Category Archives: Health

Philadelphia’s “Park Champion” has a New Leader

by Jasmine Bullock

Jamie Gauthier is the new Director of the
Fairmount Park Conservancy

Since 1998, the Fairmount Park Foundation, now the Fairmount Park Conservancy, has invested millions of dollars in the Philadelphia park system. The organization is a “Park Champion” and has been so effective because of its understanding of the importance of parks to our city’s neighborhoods. The Fairmount Park Conservancy takes pride in increasing public awareness of the park’s role in contributing to the health and vibrancy of neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Today the Park Conservancy works very closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to develop and implement projects and programs that support, improve, and enhance Philadelphia’s parks. One of its premier programs is the Oval at the Art Museum that provides not only a play area for children, but also a beer garden and food truck hub for adults over a six week period during the summer. The Conservancy also works closely with community groups and over 115 Friends groups. The Conservancy aids in forming new groups and in sustaining and supporting existing groups dedicated to their neighborhood parks.

As of July 2017, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is under the new leadership of Jamie Gauthier. Gauthier is a native of Philadelphia who began her career at DuPont working in the field of accounting. During that time, she had a desire to do more meaningful work that helped cities and specifically the struggling communities of Philadelphia.

With a growing passion to work intimately with the community, Gauthier embarked on a graduate degree in Urban Studies and Planning from University of Pennsylvania. With a new career focus, Gauthier gave almost ten years of service to the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). LISC is a national non-profit organization that provides capital from private sources to promote and support low income housing projects and community revitalization. Gauthier described LISC as a great place to learn but wished to serve in more of a leadership position.

Gauthier then became the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business network, a “Chamber of Commerce for socially conscious businesses”, as Gauthier describes it. After four years with this group and her recognition of the new potential that the new Philadelphia soda tax would provide, she decided that now was the right time to make a career change.

She made the decision to take the leadership position with the Philadelphia Parks Conservancy in order to take advantage of the Rebuild Initiative that was the direct result of the revenue produced by the soda tax. Rebuild is a $500 million program designed to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreational centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city.

The funds are acquired from both the soda tax and private donations. Gauthier’s vision is to “connect and partner with the city to see the mission come to pass”.

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All School Lunches Are Not Created Equal

by Taylor Sanders-Palmer

It’s that time of year again! The store shelves are stocked with notebooks, binders and Post-Its while colorful and eye-catching banners promote ‘Back to School Deals!’. Parents are certainly aware of the supplies that their children should be taking to school but do they also know what kind of food is being served at lunch time.

Of course its no question that the students in Philadelphia are extremely lucky to receive free breakfast and lunch. Since 2014 the School District has been providing free lunches and breakfast. The free meals programs are covered by the Federal Government and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

DoSomething.org conducted a campaign called ‘Fed Up’ that focused on the quality of food being served to students under the Free and Reduced Lunch Programs. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that these children are receiving food with the correct amount of nutrients so they can function better and be more productive in the classroom. (Various studies have shown there is a strong relationship between healthy nutritious meals and student achievement).

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Members of DoSomething.org, a nationwide youth group, were asked to post pictures of their lunches and vote “would you eat it or toss it?”. The results of this inquiry showed that 70% of school meals were deemed unsatisfactory. Extensive conversations with a few Philadelphia students from various elementary and secondary schools resulted in frank and illuminating comments regarding their cafeteria experiences. The results we received were mixed. Most students complained about taste, but how do you balance good taste with good nutrition.

We are facing ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity as we usher in the start of a new school year. What should (or can) our schools and parents be doing to improve lunch programs in order to help combat the rising numbers of unhealthy students in our classrooms? In 2012, Michelle Obama challenged and encouraged parents and schools to feed children more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods, and to increase their whole grain intake. Many schools in Philadelphia have stepped up to this challenge by partnering with Vetri Community Partnerships whose vision or slogan is HEALTHY BODY + HEALTHY MIND = HEALTHY LIVING. Their mission is to help children and their families live healthier life styles through the use of “fresh food, hands on experience, and education”. More information about this organization’s initiative or about partnering with YOUR child’s school can be found at http://www.vetricommunity.org/. You may also call (215) 600-2630 for additional information.

The Journal is interested in learning what its readers have to say regarding this important issue. What changes (if any) would you like to see implemented regarding the meals and nutritional programs in our schools?

Heart Disease and Nutrition: What You Eat Can Save Your Life

by Dr Albert Hicks III, a Senior Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and in most of the developed world. Cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and hypertension also disproportionally affect African Americans and other minority groups in the US. In my Cardiology practice, patients frequently ask what lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their chance of developing heart disease. For years I would tout the mantra of increasing exercise, quitting smoking, taking the right medications, and healthy eating.

The first three suggestions were easy to sell since the evidence supporting them was so robust. Exercise training has been shown to reduce deaths in people with heart failure and in folks that just had a heart attack. Cigarettes accelerate atherosclerosis and increase cardiovascular deaths, while quitting substantially reduces the risk of death. There are numerous medications such as Aspirin and Statins, that have been shown to reduce mortality in folks with heart disease. The last point regarding a healthy diet has been notoriously difficult to define.

What exactly does ‘eating healthy’ mean? Is it eating exclusively fruits and vegetables? Does it mean a diet high in protein and fat like the Atkins diet? Are carbohydrates a staple in a healthy diet? Or perhaps a diet very low in carbohydrates is healthy?

Unfortunately, at some point all of these diets were in vogue within the medical community. They were recommendations that made common sense. But when studied on a population level, none of these diets demonstrated an improvement in heart disease outcome. Because of the lack of clear cardiac benefit of any particular diet, many fad diets flooded the market. It is no wonder why my patients never know what types of foods they should eat to be healthy. But finally that has all changed.

A Gift from the Mediterranean
For years there has been discussion in the medical community regarding the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The diet represents foods traditionally found in the Mediterranean part of the World, particularly Greece and southern Italy.

But variations of the diet are found in Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Bulkan region. Scientists observed that people who live in these parts of the world suffered from significantly less chronic diseases and had higher life expectancies than their Western counterparts.

What foods comprise the Mediterranean Diet
The following foods are staples in the Mediterranean Diet:
• VEGETABLES
• Fruits
• Cereals, Pasta, Bread
• Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
• OLIVE OIL
• Moderate fish, poultry
• Small amounts of red meat
• Moderate dairy (GREEK YOGURT, cheese)
• Moderate consumption of wine w/ meals

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.28.59 PMThe foods in should be grown and produced locally. Quality of food is heavily stressed over the quantity. Fresh foods are essential to the diet. Lastly, the creators of the diet stress that food should be savored, and enjoyed.
In April 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a ground- breaking dietary study that has transformed my practice. The study examined the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease. The researchers followed over 7400 people who were at high risk of developing heart disease but were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. The participants were then assigned to assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil; a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a Control diet that was low in dietary fat. They followed folks for five years.

The results of the study showed that in people at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events including heart attack, stroke, and death.

This study finally validates a diet that can save lives and reduces the chances of developing heart disease. I now recommend the Mediterranean diet to all of my patients, friends, and family. Additionally I challenge them to change their eating culture: eating as a family, experimenting with new foods, and eating for longer periods of time to truly enjoy the experience.

I challenge anyone that is reading this article to try this diet out. It just one day may save your life.

Health Corner: Glaucoma Awareness Month

By Yvette Burch R.N.

As we move closer to the holiday season, this is an excellent time to remember our own health needs. January is NATIONAL GLAUCOMA AWARENESS MONTH. What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a disease of the eye caused by increased optic pressure which (untreated) can lead to nerve damage and POTENTIAL BLINDNESS. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed.

The two main types of this disease are (1) open angle glaucoma and (2) acute angular closure. Open angle is the most common type. In this type, the structures of the eye are normal, but fluid does not flow properly through the drain of the eye. Angular closure is less common but can cause a sudden buildup of fluid.

Neovascular glaucoma
Neovascular glaucoma (Photo credit: Community Eye Health)

Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea is too narrow. It may also be poor because the pupil is too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the proper flow of fluid through the channel.

Key RISK FACTORS for glaucoma are (1) having a family history of the disease, (2) being over the age of 45. African-Americans have a high incidence of this disease.

f you have health problems such as diabetes, you may need to visit your doctor more frequently (at least once or twice a year). Less common causes of glaucoma could include a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, the blocking of blood vessels in the eye, or inflammatory conditions of the eye. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but may involve each eye to a different extent.

SYMPTOMS of early open angle glaucoma include loss of vision fields, while the loss of ‘side’ vision does not occur until late in the course of the disease. Rarely patients may also experience haziness of vision or see halos around lights, especially in the morning.

The symptoms of acute angular closure are dramatic and include the rapid onset of severe eye
pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, and visual blurring.

GLAUCOMA IS A DISEASE THAT CAN BE CONTROLLED, although nerve damage and visual loss from the disease cannot be reversed. Proper treatment can make eye pressure normal and prevent or stop further nerve damage and visual loss. Treatment may involve eye drops, pills (rarely), laser procedure, or surgery.

Here in the United States the use of eye drops is the standard treatment for both types of glaucoma.

Eye drops are generally taken several times a day and work by decreasing the production of aqueous fluid or by increasing the drainage of fluid out of the eye. Each type of therapy has its benefits and potential complications.

While primary open angle glaucoma cannot be prevented, optic nerve damage and visual loss can be prevented by early diagnosis, effective treatment, and compliance with treatment. Secondary types of glaucoma can often be prevented by the avoidance of trauma to the eye and by obtaining immediate treatment of eye inflammation and other diseases of the eye or body that may cause other forms of this disease.

The FUTURE treatment of glaucoma will be based on new eye drops which will continue to become available. Some drops will be new classes of agents while other drops will combine existing agents in one bottle to improve effectiveness and lower costs.

Researchers are especially interested in finding new ways to help those patients who seem to be having progressive nerve damage and loss of vision even though they have normal eye (ocular) pressure. If these new studies in eye drops can be shown to protect the optic nerve from the damage caused by glaucoma, this would be a great advance in preventing blindness.

Educating the public about this disease together with treatment is our best hope to reduce vision loss. For more information about glaucoma visit the Wills Wye website at http://www.willseye.org/glaucoma -service