Mayor Carter

Team Saint Paul, I continue to be inspired by all of you every day and I’m thrilled for what lies ahead of us in 2019. Together, we achieved great things in the past year like raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establishing our Office of Financial Empowerment, tripling our free recreation center programming, and creating an unprecedented $10 million housing trust fund.
The investments we’ve made in our city ensure we are building a Saint Paul that truly works for all of us. We are also creating a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable community that can meet our needs today, and positions our city to be a place our children and grandchildren want to live.

Realizing this vision for a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable community now and in the future, starts with ensuring we can all lead full, healthy lives.

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where our parents were passionate about health and fitness, and instilled in my sisters and me a holistic perspective on wellness. They encouraged all of us to participate in athletic activities from a very early age. They also instilled in us the idea that health and wellness are not just about physical exercise, or eating your vegetables and getting a good night’s sleep. Healthy living encompasses physical, mental and spiritual wellness. When our body, mind, and soul feels nourished, we can fully realize our potential.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to play tennis, hockey, and run track & field. Running is something I continue to enjoy today. Whether it’s running several miles around my neighborhood, joining one of many local 5K races with my wife, Dr. Sakeena Futrell-Carter, or running with our “We Run Saint Paul” employee group, I find this activity to be one of my favorite ways to stay healthy, and connected with my family, colleagues and our community.

We each have unique health needs and interests, and in this new year, I encourage everyone to find what works for you. What’s most important is that we all engage in nurturing a healthy ecosystem for ourselves, our families, our friends and our entire community. We all play a role in sustaining wellness in our lives, and together, we can truly continue to build Saint Paul into a community that works for all of us. I’m absolutely thrilled to be your teammate in the work ahead and wish you a happy and healthy start to your year.

How to Start the New Year Right

Get your full eight hours. Just as a healthy diet and regular exercise are necessary and important for good health, so is sleep. Cutting back on snooze-time can lead to an out-of-control appetite (some studies show that people who sleep less are more likely to be overweight), a greater risk for coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Rise and shine — and eat. Breakfast gets your body’s metabolism going again after a night of sleeping, and gives you the gradual and adequate energy you need to get through the morning.

Wash your hands. From banishing cold and flu germs to preventing food borne illnesses, frequent hand-washing is one of the smartest preventive habits you can adopt. A thorough hand-washing should take about 20 seconds.

Know your family health history. Your family’s medical history can give you important information about your own health. Many diseases, such as heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and depression, can have a genetic component. The more you know about the health of your relatives, the better informed you’ll be about your own risk factors and how to manage them.

Eat mindfully. One of the significant differences between people who successfully manage their weight and people who constantly struggle is mindful eating. Turn off the TV or computer, sit down at a table with your food on a plate, and focus on eating. Put your fork down between bites, and take time to really enjoy your meal. Chances are you will eat less and feel more satisfied.

Add variety to your diet. Wild salmon and sardines are just a couple of the fish that provide heart-healthy fats such as omega-3, which lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and help preserve your cognitive function. Aim for two servings a week; more than that may add too much mercury to your system. On occasion, indulge in a bite of dark chocolate that contains at least 75% cocoa-both contain antioxidants that can benefit your heart. Try to eat 5-7 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and minimize your intake of carbohydrates.

Volunteer. In addition to helping others, volunteers themselves often benefit from “giving back” to the communities in which they live and work, and enjoy a rewarding sense of doing something good for someone else.

Maintain strong family and social networks. Research has shown that people who have family and friends they can turn to for support and companionship may be healthier and less likely to experience depression than those who spend most of their time alone.

Take a time out.
At least once a day, close your eyes and focus on taking 10 deep, full breaths. Inhale through your nose, feel your diaphragm expand, and exhale through your mouth. Deep, focused breathing slows your heart rate, calms the body and, as a result, calms your mind and reduces stress. Mix in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week as well… You needn’t do it all at once; two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minutes blocks work equally well.

Drink more water to prevent constipation, dehydration and other related diseases. Whether you drink bottled, filtered or tap, water helps keep your cells hydrated, flushes out toxins, and prevents dehydration. Tea, juices and sports drinks count, too, but watch out for added sugar, artificial flavorings and caffeine, all of which can detract from the benefits.


Coni Cassity

Coni Cassity has worked for the City for 22 years. She started in Libraries, then went to Parks & Rec. For the past 10 years, she has worked at Water. Below is Coni’s successful story, in her own words, at weight loss.

“I’ve been obese since I was a child. I can’t even count the number of diets I’ve tried over the past 40+ years. I’ve always been able to lose weight fast but keeping the weight off was something I always failed at, gaining it back even faster. This down and up cycle continued until I was well over 300 lbs. My Nurse Practitioner agreed that it was better to remain a constant weight than continue the yo-yo dieting so I stopped trying to lose weight and just accepted myself as I was. I managed to remain a stable weight for nearly 10 years but as my 50th birthday approached, I starting having more difficulty moving. Climbing a single flight of stairs would leave me breathless and light headed.

In March of 2017 I started having a lot of trouble walking due to arthritis in my knees. I was in such pain that I thought surgery was my only option but because of my size, surgery was dangerous. In June 2017 I received a disability placard and began physical therapy to prepare for what we all thought was inevitable surgery. At that time I was 288 lbs., pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and trouble breathing. I signed up for Omada* and started the program in July 2017 in desperation to get healthy enough to have the knee surgery. The weight started to come off slowly, but part of me was still expecting to fail because I had so many times before. While the coaching seemed “corny” and all the lessons were things I’ve heard over the years, it was different this time. I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore, I was just trying to stay alive. It was hard to make changes at first, but by starting slowly and building healthy habits and routines one week at a time, it’s no longer a struggle.

In June of 2018 I saw my Nurse Practitioner for the first time in a year. She was speechless. At that time I was 202 lbs. (I’d lost 86 lbs. in 1 year). While still obese, my bloodwork was all within healthy ranges.

I have added years to my life. All it took was making the decision to not give up on myself this time. I managed to take control of my self-destructive eating habits. With the encouragement of my Omada coach, the support of my family, co-workers and a promise to myself to not let myself down, I have continued to lose weight and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. I no longer need knee surgery since eating healthy, drinking more water and increasing my activity has reduced my pain to nearly non-existent. I walk at least 10,000 steps a day and have participated in six 5k runs. I have promised myself to bike into work once a week (3 ½ miles each way) during good weather. As of today, I have lost 115 lbs. I am continuing to eat healthy and remain active and will continue to lose the excess weight, but since losing weight is not my goal, it will not be a struggle. The more weight I continue to lose, the slower I will lose it until I reach a balance point. I’m excited to find out when that will happen.

*The Omada program is free to employees insured under the City’s Medica health plan. Visit for more information and to take the quick, three question survey to see if you qualify. Employees new to Omada qualify to earn 75 points for completing the first nine lessons.

Holiday Drinking

Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.

What is a “drink”?

In the United States, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).

What is excessive drinking?

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as consuming

  • For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • Heavy drinking is defined as consuming

  • For women, 8 or more drinks per week.
  • For men, 15 or more drinks per week.

Most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.

What is moderate drinking?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.

By adhering to the Dietary Guidelines, you can reduce the risk of harm to yourself or others.

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Risky sexual behaviors.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.

Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health CDC

Healthy dining out with diabetes

Yes, it’s possible!

Preparing your own meals is a great way to stick to your diabetes-friendly diet. Realistically, though, you probably won’t feel like cooking for yourself every day. Like most Americans, you’ll likely eat out — at least once in a while!

Dining out doesn’t have to be tough if you have diabetes, and it doesn’t have to be off-limits. With a bit of planning and some smart choices, you can eat out without worry.
For people with diabetes, eating the right foods helps keep your blood sugar in your target range and provides needed nutrients — all critical parts of managing your condition. Individual meal planning can help you get the nutrients you need from the right foods.

That’s why it’s important that you stick to your healthy eating plan.

Try these five tips to do just that:

Know what’s on the menu.
Many restaurants post menus online. If one doesn’t, call the restaurant and ask if they can accommodate your needs. If they can’t, choose another place where you can more easily follow your eating plan.

Eat at the same time you usually do.
If you take insulin shots or diabetes pills, you need to eat about the same time every day.
Schedule dining plans close to your normal eating times.

Make reservations so you won’t have to wait.
If you can’t make reservations, bring a snack in case you have to wait. Avoiding high-volume times may help.
Watch portion sizes.

Many restaurants serve large portions. Try ordering an appetizer for your main course, or splitting an entrée with someone.
Or you can eat half of your meal and take the rest home.

Be vocal.

Ask for substitutions if you need to. For example, order veggies instead of fries. Or ask for sauces and dressings on the side.

Be careful of your drink choices.
Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, with free refills. Stick with water or other unsweetened beverages.

Reprinted with permission
Medica CallLink® 24-hour Health Information and Education

Heather Vasquez

Heather has worked for the City for 13 years, starting at age 19. She is currently an Office Assistant III for Public Works in the Street Maintenance Division. In her job, she does a little bit of everything so much so that she has been called the “Swiss army knife of Public Works”!

Heather admits that in her teen years she wasn’t into exercising or watching her diet. She was in for a shock when at age 20 she stepped on a scale at a doctor appointment. She felt she had really let herself go and decided then that she would do something about it.

She began by making little changes to her diet. Up until then, she had been eating whatever she wanted which included a lot of fast food. So, for example, instead of taco shells, she substituted lettuce wraps. She gave up greasy cheeseburgers. She began doing her own research into healthy eating. Changing her diet was hard for her but it paid off. Heather saw the weight come off and people starting asking her about it. This motivated her to keep going.

Heather decided to add exercise to her life, beginning with short walks. She then added working out to exercise videos at home. By doing the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred she lost 30 lbs. in 6 weeks. The lifestyle changes that Heather made ultimately resulted in a 60 lb. total weight loss that she has been able to keep off. Her motivation to continue wasn’t just about losing weight, however. She wanted to lower her risk for diabetes, which runs in her family.

Two years ago, Heather joined a gym. To help her stay accountable. she takes a selfie when finished with her workout and posts it to Snapchat.

She is committed to going to the gym as often as she can. Her office is a 24/7 operation so she often works odd shifts and very long hours. When this happens, and she can’t make it to the gym, she works out on a break in the conference room, doing squats or using a workout video. She religiously wears her Fitbit, making sure she reaches 10,000/day. If she is short, she will even walk around her house or go up/down stairs to hit the goal. The Fitbit also calculates the number of calories she is burning when she works out. She logs those burned calories into the MyFitnessPal app along with logging pretty much anything she eats. That helps her to stay at least in the ballpark for her daily calorie goal. Heather said the use of the MyFitnessPal app really helped her realize how many calories she was eating. It has been a huge aid in weight loss for her.

Last year, Heather injured her back and was out of work for a month. She couldn’t exercise at all and or even make her own food. Heather pushed on though, not letting the pain and injury totally derail her lifestyle. With the help of a vigorous physical therapy program, Heather was able to slowly get back to a regular routine. She now pays more attention to using good form when exercising to avoid another injury. She keeps her workouts fresh by getting inspiration from social media.

For Heather, slow and steady wins the race. By changing her lifestyle, not only has she lost weight and reduced her risk for disease, but she feels a whole lot better too.

Hoa Young

Hoa Young has worked for the City for over 25 years, starting out as an aide in the Mayor’s office. Since then she has worked as a Project Management Technician for PED in the Annex.

Hoa has grown to appreciate the importance of staying active and eating well as she ages. She doesn’t have an extreme exercise program but rather does what she describes as low impact, age appropriate exercise which anyone could do.

To start with, Hoa lives in Lowertown and walks home approximately one mile from work most days. She participates in the free, lunch time Pilates class offered at City Hall. She may not do the whole hour but she finds 15-20 minutes helps clear her head and reduces any stress she is feeling. The instructor, Anca Sima, supports her in doing what works for her, saying doing anything is good. Hoa feels that – you have to move it or lose it.

Three years ago, Hoa began taking T’ai-Chi Qigong class. She goes most Sundays along with her husband to the Saint Paul Yoga Center for these classes. The philosophy behind Tai chi Qigong is based on the concept of five elements with (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) each element representing certain organs in the body. The exercise consists of deep breath, flowing movements and meditation to draw the Chi (energy) to the body to keep the organs healthy.

In terms of eating, Hoa strives to maintain a healthy weight by just watching what and how much she eats. She aims at eating simple, balanced and healthy food. She mostly cooks Vietnamese food that consists of rice (blending white and brown), meat and fresh vegetables. In the morning, she may have a half bagel with cream cheese or a yogurt. A small handful of nuts will serve as a snack during the day and before bedtime, or cheese, crackers and fruit. Tofu is a staple in her kitchen.

Recently Hoa started teaching cooking classes at Mississippi Market’s Eastside location. She likes to share her passion for cooking simple and healthy food and mostly authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Her next class is in October, “Vietnamese Chicken Three Ways”. You can find out more here:
Hoa is also adventurous in trying other cuisines of the world. She cooks Thai, Chinese, Italian, French, Korean. Her favorite thing to do is to watch cooking shows early Saturday morning.

Hoa understands that keeping a healthy lifestyle can take discipline; but after a while it becomes a habit. She also feels that emotional health is also important to living a long, healthy life so Hoa tries to focus on the positive things around her. She reminds herself daily of the good fortune of having a good family with a husband of 48 years, three well-adjusted children and seven grandchildren. She believes there is really no reason to complain but be thankful for all she has.

Fish Consumption Guidance

Put Fish on Your Plate!

Fish are a great choice for serving up lean protein with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Fish also are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids – a good kind of fat!

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are called EPA and DHA. Our bodies cannot make EPA and DHA. Eating fish is the main way to get these important fatty acids that you do not find in other foods. (Supplements may not be as beneficial.)
Here is the best part:

  • DHA is a building block of the brain and eyes.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms can eat fish to give DHA to their babies.
  • Eating fish can lower the risk of heart disease.

The benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks when eating fish low in mercury and other contaminants. Young children (under age 15) and fetuses are more sensitive to mercury. Too much mercury can cause lasting problems with understanding and learning. But studies show children benefit developmentally when moms eat fish low in mercury during pregnancy.

What to do?

  • Eat fish!
  • Follow the guidance linked below to prevent mercury and other contaminants from building up in your body.
  • Contaminants take time to leave the body, so spread out your fish meals.

Statewide safe eating guidelines

For general guidelines to help you make decisions for yourself and your family about your fish-eating habits, visit: For recipes and information about eating fish, go to

Site-Specific Meal Advice:
Consumption guidelines for lakes and rivers where fish have been tested for contaminants. Guidelines are also searchable by lake at:

Reprinted from the Minnesota State Department of Health.


Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. It causes inflammation or swelling, and a narrowing of the airways making it more difficult to breathe. During normal breathing, air flows freely in and out of the lungs. However, during an asthma attack or episode, swelling of the airway’s lining increases, muscles surrounding the airways tighten, and thick mucus clogs the tiny airways making it difficult to breathe.

Who gets asthma? Asthma affects people of all ages and while it can start in adulthood, it most often starts during childhood. Young children who wheeze a lot and have frequent respiratory infections that continue beyond 6 years old are at greater risk. Genetics can also play a role in developing asthma. Having a family history of eczema, allergies, or having parents or siblings that have asthma increases risk. We aren’t exactly sure what causes asthma, but we do know exposure to certain things can trigger an asthma attack.

Asthma symptoms

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person and can flare up anytime – day or night. Symptoms may include:
Wheezing – Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe out.
Coughing – Coughing from asthma is often worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep. Sometimes coughing can be the only symptom.
Shortness of breath – Some people feel like they can’t catch their breath or feel breathless, as if they can’t get air out of their lungs.
Chest tightness or pain – This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.

Asthma symptoms vary from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week and over months and can vary from mild to life threatening. Having symptoms may mean your asthma is not well controlled.

See your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms or are using your quick-relief inhaler (rescue) more than two times a week.
  • You have symptoms that wake you up two or more times a month.
  • You refill your rescue up anytime – day or night. Symptoms may include: inhaler prescription more than two times per year.
  • Your asthma is getting in the way of your usual activities like going to school or work.

Don’t ignore asthma symptoms.

Symptoms that are not easily relieved by using a rescue inhaler or that reoccur should be evaluated by your health care provider, or you should go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1. TAKE ASTHMA SERIOUSLY.

Police Officer Fitness Test

Each year, Saint Paul police officers undergo fitness testing. This testing provides valuable information to the officers regarding their ability to respond to the physical demands of the job. The officers’ results are compared to population standards for age and gender.

This year changes were made to the testing process to keep current with the latest research and trends in law enforcement fitness testing. Officers now have two testing options from which to choose for their annual fitness test.

Testing option #1: Physical Fitness Test (PFT). Listed below are the fitness components that are measured and the tests used to assess that component.

Aerobic endurance:
1.5 mile run (the 12 minute Navy bicycle test or one mile walk are also provided to those who have an injury or medical condition preventing them from safely completing the run.)
Body composition: Waist measurement or body fat percentage test using either skinfold pinch test or a body fat scale.
Explosive power: Vertical Jump. Standing with one arm raised overhead, that height is noted; the score is then the number of inches above that point the officer can reach with jumping.
Muscular Strength/endurance: choice of maximum number of pushups or 1 repetition max bench press (ratio of weight to lbs. pressed one time)

Testing option #2: 2000 meter row
This test is new this year and specifically requires the use of a Concept 2 Rowing machine. A 2000 meter row tests the aerobic capacity, as well as the muscular strength and muscular endurance of the entire body all at once. Strength, overall power and the ability to continuously apply power play a key role in rowing performance. Rowing also requires strong core musculature to brace the midsection to use both the lower and upper body together to row. Nearly all of the body’s muscles are used during rowing. Scoring for the test is based on gender, body weight and time to complete.
Upon completion of a fitness test, the Physical Fitness Specialist for the department, Jim Hensrud, can then recommend a training program to improve the officers’ fitness if needed.