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Hartford Receives Federal Grant for Teen Pregnancy


HARTFORD — Despite a 20 percent decline in teen births over the past five years, Hartford still has a teen birth rate that is higher than the national average.

Thanks to a new grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, Hartford will have financial support for a new teen pregnancy prevention program. The $4,999,995 five-year grant will support a replicated evidence-based program in Hartford within the Hartford Health and Human Services Department.

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra announced on Tuesday that Hartford is one of 50 cities across the country to be awarded a grant under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health  Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

Despite a 20 percent decline in teen births over the past five years, Hartford still has a teen birth rate that is higher than the national average. The grant will focus heavily on a partnership with Hartford Public Schools, local service providers and clinics, city official said.

The funding will also focus on implementing programs in schools, clinics, and community-based settings to allow adolescents and teenagers to receive multiple medically accurate, age appropriate, evidence-based services during their adolescence. Vulnerable youth, such as those in foster care, juvenile detention, expectant and parenting teens, and older youth will be served through this initiative.

“The City of Hartford Department of Health and Human Services has played an active and successful role in Teen Pregnancy Prevention since 2010,”  said Mayor Segarra. “This funding, and partnership with key agencies, will help Hartford to continue providing the level of expertise and services to youth and those most in need throughout the city.”

The U.S. HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence –Based Initiative provides an opportunity for a broad range of programs to have a lasting impact on reducing teen pregnancy, HIV and STI’s among middle school and high school youth across the nation. For a list of all grant winners visit U.S. HHS Office of Adolescent Health 2015 Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Grants.

 

For questions regarding this initiative or other teen pregnancy prevention questions, please contact Carmen Chaparro at chapc001@hartford.gov or visit www.urlifeurchoice.org.

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Obama Tackles Climate Change in Graduation Speech at U.S. Coast Guard Academy


By Ann-Marie Adams, White House Correspondent

NEW LONDON — In his commencement speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, President Barack Obama addressed the issue of climate change, saying there has been too much equivocation in Congress about a dramatic change to the climate, which has implications for national security.

 
Obama called on Congress to direct attention to proposals that have already engendered much debate.
“I know there are some folks back in Washington, who refuse to admit that climate change is real,” he said to more than 200 graduating cadets. “Denying it or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security.”

 
Obama also catalogued the impact of climate change, emphasizing the issue at the core of each cadet’s mission, whether it’s cleaning up ravaged coastlines or intercepting drug traffickers from Latin America, the Caribbean or Europe. The newly commissioned ensigns will, he said, will soon be working with refugees from flooded and drought stricken countries, helping to open oil drilling plants and dealing with weather related disasters.

 
The location for his address about climate change was fittingly in one of Connecticut’s coastal communities, where Super Storm Sandy devastated the New England coast in 2012, causing $394.3 million in damages.

 
Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states on the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine.
“The science is indisputable,” Obama said. “The planet is getting warmer….The world’s glaciers are melting.”

 
Last year, the president also outlined a series of plans he has pushed to restrict carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, promote “clean energy” production such as wind and solar projects and increase federal protection of public lands, saying climate change is a threat to homeland security. As a result, he recently announced the country’s intention to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to cut carbon pollution and strengthen developing countries’ resilience.

 
Obama is scheduled to travel to Paris in December for a Climate Summit to discuss a global accord limiting greenhouse gases. The U.S. has already committed to reduce carbon emissions by 2025.

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Gardening Expert: Grow Your Best Tomato Yet


By Melinda Myers, Contributor
Nothing beats the flavor of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. Make this your biggest and tastiest tomato harvest yet with proper planting and care.
Reduce pest problems and increase the harvest by growing your tomatoes in a sunny location with well-drained soil or in a quality potting mix for container gardens. Improve your garden soil by adding several inches of organic matter to the top eight to twelve inches of soil prior to planting. Compost, aged manure, and other organic materials help improve drainage in heavy clay soil and increase the water holding ability of sandy soil.
Add a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) according to label directions at planting. Slow release fertilizers provide a constant diet that is better for your plants and less work for you. Save yourself more time by mixing the fertilizer into the soil when incorporating the organic matter. Then give your plants a midseason boost as needed.
Once the soil is prepared, wait for the air and soil to warm to plant your tomatoes. Planting too early when the soil is still cool and the nights are chilly can stress the plant and delay your harvest.
Plant your tomatoes slightly deeper or in a trench for better rooting. Trench tomatoes by digging a shallow trench about 3 to 4 inches deep. Remove the lower leaves and lay the plant on its side in the hole. Roots will eventually form along the stem. Carefully bend the stem, so the upper leaves will be above the soil. Fill the trench with soil and water.
Stake or tower your tomatoes to reduce insect and disease problems and make harvesting easier. The type of tomato and your schedule will help determine the training system that works best for you.
Determinate tomatoes (look for the D on the tag) grow a certain height and stop. They work well in towers, containers or even hanging baskets. Indeterminate tomatoes, labeled with an I, keep growing taller, producing more flowers and fruit until the end of the growing season. These do best when grown on tall sturdy stakes or extra tall strong towers.
Towering tomatoes is easy. Simply place the tower over the tomatoes at planting. Tomatoes grown in towers produce a larger, but later harvest than staked tomato plants.
Allow a bit more time if you decide to stake your plants. Place the stake in the ground at planting. Be careful not to injure the roots. As the plants begin to grow prune off all side branches, suckers, that develop between the main stem and leaves. Loosely tie the remaining one or two stems to the stake. Cloth strips, twine or other soft ties work well. Keep tying up the plants as they continue to grow. Staked tomatoes produce the earliest and smallest harvest.
Check new plantings every few days and water often enough to keep the developing root system moist. Reduce frequency as plants become established. Water established plants thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist. Mulch the soil with evergreen needles, shredded leaves or other organic mulch to keep the soil consistently moist and suppress weeds. Consistent soil moisture encourages more flowering and fruiting, while reducing the risk of blossom end rot, cracking and misshapen fruit.
Harvest your tomatoes when fully colored. Leave them on the plant an extra 5 or 6 days for even better flavor. Unfortunately, the animals often move in and feast on the ripening fruit. In this case, you may need to finish ripening tomatoes indoors.
And once you taste that first red ripe tomato, you’ll be looking for more sunny spots for containers or to expand your garden.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook.

Photo Courtesy of Melinda Myers, LLC.

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Study: Racism a Driving Factor in High Black Mortality Rates


An Internet study by University of Maryland researchers found higher Black mortality rates occur in areas that exhibit the most intense levels of racism.

The study, “Association Between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality,” monitored the proportion of Google searches in a given area including the N-word to determine the level of racism of that particular region, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported.

David Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead author of the study, called the disparity in health and disease among races a “significant public health concern” largely attributable to racism.

“Research suggests that racism is a major culprit that contributes to the gap in mortality between blacks and whites,” Chae said, the Journal reported. “Our study points to the utility of an Internet-search based measure to monitor racism at the area-level and assess its impact on mortality.”

While the researchers noted that it is unlikely all searches using the term were made by racists, they determined “areas with a greater concentration of these searches have higher levels of racism overall,” according to the Journal.

The study was published online by the Public Library of Science.

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Hartford Schools Receive ESL Grant


Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

About 2,000 of Hartford’s young English learners and their families will receive new resources and assistance to “positively impact their literacy and academic outcomes,” city officials announced on Tuesday.

Thanks to a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund and a $100,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Hartford Public Schools serve more ELs than any other Connecticut district, with 17 percent of its students identified as ELs in 2012-13 and 40 percent from homes where English is not the primary language. Officials said.

This effort addresses a need to prepare teachers and leaders in the earliest grades of school to provide English learners with effective instruction and support and to provide families with culturally sensitive and concrete information in their own language on how to promote their children’s learning.

The project will help to create a more coordinated system for young English learners and their families and create greater continuity in supporting these students as they transition from preschool to early elementary grades to increase their opportunities for school readiness and success

Officials said the program is aligned with the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards, Common Core English Language Arts, and Next Generation Science Standards.
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Local Farms to Benefit from USDA Project


HARTFORD — Connecticut is one of eight states selected by the United States Department of Agriculture to participate in the pilot project to buy fruits and vegetables for school meals.

The program is provided for under the federal Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill. Under the program, Connecticut will be able to increase its purchases of locally-grown fruits and vegetables for its state-assisted school meal program.

Officials said this is great news for local farmers and the economy because the state is home to a large farming community.

Nationally, USDA Foods – provided by the USDA to schools – make up about 20 percent of the foods served in schools. States use their USDA Foods allocation to select items from a list of 180 products including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, rice, low fat cheese, beans, pasta, flour and other whole grain products.

This pilot program will allow the selected states to use some of their USDA Foods allocation to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables directly, instead of going through the USDA Foods program.

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UConn Begins New Stem Cell Research


STORRS — The University of Connecticut recently announced a new stem cell research collaboration in the field of rare disease with Cheshire, CT-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The collaboration will expand on the work of Dr. David J. Goldhamer, Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology and Associate Director of the UConn Stem Cell Institute.

Dr. Goldhamer has identified the offending progenitor cell type that drives the pathology of a group of diseases and has developed physiologically relevant disease models. These models will be used to further understand the pathophysiology of these disorders and to test potential therapeutics.

“This collaboration targets unmet medical needs for patients while demonstrating the vitality of the life science community in Connecticut,” said Dr. Jeff Seemann, UConn’s Vice President for Research. “As part of Connecticut’s flagship public university and a top 20 public research institution, UConn’s faculty routinely offers tools and expertise to fuel the innovative needs of industry, and that are critically necessary to industry’s ability to succeed in today’s highly competitive global marketplace.”

The research collaboration is expected to focus on the discovery and testing of therapeutic candidates to treat rare and disabling disorders for which there are currently no effective treatments.

Connecticut was one of the first states to fund stem cell research.

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Deadline to Enroll in ObamaCare Today


Updated Monday, December 15, 2014 @ 5:34 p.m.

HARTFORD — In order to begin health coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act by January, residents must enroll by this Monday, state officials said.

Consumers who elect not to enroll before the Dec. 15  deadline will still have until Feb. 15 to enroll and avoid a tax penalty.

Connecticut residents, who are enrolled  in health insurance after Feb. 15, 2015, will be fined either 2 percent of household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $325 per individual, $162.50 per child, or $975 for families– whichever is greater.

This is an increase from last year’s tax penalties, which were 1 percent of household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $95 per person and $47.50/child, whichever was greater.

After the Feb. 15, 2015 deadline, only people with special circumstances like a change of address, change in employment, or birth may enroll for coverage.

Residents can compare plans and shop for coverage online, over the phone, or with the help of an in-person assister. Call center representatives are available  at 1‐855‐805-HEALTH (4325).

In-person assistance is available at the AHCT enrollment centers in New Britain and New Haven, at 12 Community Enrollment Partner sites, and via licensed insurance brokers. For more information, visit www.accesshealthct.com.

In advance of tonight’s midnight deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1, Access Health CT Acting CEO Jim Wadleigh has released the following statement:

“The deadline to sign up for quality, affordable health care coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015 is tonight at midnight.  If customers have an application started and select a plan before midnight tonight, they can still get coverage beginning Jan. 1, as long as they complete the application and get us all the relevant information by midnight this Friday, Dec. 19.

We hope that this grace period will allow ample time for customers to complete their applications and have any remaining questions answered. We urge costumers to use Access Health CT’s customer resources to get the assistance they need to get coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2015.

 

 

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CT Health Centers Receive Federal Grants


WASHINGTON — In an effort to provide access to high quality, primary and preventive health care to under-served communities, the federal Health and Human Services Department awarded money to 12 Connecticut health centers.

Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Wednesday announced the $524,226 grant from the Affordable Care Act funding to  “invest in ongoing quality improvement activities.”

“This funding rewards Connecticut health centers that have a proven track record in clinical quality improvement, which translates to better patient care, and it allows them to expand and improve their systems and infrastructure to bring the highest quality primary care services to the communities they serve,” Burwell said.

In Connecticut, 13 HRSA-supported health centers operate more than 199 service delivery sites that provide care to nearly 327,165 patients.

Connecticut Health centers receiving these funds are being recognized for high levels of quality performance in one or more of the following categories: leadership, proven track records of quality care and storage of electronic health records.

Health and Resources  Administrator Mary K. Wakefield said that the money will help support existing steps that have been taken to achieve the highest levels of care for underserved communities.

For a list of FY 2015 Quality Improvement Awards recipients, visitwww.hrsa.gov/about/news/2014tables/qualityimprovement/.

To find a health center in your area, visit http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.

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Supreme Court Agrees to Review ObamaCare — Again


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In a carefully, crafted  effort to re-tool ObamaCare, the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday agreed to tackle a case related to the Affordable Care Act signed into law in March 2010.

At the heart of this case, King v. Burwell, is whether health insurance for middle-class and low-income residents should be subsidized by the federal government. Subsidies such as tax credits were included in the reform law. King v. Burwell, like the similar Halbig v. Burwell case, has a long history in thecourt system. On July 22, two U.S. courts delivered opposite rulings on the subsidies.

Without these subsidies, most small business owners or unemployed people wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance.

Halbig, one of several pending ObamaCare lawsuits, is expected to be heard again  by a full circuit court panel on Dec. 17. The King case would likely be heard next spring.

Proponents of the ACA said this is a move, though touted as an unlikely one to have direct impact on Connecticut, more than 80,000 Obamacare enrollees should watch closely. Connecticut is one of 14 states that administers its own health insurance exchange through Access Health CT.

This would be the third time the Supreme Court take up cases related to Obamacare delving slight blows to the law. In 2012, five justices upheld the requirement that most Americans must buy health insurance or pay a tax–a victory for President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats. This ruling, joined by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was the most significant federalism decision since the New Deal in the 1930s.  Howev3er, the court limited  expansion of Medicaid, which provides health care to poor and disabled people.

In June 2014, the court ruled that the family-owned businesses should not be forced to provide insurance that covers contraceptive services because it violates the business owner’s religious beliefs.

This latest move does not bode well for the Obama administration. That’s because the legislative branch is run by the Republicans, who have tried to repeal the law 55 times.

However, Republicans will face an uphill battle in achieving this goal through the judicial branch. One conservative spokesperson said that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should try a conciliatory approach.

“Republicans should use reconciliation to fully repeal Obamacare,” said Ken Cuccinelli, who heads the Senate Conservative Fund.

The law had originally required states to run their own healthcare exchanges. Most states in the South rejected that idea, forcing residents to move to other states that offer Obamacare.

According to a report by the nonprofit health policy organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. up to 7.3 million people are expected to be on this insurance.

 

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