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Health Consequences from Carbon Pollution Rollback

The Free Press WV

Doctors are warning that the Trump administration’s intent to roll back the Clean Power Plan will mean more respiratory illness, especially in vulnerable neighborhoods.

In a long expected move pushed by the coal industry, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced plans to end Obama-era rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

But according to federal projections, by 2030 the Clean Power Plan would prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths a year.

Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, says poor and minority communities are being hit the hardest.

“The children’s data has definitely shown that, in those areas that have more carbon pollution, young people in our communities are really disabled, and our families are spending much more time and money and effort on asthma than ever before,“ she states.

Pruitt predicts ending the Clean Power Plan will be good for mining communities and will mean the so-called war on coal is over.

But Rios points out the real war is on poor children’s health, as coal-burning power plants most often put soot into the air in poor white and minority communities.

She says even if the nation ignores the issue of climate change and the extreme weather it causes, cutting power plant emissions would have total health benefits of $14 billion to $34 billion.

The EPA itself has estimated those health benefits at $54 billion annually.

“The government’s number one responsibility from a public health perspective is to help all people, and that’s why we think President Trump and his administration really should not go backwards in cutting back on environmental health standards,“ Rios stresses.

The Clean Power Plan calls for a one-third reduction in carbon pollution from 2005 levels by 2030, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration says the power sector is already almost there.

When the plan was proposed, Americans filed 8 million favorable comments with the EPA – the highest number ever in support of an EPA proposal.

The agency is now taking comments on the plan to reverse it.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~


10.13.2017
LivingHealthNewsWest VirginiaUnited StatesPolitics | Government | ElectionUSA

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Don’t believe all the Liberal propaganda being printed as facts….fake news from the left is an epidemic…if we cared so much about pollution and respiratory illnesses, we’d have outlawed cigarettes decades ago…don’t kill West Virginia’s economy over a few objectors.

By Truth??  on  10.13.2017

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Cassidy-Graham Would Cripple WV Opioid Treatment, Medicaid

The health care bill Senate Republicans are rushing to finish would cripple West Virginia opioid treatment and end Medicaid expansion, according to an analysis that also says the bill could end coverage of pre-exisiting conditions.

Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the last-ditch attempt to get a GOP-only Obamacare repeal though the Senate would cut Medicaid funding so much that the state would have to roll back expansion. In addition, he said, while Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, negotiated added funding for opioid treatment in previous Affordable Care Act repeal bills, there is none in this legislation.

“There is no extra money for opioids. There’s nothing,“ O’Leary said. “So it could really, really have a really devastating impact on the state’s battle against opioid addiction.“

The Free Press WV
Under the Cassidy-Graham plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, federal funding for Medicaid to the states would fall sharply, especially in 2027.


Supporters of what’s known as the Cassidy-Graham bill have said changing Medicaid funding to a block-grant system would give the states flexibility to do more with less. O’Leary said that would be impossible, given the low level of block-grant funding.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Cassidy-Graham would cut $2 billion out of West Virginia Medicaid funding over 10 years. O’Leary said a state such as West Virginia that already has budget problems couldn’t make up for block grants that would be hundreds of millions of dollars below current levels. Then, he said, even those grants would be eliminated - and with it, coverage for the 10 percent of the state’s population in Medicaid expansion.

“After 2026, that block grant just goes away and we’re on the hook for 100 percent,“ O’Leary said, “and it would essentially end, and that 180,000 people would just lose their health-care coverage.“

O’Leary said the legislation also would allow states to get rid of regulations on insurance companies that require policies to cover a set of essential services outlined in Obamacare. He said that could include the rule that says they couldn’t charge more for - or drop folks with - pre-existing conditions.

“And that’s a big deal. In West Virginia,“ he said. “There are about 392,000 people who have some type of pre-exisiting condition that would be declineable.“

The bill’s only hearing is set for Monday. Capito, a key vote, has not said if she will support or oppose it.

More information is online at wvpolicy.org.

Farms to School Food Links Growing Like a Weed

The Free Press WV

Almost all West Virginia school districts get - or plan to get - food from local farms, and Congress may further boost the growing connection.

The Farm to School Act of 2017 would expand existing USDA Farm to School Grants to improve access.

Maximilian Merrill, the policy director for the National Farm to School Network explains it’s a win-win: Farmers supply their food to schools and students learn about agriculture.

“Students participating in educational activities related to agriculture, food and nutrition and health - and school gardens, so students engage in hands-on learning through gardening so they understand where their food comes from and the difficulty it is to grow that healthy food,“ he explains.

The bill asks for funding to be increased annually from $5- to $15 million to better meet the demand for the program. According to the USDA, more than 80 percent of districts in the state take part, and another nine percent plan to.

State districts have invested more than $21 million in local food, helping to provide for about a quarter million students. The Farm to School Act of 2017 would enable that to include summer foodservice program sites and after-school programs, and encourage farm-to-school partnerships between tribal schools and tribal producers.

Merrill notes that the program helps boost farmers’ bottom lines.

“In 2013-2014, that school year, there was $790 million in local foods purchased from farmers, ranchers and fishermen,“ he notes. “And if you look at the multiplying factor, that leads to over $1 billion pushed into the local economy.“

The bill also would improve program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Medicare For All Can Reshape the ‘Art of the Possible’

The Free Press WV

Bernie Sanders unveiled his Medicare for All bill this week, and 16 Democratic senators signed on as cosponsors. The last time he introduced a bill like it, not one senator was willing to join him. They considered the idea impossible, utopian.

Times have changed.

The senators who shared a podium with Sanders understand this bill won’t pass in today’s Republican-dominated Congress. They signed on because it’s a good idea, and because they recognize that by doing so they can both reflect and reshape a shifting political landscape.

They’re aware that Sanders’ presidential campaign triggered a wave of energy and activism that continues today. They recognize that this nascent political movement is a powerful political engine, and its diverse millennial base makes it the Democratic engine of the future.

They understand how change happens: as an ongoing dance between street-level activism and electoral politics.


A Declaration of Principles

With this bill, 17 senators – nearly one-third of the Senate’s Democrats, including several presidential prospects – are saying health care is a human right and a public good. That’s a declaration of principle.

They are also defending the principle of progressive taxation. The program would be funded through higher taxes on the wealthy, eliminating special tax breaks, a one-time tax on offshore profits, and a fee levied against big banks.

Their cosponsorship is a declaration of principle in another way, too. Not one of the bill’s 16 cosponsors describes her- or himself as a “democratic socialist,” as Sanders does. But this bill shows us how government can make our lives better, as it already does through programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Democrats have too often been reluctant to proclaim the value of government in recent years. They’ve kept government at an embarrassed arm’s length, like a parent at a junior high dance. These Democrats, on the other hand, are embracing an unabashedly pro-government idea. No embarrassment, just pride.


The Flag

The bill has no chance of passage in the current Congress. In that sense it’s symbolic, a flag. But flags have value. They give people something to rally around, and they can be used to point the way forward.

Democrats could use a few more flags these days.

For too long, “centrist” Dems made the mistake of elevating process over principle. Process is important, of course. But elections are won and lost on principle, on flags. Democrats who speak of “the art of the possible” in the context of a Republican-dominated Congress are on a fool’s errand. They’ll accomplish little or nothing of value.

The goal must be to take over Congress, not surrender to a hostile one, so that the “possible” is redefined. This bill can help make that happen.

These senators are being active rather than reactive. Instead of complaining about Donald Trump, they’ve provoked Trump into complaining about them. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president thinks this bill is a “horrible idea.”

That’s how you win elections – by framing the terms of the debate. Let the Republicans tell the American people why they don’t think healthcare is a human right. Let them tell voters why they’re defending the runaway greed of insurance companies and Big Pharma.


Dollar By Dollar, Life By Life

The bill includes a transitional phase-in period. That’s important. Healthcare in the United States is a $3.4 trillion economy, so it will take some time to ensure a smooth transition. And, as Harold Meyerson notes, the bill’s gradualism is also “designed to make it progressively easier for legislators to support and progressively more difficult for such entrenched interests as the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to defeat.”

There is entrenched resistance to single-payer healthcare. It’s easier for a politician to defend a healthcare program for a defined population – children under 19, for example – than it is to defend something that can be abstracted away as “socialized medicine.”

It should also be noted that somewhere between one-third and one-fourth of all U.S. health spending is already government-funded. In that sense, any new government healthcare proposal should be considered “gradualist.”

This bill lays out the long-term goal, but its phased-in approach gives breathing space for other forms of health-related activism in the meantime. They include the fight to defend current government healthcare programs, and the battle for Medicaid expansion in states like Texas and Florida.

Medicare For All can be the flag for all of these health activism fronts, and all of them can be pursued with a single, unifying goal in mind: Dollar by dollar, life by life, public health insurance must be defended and expanded until it is available to everyone.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

It’s Harder to Nourish Young Minds If We Don’t Also Properly Nourish Their Bodies

5 Things You Don’t Know About School Lunches (But Probably Should)
The Free Press WV

School lunches have been the focus of much controversy in the past few years, but school cafeteria food been the brunt of jokes for decades, as anyone who has ever attended public school can attest. However, school lunches are no laughing matter. Today, we’re more aware than ever of the importance of nourishing young minds with a healthy, well-balanced diet to equip students for success. But do we really know everything we need to know? Here are five things you don’t know about school lunches—but probably should.

 
1. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has good intentions but is not well-executed—yet.

Most everyone is aware that there is some set of standards that aim to standardize the nutritional quality of school lunches across the nation. Most notably, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, enabling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to overhaul school meals in order to meet currently accepted standards. 

In spite of its noble intentions, the act has been harshly criticized by claims that the food is unpalatable, participation in the school lunch program has dropped sharply as a result, and in turn, school districts are realizing less revenue. Worse, more students are skipping lunch altogether.

On the surface, the Hunger-Free Kids Act makes a lot of sense. It requires school meals to be lower in fat, lower in calories and lower in sodium, as well as contain more lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. The hallmarks of a well-balanced diet, right? Unfortunately, in order to continue to meet student expectations, school lunch programs are often serving reengineered versions of the foods students were accustomed to (think: whole-grain doughnuts, cheesesteak sandwich served on whole-grain bread with cheese low in both fat and salt, and some form of lean meat that some say is unidentifiable to many students). It’s fair to say that these reinvented foods aren’t meeting the bar in students’ eyes.

 
2. Standards require that certain foods be on a student’s trays when exiting the lunch line, but there’s no guarantee the kid will actually eat it.

It also turns out there’s a lot of waste. The act requires that students participating in school lunch programs have certain items on their trays before exiting the lunch line—meaning many fruits and vegetables are dumped into the trash, untouched.

Other critics express concern that by banning certain foods and attempting to essentially force students to consume foods they don’t enjoy, the program may be fostering an unhealthy relationship with food among today’s youth. Proponents of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, however, say that students are starting to come around to some of the healthier options and say that the act simply needs more time to allow schools and students to adjust.

 
3. Your school district may be outsourcing its school lunch program.

Huge food service companies are making bank by securing contracts with public school systems to provide school lunch foods. Privatization of school lunches has been around since the 1980s and 1990s, primarily due to dwindling federal support and funding. Sadly, nutritional standards often take a backseat to the need to control costs.

One public school district in Washington, D.C., gave the concept of privatization a shot beginning in the 2008-2009 school year based on the promise of numerous benefits: better-tasting meals with better nutritional quality, which in turn would result in better student participation in the school lunch program—an attractive benefit for schools.

More importantly, outsourcing the school lunch program was supposed to result in cost savings. Per Washington, D.C., law, any outsourced government service must result in a cost savings of 5 percent or more. An audit conducted in 2016 found that the district consistently failed to realize the projected cost savings:

  • In the 2009 fiscal year, projected savings were 56 percent and actual savings were -4 percent.
  • In the 2010 fiscal year, projected savings were 68 percent; actual savings, 53 percent.
  • In the 2011 fiscal year, projected savings were 73 percent; actual savings, 5 percent.

These savings shortfalls were expected to be made up with the promise of drastically increased student participation (from approximately 51 percent to 71.6 percent in the first year). Higher participation rates typically result in increased revenue through reimbursements per each meal served. However, these projections also failed to play out as expected.

Nutritional standards for healthier school meals may be partially to blame for a lack of participation, but other factors played a role as well. For instance, the report points out that participation rates are typically higher among students who receive free lunches. It’s worth mentioning that the audit did not specifically aim to assess the nutritional value or quality of the foods provided.

Finally, the audit report identifies six other school districts that have privatized food services and subsequently returned to self-operation, including:

  • School District of Philadelphia
  • New York City Public Schools
  • Detroit Public Schools
  • Fairfax County Public Schools
  • New Haven Public Schools
  • Baltimore City Public Schools

For one reason or another, each of these school districts ultimately returned to self-operation after failed attempts at outsourcing food services.

Costs are obviously a pressing factor for school systems today, as many districts are operating on tight budgets, and some are even tapping into reserve funds to get through another fiscal year. But perhaps the more pressing question is whether privatization of school lunch programs results in healthier foods.

 
4. Major food companies make big money by marketing less-than-healthy food choices to schools.

In 2009, privatization was viewed as a possible savior for the sad state of school lunches, promising ready-made, healthy, and tasty meals that meet USDA standards, but these programs largely targeted charter and private schools at the time, as the cost of the meals exceeded the federal reimbursement, and public school districts simply lacked the funding to make up the difference.

For every company offering healthy meal options for schools, there are several making bank by marketing unhealthy options. And ultimately, if student participation isn’t there, the program—no matter how healthy it may be—won’t have the desired impact.

But how is this happening given the nutritional standards that went into effect? It’s the same phenomenon discussed earlier in this article: rather than scrap the idea of serving kids corn dogs for lunch, food companies simply re-invented their products to meet nutritional standards. So, kids are still getting corn dogs for lunch, but maybe they’re lower-sodium corn dogs.

Schools can either purchase foods directly from the USDA at discounted rates (which the USDA obtains from private companies) or they can opt to purchase foods directly from private companies, provided the meals meet the standards, containing the required minimum amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed a number of advertisements targeting the School Nutrition Association, a professional organization representing the 55,000+ school food service employees tasked with choosing and purchasing foods for school lunches. It found 106 ads for unhealthy meat and dairy products; among them, 26 full-page ads for Pizza Hut or Domino’s pepperoni pizza.

 
5. School districts may receive whole, nutritious food—and then process it into unhealthy options like chicken nuggets.

A 2011 article in the New York Times reports that the Department of Agriculture spends about $1 billion each year on foods such as fresh apples, sweet potatoes, chickens, and turkeys. Schools that participate in the program get cash subsidies or USDA foods for each meal they serve. According to the Times, some schools will cook these whole foods on-site, but an increasing number actually send the foods out for processing, turning once-healthy ingredients into unhealthy options such as fried chicken nuggets, pizza, French fries, and other common school lunch menu items.

The reason some schools send whole ingredients out for processing seems counter-intuitive, but it’s possible that it all comes down to the bottom line: it’s a lot easier to cook chicken nuggets for hundreds of students than it is to prepare chicken breasts, for instance, and it often requires simpler kitchen facilities and less-skilled staff to do so. So, while schools are paying more to have these items processed, they may be realizing greater cost savings by reducing their investment in labor costs (fewer hours, fewer skilled kitchen staff) and facilities.

One thing is clear: school lunches have a long way to go, and there’s no simple solution in sight. As school districts struggle to balance costs with meeting federal nutritional standards and other requirements, students are left to weather the storm with lackluster food choices that may not be having the positive effect on their mental and physical health that educators and parents want—and are certainly not having the tastebud-pleasing effects students hope for.

~~  Cynthia Lopez ~~

Packed Lunches: Cutting Corners, But Not Food Safety

The Free Press WV

As a working mom of four boys, ages 8 and under, I’m asked on a near-daily basis: “how do you DO it?!” It’s a carefully orchestrated dance: keeping my family fed, healthy, dropped off at school and daycare at the appropriate times, with their respective accompaniments, whether homework, snacks or lunches. And then in the evening, allowing opportunity to focus on homework and dinner, without sacrificing quality family time. Making this happen on a daily basis takes a keen attention to detail, a little luck and some advanced planning.

I’m game to try anything to help our daily routine run smoothly, and will cut any corners I can. However, one corner I won’t cut is safe food handling and preparation. Because let’s face it—a houseful of children in the throes of foodborne illness is no one’s idea of a good time.


Advanced Planning

To keep our household running as efficiently as possible, I prep the boys’ lunches a few days in advance. I pre-portion snack size bags of baby carrots for two to three meals and place those in the fridge with the other vegetables. On a clean and separate cutting board, I make enough ham sandwiches for two to three lunches. The prepped sandwiches go back into the fridge in a designated spot.


The Morning Of

In the morning, I pack each soft-sided cooler lunch bag with a napkin, cold sandwich, cold baggie of carrots, any other non-perishable sides and either a frozen water bottle or a frozen tube of yogurt. I also slide an ice pack on top of the lunch contents so each bag has two cold sources that keep the contents out of the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40°F and 140°F at which bacteria grows most rapidly) until lunch time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has great resources on safe food handling, particularly for bag lunches.


After Lunch

We’ve taught our boys to throw out their leftovers and not eat anything from their lunches later in the day. When they arrive home from school, they promptly discard anything that didn’t make it into the trash can in the cafeteria. I wipe out their lunch bags with a disinfectant wipe and leave to air dry overnight. 

By prepping a few days of lunches in a session, I save quite a bit of time. Mornings run smoother because there’s no shuffling and rummaging for something to eat. Knowing that the food was safely prepared, stored and packed in their lunch boxes gives me the peace of mind that I’ve reduced the risk of foodborne illness in my kids, while carving out a little more quality time to spend with them in the evenings.

WVBOE Approves Nutrition Policy for West Virginia Public Schools

January 02, 2018 is the take effect date for a new nutrition policy for West Virginia’s public schools.

The Free Press WV

The state Board of Education approved Policy 4321.1 Standards for School Nutrition as a replacement for a previous nutrition policy dating back to 2008.

In general, it aligns West Virginia’s child nutrition standards with federal child nutrition standards.

In many ways, the policy approval is a formality.

“Our schools have been operating under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act since 2012,” Michele Blatt, assistant state superintendent of schools, told members of the state BOE before the vote.

“The Act passed in 2010 and we started transitioning our schools to meet those federal requirements and had all our schools functioning by 2012, but our policy had not caught up with what was occurring in our schools.”

In part, the policy addresses food brought into schools for classroom celebrations or other events.

Under revisions that followed a public comment period, baked goods from home are again allowed in schools if in accordance with local wellness policies which are developed by county school officials.

“When we talk about our current local wellness policy, these are policies that are required by the federal government and all of our districts currently have a local wellness policy,” explained Blatt.

“In that policy, they have to promote student wellness, talk about how they’re going to prevent and reduce childhood obesity and provide assurances that school meals and all other food and beverages sold or provided will meet the applicable federal and state standards.”

Miller Hall, a BOE member, said local control was key. “I think that’s the way it needs to be,” he said.

A portion of the policy revisions prohibit counties from punishing students for unpaid or outstanding school meal debt with denial of meals, blocked access to extracurricular activities, graduation participation bans, refusal of transcript requests or other measures.

“All communication addressing financial matters should be directed to parents/guardians,” the policy stated. “Food and beverages shall not be offered as a reward and/or used as a means of punishment or disciplinary action for any student during the school day.”

More than 400 comments from 180 individuals, a larger number than usual according to state Department of Education officials, were submitted to the DOE prior to the close of the public comment period.

Going forward, Dr. Steve Paine, state superintendent of schools, said the effects of the policy would be monitored. “If it doesn’t work, we come right back and we revisit the policy,” Paine said Thursday.

~~  Shauna Johnson ~~

UHC’s Three Germ-Zapping Robots Been Named

Environmental Service Employees Win $100 Gift Cards

United Hospital Center (UHC) recently announced that it has the most Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots in West Virginia. The three robots are being used to enhance environmental cleanliness by disinfecting and destroying hard-to-kill germs, bacteria, and superbugs in hard-to-clean places.

The Environmental Services team participated in a contest to name all three of the robots, as these modern marvels of technology are also included as part of the cleaning team at UHC. Each of the following contest winners received a $100 gift card to the cafeteria:

    • Brenda Morrison with the name “UHC3PO”

    • Karen Minnear with the name “Elroy”

    • Chris Owen with the name U.S.H.E.R. (Ultra Sanitation Healthcare Efficient Robot)

The Free Press WV
Pictured from left front row: Brenda Morrison, Environmental Services, contest winner; Karen Minnear, Environmental Services, contest winner; Chris Owen, Environmental Services, contest winner; Pictured from left back row:  Dr. Mark Povroznik; chief quality officer, vice president of quality; Beth Bond, MBA, BSN, RN, CIC, infection preventionist manager; Annetta Payne, RN, CIC, infection preventionist; and Brian Fijewski, MBA, director of environmental services.


“This was a great opportunity to engage with our Environmental Services staff that is responsible for the room cleaning program,” said Dr. Mark Povroznik, chairman of Infection Control at UHC. “The entire Environmental Services team, including the robots, is critical in the implementation of ultra violet room disinfection.”

Each person could submit up to three names for the contest, as a total of 30 names were submitted. The committee of judges from the UHC Personnel Action Committee (PAC) selected the three winning entries.

“If not properly cleaned some spores, such as C-diff, can live on surfaces for up to five months,” said Dr. Povroznik. “Upon a patient discharge, Environmental Services will clean the room as they would normally and then they terminally clean a room with one of the robots. These robots are just the latest step in UHC’s effort to prevent infections.”

Healthy Meals Help Kids Succeed in School

The Free Press WV

Making healthier choices from all five food groups is a simple and proven way to help children succeed in school.

A growing body of research links nutrition and achievement, meaning that kids who eat well do better in school. The start of the school year is a great time to give children every academic advantage possible by encouraging participation in the school breakfast and lunch program and including nutrition education in the classroom.

School meals provide a convenient and affordable way for families to ensure children have access to healthy food at school. Student participation in school breakfast or lunch programs is associated with improvement in grades, standardized test scores and school attendance.

When specific nutrients missing from students’ diets are increased (nutrients emphasized in school meals via fruits, vegetables and dairy products) academic performance improves. (Bradley, BJ, Greene, AC. Do Health and Education Agencies in the United States Share Responsibility for Academic Achievement and Health? Journal of Adolescent Health, 2013.)

The link between nutrition and academic achievement is so strong that many teachers across West Virginia and the country are adding classroom nutrition education to their lesson plans.

If you still need some convincing on the importance of nutrition education in the classroom, here are five testimonials from teachers. Parents can share this article with their student’s teachers or the school principal to help make this the best school year ever!


5. Students get excited about learning.: “My class gets really excited about it (the nutrition lessons), and it’s such an important part of teaching ‘the whole child!’”


4. Students put nutrition education to the test in real-life situations: “The greatest thing I notice is that the students encourage each other to eat healthier snacks and foods. They flat out tell each other when they are eating poorly!”


3. The benefits of nutrition education reach far beyond the classroom: “I had a student that went above and beyond and prepared a shopping list of healthy meals for her mom to take to the grocery store! I thought it was amazing to see the students who encouraged their family members to eat healthier.”


2. Improve the quality of your students’ education by teaching a topic left out of standard curriculum: “So many students are not aware of the health benefits in foods and how it affects their body. Students are interested and are engaged when we fill out the workbook. Each student strives to improve their results. This program is a win-win situation.”


1. Nutrition lessons provide essential education that can lead to more academic success: “We discuss healthy eating first at recess time. One student used to bring candy every day for snack and after listening to lessons asked his parents to send better snacks for his brain to learn.”

Family Foundations of Health

The Free Press WV

The family provides a foundation for children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being. The unique and frequent interactions between children and their families can create protective factors that may promote and support health now and into adulthood. The Lancet Commission’s report on adolescent health notes that during adolescence, peers and other people in a teen’s life also influence health, but the family remains a central influence.

Family members can influence an adolescent’s health by:


1.       Promoting delayed sexual activity.

In 2012, nearly nine in ten teens said that it would be easier for teens to postpone sexual activity if they could have an honest conversation with their parents, and about 40 percent of teens cited parents as the biggest influence regarding their decisions about sex. Research also shows that when parents talk to their teens about sex, teens are more likely to delay sex, use contraception if they do have sex, and communicate more effectively with their partners. Talking about sex with adolescents can be intimidating. Family members can use conversation tools to stay calm and talk honestly. Advocates for Youth also provides a collection of guidance and resources in the Parents Sex Ed Center for parents who may not know exactly what to say or how to say it.


2.       Protecting against substance use.

Teens whose parents establish clear rules and talk about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are less likely to use these substances. Parents and other caring adults should monitor parties to prevent underage drinking and protect against unhealthy relationships with alcohol in the future. Similarly, parents can establish and enforce clear driving rules to prevent teens from drunk or risky driving.

Families can encourage teens of all ages to stay drug-free by clearly communicating the consequences of drug use, talking about what they’re learning at school, and commenting on the positive aspects of the teen’s life and character. Avoiding alcohol consumption or limiting drinking also are good behaviors to model for adolescents. If you believe a teen is already drinking or using drugs, there are ways to help them stop.


3.       Preventing unhealthy relationships.

Open communication and closeness with parents can help prevent dating violence and promote healthy relationships. For example, parents and other family members who get to know their teen’s friends and romantic partners can more effectively monitor those relationships and encourage positive decision-making. In addition, family members can talk about and model healthy relationships to their teen. For instance, using conflict resolution skills can show adolescents how to set boundaries and compromise even when they feel angry or uncomfortable.

Since relationships aren’t black-and-white and exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive, adults may need to evaluate the health of their own relationships. Adults can see where their relationships land on the spectrum and learn ways to improve them. If you think that you or your adolescent is in an abusive relationship or needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.


4.       Building connectedness.

Parental supervision combined with high levels of support increases family connectedness. When families are connected, teens may be less likely to become violent. Family connectedness also helps adolescents build resilience so they can withstand setbacks. Sharing a meal can promote family connectedness, stability, and healthy eating habits. To make the most of family mealtimes, unplug from phones and have make-your-own meals that get everyone involved. Other activities from ParentFurther can help families strengthen their bonds even as adolescents become more independent. Disconnection or withdrawal from social interactions, along with other warning signs, may indicate a mental health issue. In times of emotional distress or crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.


5.       Shaping lifelong habits.

Life at home can help teens establish healthy habits. Talking with teens about how to manage different aspects of their lives builds self-sufficiency and provides them with skills they will use in adulthood. Younger children and adolescents can be involved in tasks like grocery shopping and meal planning to ensure healthy food habits throughout life. Similarly, a friendly competition with family can encourage adolescents to be physically active, a habit that helps prevent chronic conditions in the future.

Families also can educate teens on good money management skills. Teach teens the five principles of money management and how to factor them into decision-making. Money as You Grow helps adults guide children as they begin earning money and making financial decisions. Financial education curriculum and other resources help educators and community leaders connect youth and families to financial services and support lifelong decision-making skills.

Love Your Country? Save Health Care!

The Free Press WV

Senators are home to celebrate Independence Day this week. Don’t let them go back to D.C. without hearing how important saving health care is to our country.

We have one more chance to stop the GOP’s health care repeal before it sickens, bankrupts, and even kills many of us. Remember: grassroots pressure works.

Here’s how we can make our voices heard:

Visit your senators at their local offices. Tell them why you oppose health care repeal and believe every person should get health care.

Attend a health care rally or protest in your community.

Find your senators at an Independence Day parade and wave your “no health care repeal!” sign.

Call your senators’ local offices every day. Talk to your family and friends during the holiday and ask them to call every day, too!


We Can Resist

Republican leaders in Congress originally wanted President Trump to sign their health care repeal on January 20. We’re more than five months past that date.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then drafted a bill in secret and wanted to rush it through, but is unable to muster enough support from his party, so has had to delay a vote.

This means grassroots activism is working. We’ve managed to hold off repeal until now. You’re saving lives.

But repeal is still at the top of the GOP’s agenda, so let’s keep the pressure on.

Here’s a reminder of what the Senate’s repeal legislation does:

Kicks 22 million people off health care in less than decade.

Slashes 35 percent of the Medicaid budget by 2036, cutting health care for more than 70 million people, threatening nursing home coverage for us and our parents, and forcing people with disabilities from their homes.

Brings back lifetime and annual caps on care, cutting off everything from chemotherapy to post-surgery recovery care.

Raises our health costs while making our insurance cover less, raising deductibles to a jaw-dropping $6,000.

Trades away our health care to give massive tax break to the ultra-rich, drug corporations, and insurance companies.

Lead to more than 208,500 deaths by 2026.

Starves state budgets of funds needed not just for health care but also for education, roads, and other needs.


The GOP’s Next Move

There’s only one way to pass a terrible, unpopular piece of legislation like this: offer side deals to wavering lawmakers.

As one Trump administration official put it bluntly, I really think they’ll bribe off the moderates with opioid money and then actually move policy to shore up Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.”

Lee and Cruz are the two extremist GOP senators who once forced a 16-day shutdown of the Federal government to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking effect. Now they’re doing everything they can to gut the legislation so many lives depend on.

In coming days, McConnell will dip into his “slush fund” of $188 billion to offer side deals to undecided Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, to win them over. He might offer to fund opioid treatment or phase in Medicaid cuts more slowly. But the goal of the repeal – to cut out the heart of health care for millions of people – remains the same.


Don’t Be Fooled

As Republican leaders revise their repeal and try to sell it to the public, keep a few things in mind:

Side deals aren’t health care

No amount of side deals will soften the cruelty of this bill. For example, West Virginia’s uninsured rate will quadruple under the Senate bill, taking health coverage away from 20 percent of the state’s non-elderly adults. Cutting their health care more slowly or adding dollars for opioid treatment won’t stop the devastation wreaked by gutting Medicaid.

Every person in our country should get health care

If this repeal takes health care away from any one of us, it should be rejected. While McConnell may try to offer a “softened” version of the bill that shows fewer people losing health care, remember that no one should lose their health care. It doesn’t matter if a new a new version of the bill “only” kicks off 15 million, or 10 million, or 3 million from health care.


Do You Care?

If Republican lawmakers really cared about our health, they could make make care more affordable and more available. They could open Medicare to everyone, breaking the insurance companies’ stranglehold on coverage. They could also require Medicare and other programs to negotiate lower prices from drug corporations.

Whatever it promises in the short term, this bill still violates the promise of better, more affordable health care for all. Real fixes are available. Our lawmakers know this. This Independence Day, let’s make sure they know that we know this, too.

~~  Sarah Chaisson-Warner ~~

Obamacare Repeal and Replace Harder Than GOP Thought

The Free Press WV

For over seven years, Republicans criticized Obamacare.  The words “repeal and replace” were part of the conservative mantra, and one that contributed to their election successes.  But like the barking dog that caught the car, the GOP’s next step is uncertain.

That became painfully evident this week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the Republican replacement for Obamacare until after the July 4th recess. McConnell risked a defeat if he had gone ahead now with the Senate plan as an increasing number of Republican Senators came out in opposition.

Among the “no” votes is Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.  While a member of the House, Capito voted multiple times to repeal Obamacare, but when given the opportunity in the Senate to actually vote for a replacement she couldn’t do it.

During an appearance on Talkline Wednesday, Capito said she found the Senate bill lacking. “Repeal and replace and fixing Obamacare is important, but it’s got to be done the right way,” she said. Capito added that she was never even close to supporting the bill.

Capito, like several of her fellow Republicans, has issues with how the Senate bill changes Medicaid.  The expansion program, which is funded by a 90-10 federal match, would phase out and by 2024 the match would revert to the current state rate for traditional Medicaid, which is 72-28.

West Virginia has nearly 173,000 people in the expansion.  It’s estimated that the state will have to pay $50 million under the 90-10 match, so a 72-28 split could push the state share to nearly $150 million just for the expansion.

If the state could not afford the additional cost the expanded coverage would be at risk. Supporters of the Senate plan believe those individuals could be shifted to private insurance, but there’s a question whether they could afford it, even with the proposed tax credits.

Capito, along with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, also object to how the Senate plan would impact drug treatment programs, since both come from states battling the opioid epidemic. Phasing out Medicaid expansion would make it harder for addicts to get treatment and the $2 billion included in the Senate plan for drug treatment would be woefully short when spread among all 50 states.

West Virginia has the trifecta of health care problems; we are older, sicker and poorer than most states. Our costs are higher, while a large share of our population can barely pay for day-to-day needs, much less an unexpected medical bill or long-term care.

These are complicated issues.  Obamacare’s overreach triggered the “repeal and replace” movement. That still plays with many, especially those who have seen their premiums and out-of-pocket costs skyrocket.

But the question now is “replace it with what?”  Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul said, “It’s worse to pass a bad bill than to pass no bill.”  That should be the new mantra until lawmakers figure out how to make the Affordable Care Act better.

WV Medicaid Patients Closely Watching U.S. Senate

Despite Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s promises to defend their health care, some folks covered under the Medicaid expansion in West Virginia are frightened by the health care bill in the Senate - and they haven’t even seen it yet.

Capito initially said she would defend the expansion. But more recently, she’s said she would vote for the expansion to be phased out under the Senate legislation now being drafted behind closed doors.

That’s disturbing to Allison McComas from Charleston. She gets emotional remembering what it was like before the Medicaid expansion, when she ran up thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills while working low-paid restaurant jobs.

“People get sick from not having health insurance, and they let it go too long, and they can’t work,” McComas said. “All in all, it makes sense for everybody to have coverage, not just rich people.“

Capito did not respond to requests for comment.

The Free Press WV
Folks like Allison McComas say Medicaid expansion has made a huge difference for them.


She has said she thinks people who enrolled when Medicaid was expanded, such as McComas, should go through a transition period as Medicaid funding is cut. Supporters of the reduced funding call it necessary for the program’s stability.

Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the little information that has been leaked about the Senate bill indicates it generally resembles the one that passed the House. He said both would cut a quarter of Medicaid funding to make room for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and the health care industry.

He said he predicts the Senate bill’s timeline will be slower, but would have the same impact.

“The progress that’s been made with the Medicaid expansion would be lost over time, and then the coverage levels that were even in place pre-Affordable Care Act would be rolled back as well,” Park said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Medicaid cuts in the House bill would cost 14 million people their health coverage. Park said the Senate bill would eventually arrive at the same result.

“With the same outcome as the House bill: that is, very large Medicaid cuts and millions of low-income individuals, who would otherwise be on Medicaid, losing their coverage,” he said.

About 170,000 West Virginians signed up when Medicaid was expanded, one of the highest rates in the country.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Senior Group Promises Strong Opposition to GOP Healthcare Bill

Groups representing doctors, hospitals and people over 50 all are voicing strong opposition to the latest version of the American Health Care Act.
The Free Press WV

The healthcare bill just passed by Republicans in the U.S. House is facing opposition from groups representing doctors, hospitals and seniors.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and AARP all are sharply criticizing the revised American Health Care Act.

The AARP’s David Certner is the legislative counsel and policy director for government affairs.

“We believed we had a bad healthcare bill,“ he says. “Changes this week have only made that bill worse, putting at risk the insurance, and coverage and access to affordable care, for tens of millions of seniors.“

This version of the bill has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, although it estimated the previous bill would have cut 24 million people off of the insurance rolls.

Supporters of the bill as amended say it can now do more to lower the cost of premiums, and it would create and fund high-risk insurance pools for people with preexisting conditions.

Since the bill ends the requirement to cover people with preexisting health conditions, the AMA argues it would make it impossible for most of them to get coverage.

Lina Walker, vice president for public policy at AARP, says her group estimates premiums in the high-risk pools could be nearly $26,000 a year per person. The White House has disputed that figure given the complexity of the insurance market.

But, Walker says other groups’ calculations are similar.

“We didn’t pull a number out of a hat,“ she says. “This is based on real-world data, and it shows that premiums will be exceedingly high, unaffordable to the very people who need the coverage.“

A separate estimate says funding in the legislation would cover just five percent of the 2.2 million people with preexisting conditions now in the individual marketplace.

The bill also repeals some of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular protections against annual and lifetime caps on coverage.

Certner says AARP will continue to express its opposition.

“Town-hall meetings, visits back home, visits here in D.C., Grassroots mailings; we’ve been doing a great deal on social media,“ he adds. “Targeted ads in, I think, roughly 25 to 30 cities around the country.“

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