American Heart Association Volunteers Urge Congress to Step Up for School Meals and Heart/Stroke Research
Washington, D.C., May 12, 2015 – More than 350 American Heart Association volunteers from 48 states came to Capitol Hill today to urge their lawmakers to protect the school meals program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and to make heart and stroke research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a national priority.
Youth advocates, parents and school food service directors highlighted the tremendous progress schools have made in serving healthier foods, and called on Congress to leave the nutrition standards intact during child nutrition reauthorization and in the agriculture appropriations bills. Association volunteers told their representatives that weakening any of the standards – particularly lowering sodium levels – will be a significant setback for kids’ health. Ninety-five percent of the nation’s schools are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, and the current sodium standards make it easy for food service directors to select foods with the required levels. Under the school meals program, kids are consuming 16 percent more vegetables, 23 percent more fruit and foods with less sugar, fat and salt overall.
“America’s school meals program is a big win for kids’ health,” said American Heart Association President Elliot Antman, M.D. “Reasonable sodium consumption is particularly important because more young Americans are developing high blood pressure – once solely an adult disease. Thanks to the nutrition requirements, kids can make choices that help them perform better, stay fit and live longer.”
Heart disease and stroke survivors, as well as researchers urged Congress to make NIH-funded research into cardiovascular disease a national priority by increasing the NIH budget by 10 percent for 2016 and supporting the NIH Innovation Fund in the House 21st Century Cures legislation. Even though heart disease and stroke are America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers, respectively, the NIH invests just four percent of its budget on heart research and only one percent on stroke research. As our nation’s population ages, nearly 44 percent of Americans may face some form of cardiovascular disease by 2030 and the cost is expected to increase from $579 billion to more than $1.208 trillion by 2030. Without sufficient NIH funding, cures and treatments for cardiovascular disease will be seriously delayed – or worse, never discovered.
“NIH-funded heart and stroke research not only saves lives, it encourages young investigators to pursue research careers, supports valuable jobs, spurs economic growth, drives innovation and preserves our role as the world leader in medical research,” said Antman.
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