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



Interested in Writing about Rape Culture

If you interested in sharing about rape culture or reclaiming your voice about sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, there’s an open call for essays to be included in an anthology. Check it out here:


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.

Promising Practices Conference 2014

I’m in Washington DC this week for the the Promising Practices Conference, which is a conference all about healthy living and tobacco-free lifestyles.  Check out my posts from the Break Free Alliance blog!

DAY 1:

Blog #1: Moving From Promise to Practice 

Blog #2: New Frontiers in Tobacco Control: Lessons from a Frontier State


Development of Innovative Strategies to Reach the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community in Tobacco Control

Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H.

Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H.








DAY 2: Coming Soon!

Tobacco Control Prevention and Outreach Program is Working in Nebraska

Throughout the last twelve years, we have been working hard in Nebraska to reduce tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco-related disparities as well as to promote health throughout communities. In Omaha, a number of groups, organizations, and individuals are working together through MOTAC, the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition.

We have had a number of successes including:

  • Tobacco product placement law to put all tobacco products behind the counter
  • Smoke-free air law for Nebraska
  • Increased smoke-free housing options including working towards smoke-free apartments
  • Tobacco-free campus policies for all major hospital systems – Alegent, Creighton, Methodist, and UNMC
  • Tobacco-free grounds organizational policies
  • Outreach to communities that experience a disproportionate burden of tobacco including Latinos, LGBT individuals, and African-Americans

UNMC Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Tobacco Outreach Team:
Ariss Rogel Mendoza, Antonia Correa, and Athena Ramos

Today, we got to meet up with Dr. Scout, the Director of the LGBT Network for Health Equity. We had a great conversation about some of the things that are working with our program. Dr. Scout will be spending the next few days with us teaching us about best practices in tobacco control, outreach to priority populations, and much more.

Here’s a link to Dr. Scout’s recent blog about what’s going on here locally: http://lgbthealthequity.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/nebraska-travelogue-smokeless-diva-drag-pageant/

Lots of work is being done in communities across the state to make our state more healthy and safe for everyone!

Prevention & Public Health Fund Needed to Accomplish the Essential Public Health Services

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 created the Prevention and Public Health Fund to invest in public health and disease prevention.This Fund is a key component of the law’s overall power to help reorient U.S. healthcare system toward prevention and wellness, while also restraining the costs of high prevalence of chronic diseases in our communities.

According to CDC, the Essential Public Health Services provide the fundamental framework of the public health activities that should be undertaken in all communities.  The Essential Services provide a working definition of public health and a guiding framework for the responsibilities of local public health systems.

  1. Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
  2. Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
  3. Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  4. Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
  5. Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
  6. Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
  7. Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
  8. Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
  9. Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
  10. Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

How can Congress refuse the 5-to-1 return on investment prevention affords? If Congress abandons the Prevention Fund, it is forcing local businesses to continue to spend $153 billion each year on chronic diseases that are preventable – monies local businesses could instead be spending to hire more workers, reinvest in the business, and support a vibrant, healthy workforce. Congress needs to be fiscally responsible and support the Prevention Fund so businesses can spend their resources on what matters to them.

Preventing disease and injury in the first place is the smart way to ensure good health. When we use our collective resources to create environments for children and families – neighborhoods, schools, childcare centers, and workplaces – that support health, wellbeing, and safety, that’s when we are at our best in school, at work, and with each other. It simply doesn’t make sense – and is a waste of precious resources – to pay when someone is sick when we could pay much less to be sure they don’t get sick in the first place.