Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Renewed effort to restore local rights regarding tobacco

Recently published an Op-Ed from Oklahoma's Commissioner of Health, Terry Cline, about the need to restore local rights to communities when passing tobacco policies. You can read it below.
BY TERRY CLINE Oklahoman 3

Published: November 21, 2010

Did you know that because of tobacco industry tactics in Oklahoma, the community where you live does not have the ability to adopt and enforce effective tobacco prevention ordinances?

AdvertisementIn 1987 and 1994, tobacco industry lobbyists at the state Capitol were successful in advocating for special clauses to be placed in state tobacco laws that took away the rights of Oklahoma communities to enact any tobacco-related ordinance stronger than state law.

Oklahoma is one of only two states with these stringent restrictions on tobacco issues. This means your community leaders cannot respond to local needs to develop tobacco prevention ordinances that would improve and protect the health of citizens, compete for new businesses and new residents, and create a healthier work force.

This year, restoring these essential local rights to communities is a legislative priority of the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, the State Turning Point Council and the Oklahoma Municipal League. Also in strong support are dozens of other major organizations including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma.

The measure has been formally endorsed by the State Board of Health, as well as the city-county boards of health for Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Restoring local rights on tobacco prevention policies would allow the opportunity for you and other citizens to engage in a meaningful local dialogue to help determine what's best for your community.

The only organizations that oppose this measure are tobacco companies or those closely affiliated with the tobacco industry. An argument offered by one major convenience store chain is that restoring local rights will place burdens and hardships on their stores. However, this same business, with stores in eight other states, operates almost entirely where there are no restrictions placed on local rights. Their arguments simply do not hold water. Internal industry documents prove that tobacco lobbyists and their partners are only trying to block local action and maintain all control over tobacco issues at the state level.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that improving the health of workers results in better fiscal health for employers. A growing number of Oklahoma communities and local chambers of commerce believe economic development through a healthier work force is vital to their continued growth. Reducing tobacco use among workers generates ongoing financial returns from reduced health care costs, increased on-the-job productivity, reduced health insurance costs and reduced absenteeism.

Oklahomans are known for our independence, yet we've allowed an industry to take away our local rights for their own profit. If you believe control of these issues should be at the local level rather than only at the state level, then now is the time to tell your legislators you want these key local rights restored.

Cline is Oklahoma's health commissioner.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let's step up to the plate and improve school meals

By: Dr. Robert DiBianco
Posted: Nov 09, 2010

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 nowranked 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.

To learn more, visit follow us on Twitter @AmHeartAdvocacy.

About the Author

Robert DiBianco, MD

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

AHA/ASA Voluntter Talks About Her Stroke on Channel 4

Pam Bedford, an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association volunteer and stroke survivor recently spoke with Linda Cavanaugh of Channel 4 in Oklahoma City about life after her stroke and the Stroke Peer Visitation Program that she participates in.

The American Stroke Association is dedicated to prevention, diagnosis and treatment to save lives from stroke — America’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of serious disability. We fund scientific research, help people better understand and avoid stroke, encourage government support, guide healthcare professionals and provide information to enhance the quality of life for stroke survivors. We were created in 1997 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit

Here is the Link:

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