be miles away and for those surrounded by fast food restaurants or corner stores with less healthy offerings.

Parents, schools, child-care facilities and communities have the potential to improve the health of young people by providing the tools they need to learn lifelong healthy behaviors. By strengthening nutrition standards in schools, pre-schools and day care settings, we can help limit kids’ exposure to unhealthy options. We must also support measures to reduce sodium and eliminate trans fat in the food supply, increase community and school gardens, reduce children’s exposure to marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods and require calorie information to be displayed on menus and menu boards in all restaurants.

Strong public policies and community programs to increase access to healthy foods will help children develop heart-healthy eating habits that could significantly reduce childhood obesity rates across the country. To access the report, go to www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/ChildrensFoodEnvironment.pdf

Monday, April 25, 2011

140,000 Strong for School Nutrition

School nutrition advocates across the country sent a powerful message to the United States Department of Agriculture in April. The American Heart Association joined other groups, including PreventObesity.net, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, Jamie Oliver Foundation, Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Urban League, MomsRising and the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, in generating 140,000 comments to the USDA in support of improved nutrition standards for school meals from advocates like you.

You’re the Cure advocates contributed over 24,000 messages, asking the agency to approve standards that would require school meals to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting the amount of unhealthy fats and sodium. Thank you to all of our advocates who participated!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown Hails Progress in Smoke-Free Policies

Over the last decade, we have made steady progress in protecting Americans from the deadly consequences of tobacco use with passage of comprehensive smoke-free policies. But it’s too soon to rest on our laurels. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoke-free laws for workplaces, bars and restaurants since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and if current trends continue, the nation could be 100 percent smoke-free by 2020. However, nearly half of the country still lacks comprehensive smoke-free laws, hampering efforts to reduce tobacco use and smoking-related illnesses in the southern region of the country where heart disease and stroke death rates remain high. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer. We must zero in on those areas that continue to lag despite studies that show smoke-free policies benefit public health and the local economy with lower health care costs.

The CDC report, State Smoke-free Laws for Worksites, Restaurants, and Bars - United States, 2000-2010, indicates approximately 88 million Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke and several states have exemptions that put too many nonsmokers at risk. This remains a hurdle that must be addressed with passage of strong legislation to close loopholes. Elected officials, particularly those in the south, must do more to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws and give citizens a greater opportunity to breathe clean air.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Go Red Goes to Washington

Myrna Aguilar, a Go Red spokeswoman and single mom from California, knew her family’s history of heart disease put her at risk as well. Coming from a Latin American family that “likes to eat well”, she realized she needed to make changes to her lifestyle. She started by signing up for a bike marathon last fall and committed to regular exercise and a healthier diet. She has maintained her healthy lifestyle and is working to inspire her young son and other family members to do the same.

Recently, Myrna took her push for prevention to another level by participating in the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure on the Hill lobby day. “I wanted to share my story with lawmakers because I’m concerned for the future of my son and his generation,” she said. Myrna joined fellow advocates in urging lawmakers to address childhood obesity by supporting the FIT Kids Act and Safe Routes to School legislation, as well as to support increased funding for medical research to improve the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Myrna realized her actions made a difference when Representative Laura Richardson (shown with Eric Batch, Jacqueline Hernandez, and Myrna) agreed to co-sponsor the FIT Kids Act after their lobby day meeting. Simply by sharing her story and concerns as a mother, Myrna and other advocates across the country have been able to raise awareness and garner support from our nation’s lawmakers.

Myrna further reflects, “I heard the most amazing stories and left even more inspired by all of the great work You’re the Cure advocates are doing!” To join Myrna in taking action, visit http://www.yourethecure.org/ today!

Friday, April 15, 2011

AHA advocates urge Congress to support research, fight childhood obesity

More than 300 American Heart Association advocates met with their representatives in Congress this week and urged them to appropriate $35 billion for the National Institutes of Health for the 2012 fiscal year, co-sponsor the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act and support the Safe Routes to Schools program.

The FIT Kids Act would encourage quality physical education and activity during the school day, and the Safe Routes to Schools program promotes the development of walking and biking paths for schoolchildren.

Currently, NIH invests only 4 percent of its budget on heart research and a mere 1 percent on stroke research. "These funding levels are simply not enough to advance research and bring us closer to a cure," said AHA President Ralph L. Sacco, M.D.

In addition to the action on Capitol Hill, over 12,000 emails were sent and nearly 200 phone calls were made by advocates across the country, who participated in the event virtually. Thanks to these active advocates, our message of prevention was delivered to 530 congressional offices!

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, (R-Ga.) and Rep. George Miller, (D-Calif.) received the association's Congressional Public Service Awards for their leadership in the passage of the Child Nutrition Act- and four outstandig volunteers were awarded with the Association's Advocate of the Year awards, including Dr. Stephen Cook (NY), Cindy Flynn (PA), Newt Williams (TN), and Abby Michaelsen (CA).

Star Jones of "The Celebrity Apprentice" also participated in the event sharing her journey of recovery from heart disease with fellow advocates and legislators alike.

For more information and event pictures, visit www.heart.org/yourethecureonthehill

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AHA Honors Advocates of the Year

On April 11th, the American Heart Association honored its 2011 Advocates of the Year at the Heroes Luncheon held at You’re the Cure on the Hill. The awards were presented by Debra Lockwood, Chair, and Nancy Brown, CEO. These outstanding advocates have demonstrated their commitment to advancing the mission of the Association through their advocacy work on the local, state, and federal levels. Congratulations to this year’s awardees.

2011 Science Advocate of the Year- Dr. Stephen Cook

Dr. Stephen Cook from Fairpoint, New York “embodies the ideals of translational research”. He was instrumental in developing the Healthi Kids initiative in Monroe County and its policy agenda to reverse childhood obesity. This coalition involved community, government and academic sectors to increase physical activity and improve nutrition for children. Dr. Cook is also the Chairman of the childhood Obesity Committee for the New York State chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; serves on state and national committees of the American Heart Association; and is a member of the National Advocacy Task Force of The Obesity Society.

2011 Survivor Advocate of the Year- Cindy Flynn

Cindy Flynn from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania has actively and enthusiastically participated in association events and has been an unstoppable advocate for heart and stroke issues. As a four-time stroke survivor and a passionate You’re the Cure advocate, she has established strong relationships with lawmakers to help advance heart disease and stroke legislation. She takes her role and responsibilities as a Pennsylvania State Advocacy Committee Field Representative very seriously and reaches out to advocacy staff regularly with updates about the work she is doing. She has also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the association’s Great Rivers Affiliate and been recognized for her efforts to engage federal and state officials in Go Red for Women activities and policy issues.

2011 Volunteer Advocate of the Year- Newt Williams

In addition to his passion, Newt Williams of Nashville, Tennessee has brought his extensive knowledge of the legislative process and relationships with key officials to his work as a You’re the Cure advocate. He played a key role in the passage of local menu labeling regulations and has actively advocated for accessible and affordable health care for all Americans. He has served as a spokesperson and a media advocate- and takes every opportunity to educate others on our issues and recruit new advocates.

2011 Youth Advocate of the Year- Abby Michaelsen

Abby Michaelsen of Newport Beach, California has been a role model to other young people in her community and has demonstrated amazing leadership in educating and helping others live healthier lives. After losing her father to heart disease, Abby became an advocate for the association to help prevent heart disease in her community. In 2009, she founded Newport Harbor High School’s first Heart and Health Club and since then over 50 students have regularly organized community events including a Heart Month health fair and the Great American Smokeout. She has mobilized her peers to get the message out on tobacco-free legislation and testified to policymakers to support smoke-free parks. Abby has even developed a “Start Your Own Heart Club Toolkit”, so that students at other local schools can start and run their own clubs.