Category Archives: Live Well Stories

Supporting Brain Health with the Alzheimer’s Association

alzheimer's associationAlzheimer’s disease is increasingly recognized as a public health crisis. According to the former U.S. Surgeon General and CDC Director, Dr. David Satcher, “Alzheimer’s is the most under-recognized threat to public health in the 21st Century.” Communities around the country, including Allegheny County, are taking a public health approach to this disease due to the large burden, major impact, and opportunity for intervention.

The burden is large: The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to increase from five million to 14 million by 2050. Not only is it the most expensive disease in the US, it also accounts for more deaths each year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

The impact is major: Alzheimer’s impacts more than just the individual diagnosed; families, healthcare providers, and community members are all affected by the emotional, physical and dollar costs of this disease. Additionally, 95% of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias have at least one other chronic condition. Dementia can complicate management of co-occurring conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.

The opportunity for intervention: Communities are focusing on early detection and diagnosis, reducing risky health behaviors, collecting and using surveillance data, developing workforce competencies, and mobilizing partnerships such as our Live Well Allegheny partner, Alzheimer’s Association of Pittsburgh.

To reduce health behaviors that increased the risk for dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association is spreading awareness of the heart-brain connection. The heart and brain are closely linked — harm or damage to one can affect the other. For example, when blood pumps to the brain, there is a complex network of blood vessels that delivers nutrients and oxygen to brain cells. High blood pressure can damage, narrow, and scar these blood vessels over time. When this happens, parts of the brain may become damaged due to lack of oxygen and nutrients and this can result in cognitive/brain decline.  So, high blood pressure increases the risk for both heart disease and dementia.  also increases your risk for Similarly, obesity increases the risk of both heart disease and brain’s health.

While there is no way to definitively prevent Alzheimer’s disease, adopting key lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of illness of the brain and the heart.

What ten lifestyle habits help maintain brain health?

  1. Participate in regular cardiovascular exercise
  2. Education – keep learning
  3. Quit smoking
  4. Manage blood pressure and diabetes
  5. Reducing risk of falls
  6. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  7. Get enough sleep
  8. Manage mental health and stress
  9. Remain socially engaged
  10. Challenge your mind with play and games

For more information on efforts in our community, please contact: Sara Murphy at smurphy@alz.org. For additional information and support please contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 helpline at 1.800.272.3900.

For resources about Alzheimer’s and the heart-brain connection, please view:

https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/healthy-brain-initiative-protecting-heart-and-brain.pdf

https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health/10_ways_to_love_your_brain

https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures

https://www.alz.org/professionals/public-health/the-public-health-approach

https://www.alz.org/professionals/public-health/core-areas/brain-health-risk-reduction

National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is teaming up with the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) to launch the Move Your Way campaign. For the second consecutive year, the theme is Active and Healthy.

This month, the observance looks a lot different than past promotions as our nation navigates a global pandemic. We are advised to self-quarantine, and the phrase social distancing is now a household name. Students are studying with screens, and adults are juggling families and work from home, here in Allegheny County and across the country. All of these factors increase anxiety and stress and decrease opportunities for physical activities. Live Well Allegheny and the REACH initiative wants to keep families safe and healthy during this time. So this April, we are highlighting how you can stay active even if you stay at home.

We are joined by local and national partners working together to improve health outcomes and highlight the benefits of incorporating small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity into our schedules as recommended by the 2nd edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Simple changes to one’s daily routine can transform lives and reduce the risk of chronic diseases and other conditions that often are more common or severe among racial and ethnic minority groups.

Although there are behavior changes that we can do to improve personal and community health outcomes, there are also system changes that must take place to truly bring about equity to ensure that you have a quality life no matter what zip code you reside in. That you have access to healthcare, hospitals, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and transportation. The first step is calling out the inequities occurring and recommending solutions to the problem.

Recently, the Allegheny County Health Department and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health worked to do just that and issued a series of equity briefs to bring attention to inequities and disparities related to five focus areas, including chronic disease. They looked at how race, education and income influence one’s health and access to information and services. This month, we’re promoting the problem and seeking solutions.

Gyms like Freedom Fitness Facility may be closed to the public, but they are open online. Owner Charles Cook is churning out a home fitness series on his Facebook Page. You can get active with regular workouts. The videos are approximately 12-15 minutes long and use lightweight dumbbells or exercise bands, however, most sessions do not require equipment.

REACH partners are getting in on the online action! Robert Boatright of Grind Hard Training produced a Quarantine Workout series on YouTube and is providing live workouts, including spin classes and family fitness, via Zoom.

The Be Healthy and Smart Initiative (BHS) created by Pittsburgh Obama Academy PTSA is taking steps to help Obama students and the community get fit and healthy. The Facebook Page features self-quarantine yoga workouts and hip hop classes.
You can also download popular apps, such as Sworkit, which was co-founded by Black Enterprise’s 2015 Techpreneur Ben Young. Sworkit provides customized 5-60 minute strength, pilates and stretching workouts that require no equipment. Another app geared at the African-American community is GrpFit. The app offers customized workouts, on-demand classes, and a fitness community for people of color.

#REACH4Allegheny: Coronavirus & Food Access

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing families to stockpile supplies. But what happens when you don’t have access to healthy foods during the statewide stay-at-home orders? The Allegheny County Health Department and the REACH initiative, a coalition working to eliminate health inequities and reduce chronic disease in African-American communities, is working to address this concern.

Last year, REACH, a CDC funded initiative, began to devise a nutrition strategy through partnerships with Allegheny County’s Health and Economic Development Departments, The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC, The Food Trust, Just Harvest, Healthy Start and the Pittsburgh Black Breastfeeding Circle. Although the work was unrelated to the current crisis, the partners began to lay the groundwork for feeding more families and residents experiencing food insecurity. Here are some of the activities happening amongst REACH partners.

The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council 

The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council is sharing key resources for people, non-profits, businesses across the food system. Click here to get connected or visit their Facebook page for additional updates. The Facebook page links to a searchable map of food resources available, including school grab and go sites and food pantries.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank continues to monitor the development of COVID-19 and take proactive steps to protect the community. Due to the logistics and observation of social distancing regulations, those in need of food can rely on the large network of food pantries. Find a pantry in your neighborhood at pittsburghfoodbank.org/get-help/locator/. You can stay up to date with announcements like new distributions or deliveries by following the Food Bank on Facebook.

Just Harvest 

Just Harvest is issuing a call to action to the public to urge state officials to swiftly adopt key measures to protect working families and other vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can sign the petition and read about other activations on their website. Just Harvest is also reacting to the pandemic on Facebook with a Covid-19 Response Phonebank.

Food Preparation Tips

If you are supplementing donation supplies with trips to the grocery store, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends only purchasing a one week supply.  The guidelines take into consideration that even when freight flow is not interrupted, grocery stores need time to restock. Residents can assess what they already have in stock and check expiration dates. Prepare a shopping list, which includes staples and produce with longer shelf life, like potatoes, onions and citrus fruit. Also, consider salt alternatives, such as dried herbs or spices, to watch your sodium intake on a diet based on shelf-stable, nonperishable foods.  REACH partners are committed to helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle during these uncertain times.

 

#REACH4Allegheny: REACH Initiative Launches in Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Health Department is teaming up with local and national partners to address disparities in African-American communities. The REACH program, a CDC-funded initiative, aims to achieve health equity and prevent chronic diseases in the East End (East Hills, Garfield, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Wilkinsburg), Hill District, Mon Valley (Clairton, North Versailles, Duquesne, McKeesport, North Braddock, Rankin) and the Northside. Through a diverse coalition, more than 25 partners will increase access to healthy foods and physical activities. Partners will also provide breastfeeding supports.

In addition to individual behavioral changes that improve personal and community health outcomes, there are also changes that must take place within systems, such as healthcare, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and transportation, to truly bring about equity and ensure that residents live well, regardless of their zip codes or race.

The REACH coalition has examined various local inequities, related to nutrition, physical activity, and access to care. Over the next five years, the coalition will focus efforts on healthy food policies; new or improved pedestrian, bike and transit routes; and, a pharmacist navigation and referral program.

Evaluator and Technical Consultant:

  • University of Pittsburgh

Partners:

  • Allegheny County Economic Development Department
  • Duquesne University School of Pharmacy
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  • Healthy Start, Inc.
  • Just Harvest
  • Pittsburgh Black Breastfeeding Circle
  • Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
  • Healthy Start
  • The Food Trust
  • YMCA
  • UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • + Dozens of Community Partners

Nutrition

REACH coalition members will work to increase the number of places offering healthier food in African-American communities through helping small businesses and corner stores buy healthy foods, creating nutrition guidelines for key organizations, increasing EBT/SNAP access at Farmers’ Markets and Farm Stands; and increasing breastfeeding support.

 

Physical Activity

The REACH coalition will increase access to opportunities for physical activity for African-American residents of all ages. Plus the coalition will work to make communities more walking and biking friendly.

Community-Clinical LInkages

The REACH project is expanding the use of pharmacist navigators to increase referrals to, and access to community-based health programs. Community residents may participate in health screenings and preventive care programs offered by the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy and the YMCA, all at no cost. Additionally, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is educating healthcare providers on food insecurity.

The REACH initiative bridges the gap between government, schools, churches, nonprofits and community members. The ultimate goal is to invest resources and programming into African-Americans neighborhoods, to promote optimal health and living well. 

Each month, we will share information on Live Well Allegheny, including tips, recipes, resources, free events and more.

A to B: Transportation Options

According to the American Public Transportation Association, people use some form of public transportation 34 million times each weekday in the U.S. In Allegheny County, there are many options for transportation; however, navigating those options can be hard. A to B is an online tool designed to help riders find inclusive and accessible transportation options that meet their personal preferences, abilities, and needs. Developed by transportation providers and advocates in the Transportation Working Group, including Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh a Live Well Allegheny community partner, the tool currently includes 28 options from 20 transportation providers.

A to B is free, voluntary, and anonymous. To use A to B, visit www.AtoBAllegheny.com, answer a short survey of questions, and get matched to possible transportation options. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. Users should be sure to answer all applicable questions to receive the best results. A to B will not map specific trips, but rather find the best connection to options for riders.

If you have questions about A to B or would like help using the tool, call (412) 562-5104 (TTY 711), Monday-Friday from 8AM to 5PM or leave a message after hours. Transportation providers can also call this number to be listed in the tool.

We’re excited about the addition of this tool in our region. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that access to transportation supports health and reduces healthcare costs. Ensuring that all residents of Allegheny County can get from point A to point B can have a profound positive impact on health and wellness.

Learn more about this topic and the A to B Tool with these resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/transportation/

https://myaccessride.com/a-to-b/

https://www.atoballegheny.com/#targetText=A%20to%20B%20is%20a,leave%20a%20message%20after%20hours.

https://pittsburghseniornews.com/2019/07/04/launch-of-a-to-b-an-online-tool-to-find-transportation-options/

https://www.apta.com/news-publications/public-transportation-facts/

Clairton Education Center celebrated the start of summer with Summer Food Program Kickoff!

At the beginning of June, the Clairton Education Center, a Live Well Allegheny School, celebrated the beginning of summer with a Summer Food Program kickoff event. The kickoff event was held during the last week of school and provided families with information about the Summer Food Service Program. Participants enjoyed a cookout and activities for families and children. Several organizations including Economic Development South, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Allegheny County Health Department, and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh provided health and safety activities for children during the event.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a national program of the USDA that provides free meals to kids in the summer months. SFSP ensures that low-income children receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Through the program, local sponsors like churches and community organizations provide meals and activities to children ages 18 and under.

Allegheny County boasts nearly 300 distribution sites. The distribution sites, which range from churches to parks, provide free summer meals and fun activities to Allegheny County youth throughout the summer months. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s SFSP outreach initiative seeks to increase participation in the program by offering information, best practices, marketing support, and technical assistance to local sites.

Anyone 18 and under can attend Summer Food Program sites throughout the summer. Wondering how you can find a summer food site near you? To find a site in your neighborhood, text “FOOD” to 877-877 or call 2-1-1 for the United Way hotline to hear site locations and meal schedules. You can also visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder to find a site in your community.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Learn Tips and Tricks for Preventing Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Did you know that Lyme Disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 300,000 people contract the disease every year with most cases occurring in the northeastern region of the country. The disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by the blacklegged tick.

With some preparation, you can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from tick bites and Lyme Disease. Ticks are most active during the warmer months, and the chance of being bitten by a tick is greatest from May-September. Before going outdoors, know where to expect ticks and avoid those areas, pretreat clothing and gear, and use insect repellent. Ticks live in grassy, wooded areas. When walking through the woods, stay in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter. Clothing and shoes can be treated with permethrin. Spraying clothes and shoes with permethrin can be one of the most effective techniques for preventing tick bites. Additionally, some insect repellents can help protect you from tick bites. Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s insect repellent search tool to find the right repellent for ticks.

Ticks can be carried into the house on clothing, gear, and pets. Check your clothing and gear and remove any ticks that are found. Shower soon after being outdoors. Consider drying clothes in a tumble dryer on high heat for 10 minutes which will kill ticks. It is essential to check your body for ticks after being outside. Conduct a full body check and remove any ticks within 24 hours if possible. Check the following parts of your body:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Behind the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Following these steps will ensure that you and your family are protected from tick bites while enjoying time outdoors. For more information about ticks and Lyme Disease from our ACHD vector-borne illness team, please visit: http://bit.ly/ACHDLyme.

Live Well Allegheny partners, Red Lantern Bike Shop and Braddock Carnegie Library, collaborated to install an outdoor bike repair stand

One of the goals of Live Well Allegheny is to involve partners from all sectors—nonprofit, public, and private – in our campaign to make Allegheny County the healthiest county. Through our extensive community partner network, we aim to promote health and wellness in a variety of organizations. We also encourage our partners to work together to expand their work on health and to reach different communities. Two of our Live Well Allegheny partners, the Red Lantern Bike Shop and the Braddock Carnegie Library, provide an example of the power of connections with their recent collaboration on an outdoor bike repair stand.

The Red Lantern Bike Shop partnered with the Braddock Carnegie Library to install an outdoor bike repair stand at the library located in Braddock. The outdoor bike repair stand allows community members to put air in their tires for free and perform as-needed repairs to their bicycles. The free resource is a powerful tool for community members who use bicycles for transportation and recreation. Funding for the project was provided by PeopleForBikes.

The Red Lantern, which operates with a team of volunteers, provides free bicycle repairs and free bikes to children in the community. Currently run out of a repurposed shipping container, the bike shop provides free repairs, charging only for parts that need to be ordered. Additionally, part of the mission of the shop is to provide free bikes to kids whose families may not be able to afford a new bike. Volunteers collect used bicycles, fix them, and distribute them to families with children. Due to limited space and capacity, the Red Lantern is currently only open on Saturday mornings.

To expand the free resources provided by the bike shop, the Red Lantern partnered with the Braddock Carnegie Library to provide a space that is open 24/7 for bike repairs. The outdoor space provides access to an air pump and other tools that are required for bike repairs. By partnering with a popular community resource like Braddock Carnegie Library, the Red Lantern can serve more people in the community.

Do you know of an organization that would make a good Live Well Allegheny community partner? Spread the word! Organizations can find more information and apply here.

Pittsburgh Public Schools, a Live Well Allegheny School District celebrates National School Breakfast Week with Poster Competition

Did you know the National School Breakfast Program services over 14 million children every school day? National School Breakfast Week is a weeklong celebration of the National School Breakfast Program, a federal nutrition program that provides funding to states to provide breakfast in schools and residential childcare facilities. This year, National School Breakfast Week is March 4-8, 2019. The week highlights the importance of school breakfast for academic achievement and health. School breakfast has been shown to positively impact students’ academic achievement and health. Students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, and standardized achievement scores.

To celebrate National School Breakfast Week, Pittsburgh Public Schools, a Live Well Allegheny School District, led the Pittsburgh Breakfast Poster Competition with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office, Share Our Strength, and Live Well Allegheny. The poster competition was open to all grade levels and awarded a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner for grades k-2, 3-5, and 6-12, as well as two top finalists overall. Posters were judged based on artistic ability, creativity, and messaging about the importance of school breakfast. Students learned about the benefits of eating breakfast at school and created posters during their art classes. The winning posters will be displayed in the schools, and the winners’ homerooms will receive a culinary demonstration by Adagio Health. The judging panel consisted of representatives from the Allegheny County Executive’s Office, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Health Department, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Share Our Strength, Adagio Health, and American Dairy Association North East.

The winners were announced during a press conference held at Colfax Elementary on March 8th. City of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet awarded the top finalists for excellent artistic demonstrations of the positive impact that school breakfast has on the body and mind.

School breakfast is a priority for many school districts and organizations working with schools in Allegheny County. In 2016, Governor Wolf set a goal of having 60 percent of students enrolled in free and reduced-lunch participate in school breakfast by 2020 in Setting the Table: A Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA. A new report, Breakfast Basics 2019 Update, published by Allies for Children and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank indicates Allegheny County schools are on track to meet Governor Wolf’s goal. According to the report, the implementation of alternative models for serving school breakfast have been successful in bolstering school breakfast participation in five districts in the county. Additionally, 22 schools in Allegheny County have received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to implement or expand alternative breakfast programs. Currently, 12 school districts in the county have 60 percent of students eating both breakfast and lunch at school. While some districts struggle with participation, alternative models offer additional ways for students to get the benefits of school breakfast.

Live Well Allegheny and partners wrap up multi-year funded project, expand work with new project aimed at improving health in African American/Black communities

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. American Heart Month, observed in February, provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of heart problems, and to promote healthy behaviors to prevent and reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders. Typically, public health officials point to three major behavior changes that can reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases: eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and quitting smoking. However, in public health, we also know that there can be barriers to access healthy foods and finding opportunities for physical activity opportunities. For many of our neighbors, eating healthy and exercising regularly is easier said than done.

At Live Well Allegheny, we work to ensure that all Allegheny County residents can lead healthy lives. In December 2018, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) wrapped up a multi-year funding opportunity from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to enhance the strategy of Live Well Allegheny and improve health across the county. Live Well Allegheny was expanded through strategic partnerships with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Just Harvest, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED), and RAND Health to increase access to healthy food options and physical activity opportunities, and survey health behaviors with the goal of improving overall health of county residents.

To learn more about the collective impact of this project, check out our interactive story map!  You can also click here to view an infographic about the project that was created by RAND Health.

The success of the Richard King Mellon Foundation project led to a new funding opportunity to expand the work with a focus on health equity. In September 2018, ACHD was awarded a five-year national grant, Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), from the CDC. The new project aims to enhance health equity in Allegheny County by addressing chronic disease risk factors in African American/Black populations living in six high-risk target communities. The new funding will allow ACHD to continue to address healthy equity and chronic disease risk factors by collaborating with community-based organizations. ACHD looks forward to another five years of prioritizing equitable access to health to ensure that all our residents can lead long, healthy lives.