Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director
Whether or not you’ve got students or teachers in your home who are gearing up to head back to school, we can all agree on the importance of ensuring Oregon’s kids have a bright and healthy future ahead of them.
This time of year, many of us start to notice the kids in our neighborhoods walking and biking to school. Whether or not you see kids making the trek really depends on what neighborhood you live in, since many communities in the Metro area lack sidewalks or bike lanes to safely commute to school. There couldn’t be a more important time to give all kids this opportunity to get moving—1 in 4 kids in Oregon is overweight or obese, and they’re getting less exercise than any previous generation. Already, kids are facing chronic diseases earlier than ever and are threatened with a shorter life expectancy. In light of this, actively commuting to school—and leaving the car behind—has become a critical opportunity to help kids stay healthy. By walking or biking to and from school, Oregon kids can meet 60% of the daily physical activity recommendations. They’re also more likely to perform well in school. That’s why programs like Safe Routes to School are so exciting—by improving street infrastructure and educating parents and students about safety, we’ve as much as quadrupled the number of students getting active at some schools already. Join us this fall as the American Heart Association advocates for a Safe Routes to School program at every school district in the Metro region.
When it comes to healthy food for our kids in school, we’ve made incredible progress by improving nutrition standards. However, the junk food industry still spends $149 billion every year marketing to kids in schools—from logo-covered scoreboards and vending machines to fast food-sponsored school nights, junk food marketing sends the wrong message to our kids. It should be simple: If it’s not healthy enough to serve in school cafeterias, then you shouldn’t be allowed to market it in schools. The American Heart Association is partnering with Upstream Public Health (hyperlink) to ensure we get the junk food marketing out of Oregon schools with legislation in 2015. If you see examples of junk food marketing in your neighborhood schools, please let us know.
One other exciting issue we’re working on is our effort to make sure that every student in Oregon learns Hands-Only CPR in school. In less time than it takes to watch a TV sitcom, students can learn a skill that equips them to save the life of a loved one or a stranger. It’s simple: Dial 9-1-1, and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Nearly 400,000 cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital every year, and less than 11% of people survive—largely because there wasn’t someone there to step up and quickly perform CPR. Since the AHA started promoting Hands-Only CPR as an easier and just-as-effective option for the public, 18 states in the US have already made Hands-Only CPR a requirement for students. In Oregon, we could put 45,000 new lifesavers into our communities every year with this policy. There are some programs already at work in Oregon, from Medford to West Linn, Hood River to Clackamas, communities have come together to prove teaching Oregon students Hands-Only CPR is not only simple and possible—it’s effective and life-changing. Join us as we advocate for a bill in the 2015 legislature that would make Hands-Only CPR a part of every Oregon student’s curriculum.
With all of this important work ahead of us, we’re going to need your help. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping us tell the stories, share the expertise, and urge our decision makers to put Oregon kids’ health first—[email protected].