Posts Tagged ‘Childhood Obesity’

Special Interests Should Not Be on the Menu for School Lunches, Says American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

November 17, 2011

Congressional interference with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed standards for school meals puts special interests before America’s children. 

New language inserted into the agriculture appropriations legislation by Congress will prevent the USDA from setting limits on the amounts of French fries, pizza and salty foods included in school lunch menus. This is a discouraging outcome for children across the country and for parents whose efforts to provide their kids with a nutritious diet will be undermined by special interests who gain financially from supplying schools with unhealthy foods. 

The standards recommended by the USDA are replacing grossly outdated ones that are more than a decade behind current nutritional science. With strong evidence-based standards in place, our nation would be well on its way to creating better food choices for school children. But Congress’ amendments will reverse an important achievement and put our children’s nutrition at great risk. 

It is a sad fact that this nation’s school-aged children consume too much sodium in their diets — an average of more than 3,000 milligrams each day. Alarmingly, school lunches provide nearly half of that amount in one meal. Yet, the bill’s amendments will prohibit the USDA from requiring schools to reduce the sodium content of the foods they serve by more than 5 percent to 10 percent, stalling efforts to reach the long-term sodium reduction target of 25 percent to 50 percent, recommended by the Institute of Medicine. 

In addition, the language will allow the USDA to count the tomato paste used on pizza as a “vegetable,” and forbid the setting of maximum limits on the number of starchy vegetables that can be served weekly, a move that could put French fries on school menus several times a week. These changes will make it more difficult for kids to get the fruits, green and orange vegetables, and whole grains they desperately need in their diets. 

Healthy school meals can set children on a lifelong path of learning about and enjoying nutritious foods. Congress needs to remember the strong support parents have shown for the proposed USDA standards, and take special interests off the school lunch menus of American’s children.

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

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

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

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140,000 Strong for School Nutrition

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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, 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!

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AHA advocates urge Congress to support research, fight childhood obesity

Friday, April 15th, 2011

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

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Rep. Kind, Senator Harkin Reintroduce FIT Kids Act, Calling for More P.E. in Schools

Monday, March 14th, 2011

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today reintroduced the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act), a bill to combat childhood obesity by strengthening physical education programs in schools throughout the country.

The FIT Kids Act, H.R. 1057, renews the emphasis on physical education in schools. The Act would work to ensure kids are active during the school day and are given opportunities that promote overall health and wellness. The legislation would engage parents and the public by requiring all school districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, including the amount of time spent in required physical education in relation to the recommended national standard. The Act would further ensure appropriate professional development for health and physical education teachers, fund research to examine the link between children’s health and their academic achievement, and recommend effective ways to combat childhood obesity and improve healthy living and physical activity.

“This bill gets to the simple truth: in order to develop a healthy mind, you need a health body,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. “Providing increased physical education in public schools will give every child an opportunity – regardless of their background – to learn healthy habits and get moving. We will see the benefits in their math and reading test scores, get to the root of the obesity epidemic, and get kids on a healthy path early in life. I hope that Congress can consider the importance of physical education in our schools when they take a closer look at education reform later this year.”

“To ensure that our kids will lead healthy and active lives, we need to help them develop good habits early on,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “This bill would combat rising rates of childhood obesity, which have become a pressing public health crisis that we must address. Kids who get more exercise throughout the day are more fit, more focused in the classroom, and get better sleep – also a welcome benefit for their parents! This bill empowers schools, teachers and parents to help improve our kids’ health.”

“With childhood obesity rates that have tripled over the last few decades, we must make every effort to help children reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other life-threatening illnesses,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association. “More than 80 percent of adults support daily physical education yet such programs have been on the decline in many school districts. The FIT Kids Act would help educate parents about the quality and quantity of physical education in their child’s school.”

“America’s children receive too little opportunity to be physically active, and that is a major contributor to the nation’s obesity epidemic, said Penny Lee, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund. “Lack of physical activity for children has a negative effect on our military preparedness, their ability to learn and their overall wellness. Now is the time to drill down on solutions which is what this legislation provides. It allows for more information to parents, educators and communities so they recognize the gaps in activity and have the opportunity to address them ­– a major step in the right direction.”

“The National Association for Sport and Physical Education commends Senator Harkin and Congressman Kind on introducing the FIT Kids Act which will strongly support our common goal of increasing the quality and quantity of physical education opportunities in the U.S.,” says NASPE President, Lynn Couturier of State University of New York at Cortland. “Physical education, an essential component of a quality, well-rounded education, not only teaches students how to achieve and maintain lifelong healthy habits but contributes to their academic success.”

“We are proud to support Senator Harkin and Congressman Kind on their reintroduction of the Fit Kids Act,” said NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. “This legislation furthers our shared goal of eliminating childhood obesity and encouraging children to lead healthy lifestyles.”

The FIT Kids Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: The American Diabetes Association, The American Heart Association, National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Football League, Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, YMCA.

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New “Make the Move” Report Guides Implementation Efforts of the National Physical Activity Plan

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) has established national implementation priorities in a new digital report, Make the Move, which provides an outline of short-term and long-term goals to implement policies, programs and initiatives to get more Americans moving. The report was developed by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), the national coalition charged with implementing the nation’s first ever National Physical Activity Plan.

The American Heart Association is a founding member of NCPPA helping to lead implementation efforts alongside the numerous national organizations involved in the initiative. The association is co-leading the Business and Industry sector of the National Physical Activity Plan to help increase physical activity and promote best practices in the workplace. The association’s Start! campaign is an example of how employers and individuals are promoting physical activity throughout communities and in workplaces. Start! provides individuals and companies with the tools and resources to be physically active and heart healthy. Resources offered by Start! include a local walking path finder, activity and meal tracker, tools to connect people in their areas, and grocery list builders to name a few.
The Start! campaign demonstrates the American Heart Association’s commitment to help people become physically active and healthy, working with the goal of the Plan. The Make the Move Implementation Report highlights other examples of local activities that support the Plan. In Ohio, a manufacturing company with limited access to technology took part in a Virtual Walk across the U.S. and 56 percent of employees participated, increasing overall wellness. Each employee was assigned a pushpin on a map that marked each company location across the country and using the pedometers they were given, employees tracked the miles they walked to see who could get to each location the fastest.

NCPPA President Laurie Whitsel states: “This is a great opportunity to begin collecting all of the exciting stories about the different ways organizations, communities, and passionate advocates are making the National Physical Activity Plan a reality and hearing how people across the U.S. are making physical activity a regular part of their day.”

Unite forces with American Heart Association and the NPAP to Make the Move in your business or at home today!

Learn more at or to get involved visit

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Let’s step up to the plate and improve school meals, by Cardiologist Dr. Robert DiBianco

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Check out this op-ed by practicing cardiologist and American Heart Association spokesperson Dr. Robert DiBianco:

“Excess weight is commonplace in our society, and it’s damaging the health of our kids who are eating more and exercising less. They’re getting so large, that they’re outgrowing age-appropriate clothing and are at times unable to fit comfortably in classroom chairs. With childhood obesity now ranked as one of the most prominent health concerns in the U.S., we have to address the issue promptly or we risk not being able to reverse this dangerous trend.

As a cardiologist, all too often I see the medical consequences of being obese. Increasingly youngsters now require daily medications to reduce the growing risk of vascular disease produced by obesity. Medications and diagnoses that used to be reserved for adults are now being used in children of younger and younger ages. The rampant rise in risk associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and “so-called” adult onset (type-2) diabetes are translating into more heart disease, at younger ages. What’s more, the psychological and emotional problems associated with obesity compromise the “joy of life” of many kids and reduce their ability to learn and excel in school.

The statistics are frightening. Childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled in the last 30 years going from four percent to nearly 20 percent in 2008. And obesity-related diseases cost nearly $168.4 billion a year or 16.5 percent of national spending on medical care —a growing price tag this country simply cannot afford. Fewer children are taking part in simple physical activities such as swimming, bike riding, or even walking for short distances. Sedentary behavior coupled with access to high-calorie foods and beverages in school cafeterias and vending machines only exacerbate the problem.

A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois found that calorie-rich beverages, particularly high fat milk, are still widely available in schools. This is in contrast to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine which urges elementary schools to offer only water, 100 percent juice in 4 ounce servings, and one percent skim milk products outside the school meal program. The bottom line is that students have easy access to high-calorie beverages in environments where they spend most of their day. More emphasis must be placed on initiatives to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from schools and teach youngsters how to eat sensibly and stay active.

Thanks to a landmark agreement between the beverage industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit organization founded by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation, we’re making progress. There has been an 88 percent decrease in total beverage calories shipped to schools between the first half of the 2004-05 and 2009-10 school years. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s only one step. Now there’s an opportunity for Congress to strengthen standards for most schools in the country.

Comprehensive nutrition education and increased opportunities for physical activity in schools have proven successful in preventing and reducing obesity. But in order to build a healthy and productive future for kids, our nation’s leaders must step up to the plate and pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation, which has already been approved by the U.S. Senate, is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would help strike out childhood obesity by improving the nutritional quality of school meals, removing junk food and calorie-rich drinks from vending machines and strengthening school wellness policies. Not only will these provisions help boost children’s health, but research shows that kids who are introduced to healthy foods and physical activity early in life have a greater chance of adopting healthy behaviors into adulthood. Healthy, active kids also learn more effectively and achieve more academically.

The promise of today’s youth is in our hands and we must band together to ensure swift passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The U.S. Senate has already passed the measure, so the U.S. House of Representatives has the opportunity to send the bill to the President when Congress reconvenes this month. As children continue to weigh in at alarming levels, let’s tip the scales in favor of initiatives that will get them back in shape and make the school environment a place that promotes healthy lifestyles with physical as well as academic rewards.”

For more information about Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity, visit our website.

About the Author:

Dr. Robert DiBianco is an American Heart Association spokesperson and practicing cardiologist. Dr. DiBianco is in a cardiology group practice in suburban Washington DC.

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Ohio’s fight against childhood obesity

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A year ago, top Ohio business leaders took notice of the problem of childhood obesity and joined forces with the American Heart Association to curb the trend. On November 17, two bills (one in each chamber) were introduced with bipartisan support. The Healthy Choices for Healthy Children campaign had begun in earnest.

After introduction, You’re the Cure (YTC) advocates connected with advocates from the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (OAHPERD) as the key proponents for quality physical education. Together, advocates supported the bills with media advocacy, letters to the editor and even a press event, resulting in great coverage! Legislators heard loud and clear that the You’re the Cure network cared about this issue, including passionate testimony from Great Rivers Affiliate Board Chairperson Joe San Filippo and physical education teacher and YTC advocate Melissa McCarthy.

Opposition was fierce in the final days before the bill‘s passage. While there is always compromise with legislation, advocate support of the bill ensured a much stronger bill, and on June 18, Governor Strickland signed the bill into law. The bill sets standards for beverages and snack items sold outside of the school lunch program; addresses physical education and physical activity by requiring physical education teachers are certified in the area; requires the state to adopt performance indicators to further improve quality and to increase daily physical activity for students; and also requires aggregate Body Mass Index (BMI) reporting to monitor the trend of childhood obesity and evaluate the effectiveness of the bill.

Since its introduction, it has been an amazing journey. Dedicated Ohio You’re the Cure advocates made sure the bill maintained key elements in the fight against childhood obesity.

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AHA to Assist Communities Engaged in Obesity Prevention

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The American Heart Association will help communities develop evidence-based strategies to combat obesity under the Department of Health and Human Services Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant program. The association has been awarded a grant to provide technical assistance to government-funded communities to improve health behaviors among local residents.

“This initiative will have a dramatic impact on our ability to create community environments that promote physical activity and healthy eating as obesity rates continue to spiral upward in many areas of the country,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “This is an epidemic that must be addressed with community-based interventions that will make it easier for local residents to make healthier choices where they live, learn, eat and play.”

Using a strategic and technical assistance consulting model, the association will offer expertise in obesity policy prevention strategies to help communities lay the groundwork for a sustained initiative that will change environments beyond the goals of the CPPW program. Support will include an assessment of community activities, development of specific campaign plans, coaching and training sessions.

The CPPW program was launched last year to reduce risk factors, prevent chronic disease and promote wellness in both children and adults. This is the first federal government grant awarded to the American Heart Association. In order to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans, the association recognized the need to consider additional funding streams to support specific programs that will facilitate behavior change.

“The American Heart Association has successfully initiated policies and programs on the community level to combat obesity and this grant will supplement our efforts to reach a larger segment of the population,” said Brown. “We strongly believe that Americans can reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses with improved access to healthy foods and areas that promote physical activity.”

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Important Hearing on Child Nutrition

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on HR 5504, an important bill to improve the nutritional quality of meals in schools today. The bill insures that all school children receive healthy and notorious meals year round, not just on school days. On top of that, the bill also sets nutritional standards for food sold outside of cafeterias in our schools. Food sold outside of school hours or in vending machines on school grounds need to be held to the same nutritional standards that food sold in the cafeteria during lunch is.

You’re the Cure advocates and volunteers were on hand during the hearing to show support for the bill. Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Vice President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and member of the American Heart Association’s National Advocacy Coordinating Committee, testified in support of the bill. According to Dr. Sanchez, “The health of America’s children depends on a prescription for healthy food and more physical activity. This bill can play a significant role in improving the health of America’s children, reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, reducing the burden of diabetes, heart and other chronic diseases and demand for expensive medical care, and finally, improving the readiness, willingness, and ability of our future civilian and military workforce – to compete and defend our nation.”
Special emphasis was placed on the importance of military readiness during the hearing. Paul D. Monroe, Major General in the United States Army spoke about how the current obesity crisis crippled the ability of the military to recruit new soldiers. General Monroe stated, “Obesity is the leading medical reason young adults are not qualified to serve. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased dramatically in recent decades.”

You can play an important role in advancing this important piece of legislation. Click here to send a life saving message to your legislator that you support improved nutrition for America’s children!

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