Regina Murray Brault, 73, retired homemaker of Burlington, has won her third consecutive Vermont Senior Poet Laureate award with her poem “Star Gazers.” In addition to holding the state title, she was named National Senior Poet Laureate Award Winner in 1996 and 2010.
All winning poems appear in Golden Words online anthology at the sponsor’s website www.amykitchenerfdn.org.
By Luke Baynes
As the viability and constitutionality of universal health care continue to be debated at the highest levels of the federal government, the state of Vermont has forged ahead with its own plan to bring a single-payer health care system to its citizens.
On Dec. 14, representatives from various departments of the state were on hand at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center as part of a health care reform financing “listening session,” hosted by the Vermont Agency of Administration.
“This is not a forum about whether,” said Vermont Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson. “Vermont’s made the decision to go ahead with an exciting new health care vision.”
The health care bill signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin on May 26 is still a long way from becoming a reality. Although the Shumlin administration and Vermont’s congressional delegation have lobbied for a bill that would allow states to apply for waivers to provide single-payer plans in 2014, current federal law stipulates that states will have to wait until 2017.
One benefit of the delay is that it gives Vermont officials time to solicit public feedback on the health care reform process.
The Dec. 14 session – the third in a series of four public forums – gave residents the opportunity to express their preferences for various reform principles and financing sources by having them break into small groups and provide comments on index cards.
Prior to the group breakout sessions, Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, provided the audience with some sobering facts.
“Vermonters are spending more and getting less for health care,” said Larson. “Between 1992 and 2009, spending on health care for Vermonters tripled. We spent $2.5 billion in health care 10 years ago, and we spend about $5 billion now. We’ll spend an additional $1.6 billion per year in just four years if we don’t reform our health care system.”
Larson also remarked that the number of uninsured Vermonters remains too high.
“We still have 47,000 Vermonters who are uninsured,” Larson said. “We also have 150,000 Vermonters who, while they have an insurance card in their wallet – they do have some coverage – they face financial risk if they were to get sick or injured … because of the cost in co-pays or deductibles in actually accessing the coverage that they have.”
Larson said Vermont’s health care system also has the effect of discouraging current employers to add jobs and dissuading prospective companies from locating in the state.
“We see employers who make the choice that they can’t add employees, because whenever they add an employee, they’re going to have to add a health care premium to their expenses,” Larson said.
Michael Costa, special counsel at the Vermont Department of Taxes, followed Larson at the podium and told Vermonters that although a small percentage of state residents account for the bulk of health care expenses each year, they need to consider the fact that they are just one car accident away from being part of that needy minority.
“You need to think about not only how we fund health care over time, but how we utilize health care over time,” Costa said. “In any given year, 10 percent of the people account for 73 percent of all health care expenditures. If you were to have a system where the only funding source was individuals – (where) everyone paid out-of-pocket – for those 10 percent of people that is a very difficult thing.”
State Representative Jim McCullough of Williston, a supporter of universal health care, said he is pleased with the approach the state is taking in engaging the public.
“I think we are going at this in an extremely methodical and careful way,” McCullough said. “Information gathering systems like this are helping to inform (the process).”
South Burlington resident Bob Wible said he needs more explanation before he can sift through what he termed the “cloud of health care.”
“There’s a lot of stuff up there to pick through and understand,” Wible said. “What about the guy who never worked and what about the guy who’s working his can off for 60 hours a week? How do you pay for it?”
Wible’s wife, Nancy, said there was one key question that went unanswered at the Dec. 14 meeting: “How does it translate to the individual?”
“I think it’s now time to break it down into smaller groups and communities,” she said. “We need to hear more, and I just hope the legislature is listening.”
By Phyl Newbeck
Sitting can be hazardous to your health. That’s the conclusion of studies reported from the Spine Resource Clinic at the University of Washington, Women’s Health Magazine and the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association. The studies say sitting puts extra stress on your back, increases muscle tension, and results in “stagnant circulation,” as compared to standing. Chances are, you’re reading this from a sitting position, either at home or perhaps on a break at work. If so, I have two words for you: Get up.
In 2010, the American Cancer Society released a report finding that women who sat more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for less than three hours; for men the figure was 18 percent. In 2011, a study by the American College of Cardiology found mortality increased among those who sat for long periods of time. Additionally, the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even premature death could result from prolonged periods of sitting. Even for those who exercise, sedentary behavior is considered a risk factor.
One way to avoid the perils of sitting is to use a standing desk. Standing desks are just that — work stations at which the user is in a standing rather than a seated position. Regular desks are roughly 30 inches high while the standing variety can be as tall as 45 inches. Sarah Burnett of the Risk Management Office at the University of Vermont says there are a number of university employees who have requested standing desks. She hastened to add that she didn’t necessarily think one type of office furniture was better than another. Rather than dictate a particular work position, Burnett said she counsels workers to move around during the day. “Sitting and staring at a computer for four hours, let alone eight, is not good,” she said. “Your blood isn’t flowing and everything freezes up on you. You need to get up and move.”
Liz Dickson of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources has just started using a standing desk, in part because her commute has doubled since her office was moved from flood-ravaged Waterbury to Winooski. Dickson didn’t make the switch because of any trauma or physical difficulties. “I like to be active and don’t like to sit down all day,” she said. “With the increased commute, I felt so sedentary and my body just wasn’t happy.”
Initially, Dickson went for a low-tech solution, placing a cardboard box on her desk and using it for reading and non-computer writing. When she saw a colleague’s hydraulic desk which can be raised and lowered, she decided to make a change. Peter Moreman, the Facilities Manager at the VSAC building where Dickson is currently located, provided her with a sectional desk which allows her to use her computer while in a standing position but other functions while seated. Dickson said the key to using a standing desk is to wear comfortable shoes and stand on a cushioned mat.
Moreman said some employees who request standing desks do so based on a doctor’s recommendation while others have come up with the idea on their own; nobody has ever requested to return to their prior arrangements, even those for whom the doctor’s recommendation was only for a short period of time. Moreman cautions that there is no “100% one size fits all” solution for those with sedentary jobs and adds that many of those who request standing desks eventually also request tall chairs so they can alternate between sitting and standing. In general, Moreman believes standing is healthier than sitting because people tend not to sit up properly. “One advantage of standing over sitting,” he said “is you achieve the primary goal of keeping your head directly over your back so it’s supported directly. You simply can’t stand as badly as you might sit.”
Dr. David Little of Fletcher Allen Health Care worries that some of the studies on sitting have not isolated all the variables; perhaps people who sit for long periods also smoke, drink, or have unhealthy eating habits. Additionally, he recognizes that older workers may not find it comfortable to stand for long periods of time so he suggests that seniors intersperse periods of activity during the day with periods of rest.
Dr. John Scott of Northeast Vermont Regional Hospital – Corner Medical in Lyndonville said studies show that even people who follow the recommended federal guidelines of 30 minutes of brisk exercise at least five times a week can suffer negative effects from prolonged periods of sitting. Those with sedentary occupations and/or lifestyles have twice the risk of colon cancer, increased risk of other cancers, a 64 percent increase in risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as a greater propensity for diabetes and obesity. Scott cautions that there is no proof that standing desks are a panacea for these conditions. An Australian study showed that those who got up during the day and walked a bit had fewer metabolic abnormalities, but no change in other risk factors. However, just because standing and walking isn’t a cure-all doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try to change their position. “It certainly couldn’t hurt for people to get up more and not sit for a prolonged period of time,” said Scott. “I don’t see a downside.”
50-PLUS & BABY BOOMERS EXPO:
So. Burlington – January 28
Vermont Maturity Magazine presents its annual 50-Plus & Baby Boomers EXPO at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event includes game shows, silent auction, exhibitors, Celtic Folk band Longford Row, Tai Chi and Zumba demos, dance party, art demos, soup sampling, seminars, workshops, Lyric Theatre, and more. Tickets $5 at the door, $4 in advance at University Mall or by calling 872-9000 x19. www.vermontmaturity.com/expo.
Stowe Winter Carnival:
Stowe – January 16-29
A winter festival with snow-volleyball, snow-golf, ski races, kids’ carnival, ice carving,movies and live music. www.stowewintercarnival.com.
Annual Burlington Penguin Plunge:
Burlington – February 4
Jump into freezing February waters to benefit Special Olympics Vermont. www.PenguinPlunge.org
Sleigh Ride Week at Billings Farm & Museum:
Woodstock – February 18-26
Climb aboard the Billings Farm sleigh for a ride through the frosty farm fields. www.billingsfarm.org.
Annual Jay Peak Mardi Gras:
Jay – Feb. 27-Mar.3
A week filled with authentic New Orleans food, music, and more. www.jaypeakresort.com.
Green Mountain Film Festival:
Montpelier – March 16-25
Feature films, documentaries and short films from around the world are presented in a relaxed and informal atmosphere at numerous venues throughout the community. www.greenmountainfilmfestival.org.
Vermont Maple Open House Weekend:
Statewide – March 24 & 25
The annual statewide maple festival will be held at sugarhouses throughout Vermont. It is an opportunity for the public to visit one or more “sugarhouses” throughout the state. Watch maple syrup being made (weather permitting) and sample maple products. www.vermontmaple.org
Annual ECHO Earth Weeks’ Mudfest:
Burlington – April 16-24
A celebration of Earth Day and Mud Season, featuring muddy activities and games, including the “Mud Fling” from ECHO’s top floor. www.echovermont.org
Vermont Maple Festival:
St. Albans – April 27-29
The annual festival features entertainment, maple exhibit hall, antiques, cooking demonstrations, sugarhouse tours, face painting, pancake breakfast, fiddling and youth talent shows.
Vermont Open Studio Weekend:
Statewide – May 26 & 27, Oct 6 & 7
Vermont artists and craftspeople invite the public into their studios during Memorial Day Weekend. More than 285 artists and artisans participate. www.vermontcrafts.com.
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival:
Burlington – June 1-10
Enjoy a unique mix of concerts, dances, jams, street parties, cruises on Lake Champlain, workshops and more at various Burlington locations. www.discoverjazz.com.
Annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend:
Brattleboro – June 1-3
A day long festival of music, food, fun, entertainment, demonstrations, exhibitors and more. www.strollingoftheheifers.com.
Vermont Quilt Festival:
Essex Junction – June 29-July 1
Over 500 quilts on display at the Champlain Valley Expo, vendor booths and over 80 classes and lectures. www.vqf.org.
Annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival:
Quechee – June 15-17
The skies over Quechee will be filled with hot air balloons during this family-oriented event which includes food, arts and crafts, more than 50 artists and artisans, and live entertainment. www.quecheeballoonfestival.com.
Tunbridge World’s Fair:
Tunbridge – September 13-16
The 141st World’s Fair features working antique displays, horse, pony and oxen pulling, horse racing, exhibits, free shows, midway, food and more. www.tunbridgefair.com.
South Hero Applefest & Craft Show:
South Hero – October
Vermont’s largest apple festival includes free entertainment, music, flea market, cider pressing contest, crafts, petting zoo and plenty of apples. www.champlainislands.com.
First Night Burlington and Montpelier:
Burlington and Montpelier – December 31
Enjoy a rich variety of performances and events at these annual substance-free, New Year’s Eve festivals in the cities of Burlington and Montpelier. Everything from dancers to puppets to drummers. www.vermontvacation.com.
Enter for Your Chance to Win
a Trip for Two at the EXPO – visit Booth #20
Discover five spacious casinos, magnificent hotels, delicious dining, live entertainment every night, shopping and an indoor pool. Foxwood’s stands apart as one of the world’s great resort casino experiences. Then travel to Mohegan Sun with two of the world’s largest, most astounding casinos.