10 Tips to Help Your Children Develop Healthy Habits

HeartMonth-300x218Since February is heart health month, it’s important for us to remember some easy ways that we can help our families to stay healthy, especially our children. Please check out my blog on LiveWell Omaha Kids this month for some easy tips to make health a priority in your home.


I would also encourage you to become an advocate for the American Heart Association (AHA). Their mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. I’m grateful for the work that they do everyday to help make our communities healthier for all. Check out their website for more information on heart disease and stroke: www.heart.org.

To become an advocate, sign up at: You’re the Cure


Community Gardening: A Great Way to Build Community

 Community gardens are usually gardened collectively by a group of people. They are places where neighbors can congregate, interact, and learn from one another. Gardens are open spaces to grow food, recreate, and relax. They play an important role in beautifying the neighborhood and help in building community by bringing neighbors together. There are so many benefits to community gardening like eating fresh fruits and vegetables; engaging in physical activity; building skills; creating green space; beautifying vacant lots; revitalizing communities in industrial areas; reviving and beautifying public parks; decreasing violence in some neighborhoods; and improving social well-being through strengthening social connections.

As I learn more about community gardening, I am amazed at the movement across the country. According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are over 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada. There are numerous community gardens through the Omaha metropolitan area; however, no community gardens exist in South Omaha.

Understanding the community and appropriate messaging strategies is imperative for designing any community initiative especially those that require community participation and engagement, such as a community garden. Currently, there is a community planning team to develop a community garden in South Omaha. We invite you to participate in a short survey to share your opinions about community gardening: South Omaha Community Garden Survey.

Speaking of Making a Difference…TEDxUNO

This week, I have the privilege to speak at TEDxUNO! The event is to foster learning, inspiration and wonder and provoke conversations that matter around the central theme of community. I am super excited and it’s already sold out. Yeah! I will be speaking to make a difference with 400 people.


I support the American Heart Association and you should too!

Athena & DaddyI’m lucky to have a healthy heart, but others in my family are not. Heart disease runs in my family. When I was only 10 years old, my Dad had a heart attack. As a child, this had a tremendous effect on me.  He ended up in the hospital with not just one bypass, but five. I remember walking into the ICU after his surgery and being so scared that I might lose my Daddy. We were lucky. He recovered thanks to a wonderful team of professionals and support from our family, but his heart attack changed our lives. We became more conscious of the foods that we ate, made sure to get some exercise, and learned a lot more about heart health.

Later, I had the great opportunity to work for Dr. Syed Mohiudden.  This was an incredible gift for me because I got to give back to the person who, in my mind, saved by Dad’s life many years before.  Part of my job at the Cardiac Center was to educate community members about heart health, especially the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke, and work toward policies that improve and protect people’s lives.  I continue to work in public health now at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the UNMC College of Public Health and have a passion for cardiovascular health.

Knowing heart disease so closely has made me aware of how it affects entire families.  In addition to my Dad, my sister Angie, Uncle Israel, and cousin Tony have all had heart bypass surgery too.  We now know that our family carries a genetic predisposition to heart disease, Lipoprotein(a). I want to be part of the cure – keeping my family safe and healthy and making my community a better place for all by educating others about health lifestyles and advocating for policies that promote health, justice and well-being.

AHA holds a special place in my heart for the work that they do in providing accurate health information, funding vital research, and advocating for policies that really matter. Thanks for all you do!

Please help me in supporting the work of the AHA. As we come upon Heart Health Month in February, I hope that you will remember my story; maintain a heart healthy lifestyle; and be part of the Cure!

Check out this story on the AHA’s You’re the Cure website.

5 basic skills of power, and how you can learn to use them


Eric Liu is on a mission to make civics “as sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement.” As he describes in today’s TED Talk (watch: Why ordinary people need to understand power), we are at a moment of crisis in the United States. The average person simply doesn’t know how to participate in local government, and this means that clout is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of the few who do. Liu’s solution to this imbalance? That we teach everyone the basic skills of power.

As the people of Ferguson, Missouri, stand up against police brutality, the topic of how to take back civic power is on many minds. Through Citizen University, Liu is creating a shared curriculum of power that will be available soon. In the meantime, he offers up several basic skills it will include, to help anyone interested in influencing change right now.

Skill #1: Understand the system.

“Before you…

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The first TEDx in Cuba: An event in Habana, two years in the making

TED Blog

A rooftop view of Habana, Cuba, which just welcomed its first TEDx event. Photo: Courtesy of Andres Levin A rooftop view of Habana, Cuba, which just welcomed its first TEDx event. Photo: Courtesy of Andres Levin

By Jenny Groza

Habana, Cuba, which was called “the rich man’s playground” before World War II, now evokes an air of mystery—a giant question mark. Are there still midcentury cars roaming the streets? Blighted neighborhoods with broken windows and collapsing roofs? Citizens eking out a living after years of oppression?

These, says Andres Levin, the organizer of TEDxHabana, are common misconceptions about what life in Cuba is actually like. “There’s a thriving arts and music scene, and people are figuring out how to use technology, considering the obvious limitations,” he says. “The TEDx format is allowing us to bring these like-minded people together.”

In 2012, Levin and and his wife, CuCu Diamantes, applied for a TEDx license to hold an event in Habana, Cuba — the first TEDx event in the…

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Recognized For A Job Well Done: Gold U

UNMC Chancellor, Dr. Gold, Athena Ramos, and Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Dr. Su

UNMC Chancellor, Dr. Gold, Athena Ramos, and Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Dr. Su

Recently, I was recognized with the Gold U award. This is the highest honor given at UNMC for consistent oustanding service to the University and excellent performance.  I thank those who nominated me for this award.  I also thank UNMC for the wonderful opportunities that I have been given to learn, to lead, and to excel! I’m proud to be part of the team.


I will continue to work hard forging new partnerships, developing innovative programming, and advocating for social change.  I believe in equity and building capacity to improve life for all.

An article was published in UNMC Today about this award.  Follow the link to find out more: Athena Ramos Gold U Winner


A Cambio de Colores in the Midwest

Cambio.  What is cambio?  Well, it’s a change.  Colores.  Well, that means colors.  Why are we talking about a change of colors?  Because our Midwestern communities are changing in many respects and  we are witnesses to demographic shifts.

  • Nebraska has some of the country’s fastest growing communities of color, and our Hispanic/Latino population has nearly doubled since the 2000 U.S. Census.
  • Currently, almost 10% of Nebraska’s population is of Hispanic/Latino descent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 population estimate), and it is predicted that the number of Hispanic/Latinos in the state will more than triple by the year 2050 due to not just to migration/immigration, but also natural change.
  • According to the Pew Hispanic Trust, approximately 2.4% of Nebraska’s population is unauthorized.

This week, I’m at the Cambio de Colores Conference, which serves as a unique venue to share, learn, discuss, and identify critical areas where the development of information and promising practices will facilitate the successful transition of newcomers into communities large and small.  I believe that being able to integrate newcomers into the fabric of our communities is going to be imperative for the growth and prosperity of the state.  A hostile reception to newcomers and immigrants  will not move communities forward.  In fact, hostile receiving communities:

  • Contribute to the reduction in public safety by increasing fear of police making individuals less likely to contact law enforcement (Ford Foundation, Insecure Communities, 2013)
  • Decrease physical and mental health status by increasing stress levels and feelings of isolation
  • Perpetuate cycles of inequality

According to the Ford Foundation, “A growing number of aggressive local measures attempting to restrict every aspect of life, including housing, education and employment, push immigrants into a marginalized existence.”  Educating receiving communities on the economic benefits of immigration and the reality of globalization may help in dispelling the myths and stereotypes related with immigration.  We need to work together to build strong, vibrant healthy communities for all.

Did you know that there are already 62 cities in the U.S. that have Latino majority populations “Pueblos” as J.S. Onesimo Sandoval labels them, and there are 397 burgeoning pueblos within the next 5-15 years.

What are the characteristics of successful pueblos?  What are these communities doing right that other communities can learn from in terms of integrating newcomers?   How can we work across differences in color, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and other divides to create communities of promise for all?