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AHA Volunteers Bring Strong Expertise to Augusta

Last Friday, volunteers from the American Heart Association joined early care and education providers such as the Maine YMCA Alliance, children’s advocates, pediatricians and public health organizations to present LD999, An Act To Provide a Healthy Learning Environment in Early Care Settings by Requiring Rules Concerning Nutrition and Physical Activity to the Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.  

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hero_image_alt_text===Kids Need A Healthy Start in Life
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Therese Cahill, an AHA Advocacy Committee member, survivor and former State Childcare Administrator presented our testimony.  Below are a few excerpts from her well-received testimony:

I was immensely pleased when I learned that the American Heart Association prioritized creating a healthy environment in the early care setting and offered to help with this legislation.  Since we began this process a decade ago, the evidence has evolved and now is the perfect time to finish what we started. 

1. This legislation will improve the health of Maine’s youngest residents.

2. Many providers are already meeting these standards—but now we need to encourage those who are lagging behind.

3. Implementation of this initiative need not be cumbersome and can, in fact, assist many providers as they seek to deliver affordable, quality child care.

The evidence could not be more clear.  We can’t wait until children are school-aged to begin to help them form positive lifelong habits.  Research shows that overweight five year olds are four times as likely as normal weight children to become obese moving into adolescence. This sets the stage for an unhealthy future for these children as obesity generally tracks into adulthood. These findings illustrate why it is imperative to intervene in early childhood to prevent obesity and related cardiovascular disease risk factors.  According to the latest Maine data, obesity rates are higher than 20 percent for 3rd and 5th graders, with the figure jumping to more than 40 percent when combined with those who are overweight.

The Health and Human Services Committee seemed very receptive to the arguments that Therese presented and asked some good follow-up questions. 

Lori Kaley, a Registered Dietician and former University of Southern Maine, Muskie researcher also presented in favor of the bill.  Lori is on our Advocacy Committee as well and lends us her decades of food policy expertise.  Like Therese, Lori has been working for a very long time to encourage the state to ask early care providers to meet evidence-based standards.   She was thrilled to testify on Friday.

Now, we need your help.  We will likely be asking you to contact members of the Health and Human Services Committee (if you are their constituents) and eventually the full legislature to voice your support.  Please watch your email for a You’re The Cure action alert. It may be next week, or a month from now.  It all depends on the legislature’s timing.

As always, if you have any questions on this legislation, or any other AHA’s priorities in Augusta, shoot me an email at becky.smith@heart.org.

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