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AR Advocates Visit Congressional Offices, Promote Healthy School Meals

On Wednesday, August 13th You’re the Cure advocates Wonder Lowe and Carole Garner utilized the August Congressional break to advocate for reauthorization of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

They visited district offices to share the message that new nutrition standards ARE working and should not be delayed or weakened. Together, they visited the offices of Senator Mark Pryor and Congressman John Boozman.

The team delivered the message to Congress that healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids- and that we’re ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards.  To help make this point, the advocates delivered a lunch bag of puzzle pieces, 4 of which fit together to display a healthy school meal and 1 showing unhealthy food that doesn’t fit. 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul of Tulsa, Oklahoma is like many You’re the Cure Advocates; he is connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at brian.bowser@heart.org to learn more about how you can take action!

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What is Pediatric Cardiomyopathy?

Did you know that one in every 100,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 is diagnosed with a diseased state of the heart known as cardiomyopathy?  While it is a relatively rare condition in kids, it poses serious health risks, making early diagnosis important.  As the heart weakens due to abnormities of the muscle fibers, it loses the ability to pump blood effectively and heart failure or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias or dysrhythmia) may occur.

That’s why we’re proud to team up with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation this month- Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month- to make more parents aware of this condition (signs and symptoms) and to spread the word about the policy changes we can all support to protect our youngest hearts.
 
As a You’re the Cure advocate, you know how important medical research is to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.  And pediatric cardiomyopathy is no exception.  However, a serious lack of research on this condition leaves many unanswered questions about its causes.  On behalf of all young pediatric cardiomyopathy patients, join us in calling on Congress to prioritize our nation’s investment in medical research.
  
Additionally, we must speak-up to better equip schools to respond quickly to medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest caused by pediatric cardiomyopathy.  State laws, like the one passed in Massachusetts, require schools to develop emergency medical response plans that can include:

  • A method to establish a rapid communication system linking all parts of the school campus with Emergency Medical Services
  • Protocols for activating EMS and additional emergency personnel in the event of a medical emergency
  • A determination of EMS response time to any location on campus
  • A method for providing training in CPR and First Aid to teachers, athletic coaches, trainers and others – which may include High School students
  • A listing of the location of AEDs and the school personnel trained to use the AED

CPR high school graduation requirements are another important measure to ensure bystanders, particularly in the school setting, are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.  19 states have already passed these life-saving laws and we’re on a mission to ensure every student in every state graduates ‘CPR Smart’.
   
With increased awareness and research of pediatric cardiomyopathy and policy changes to ensure communities and schools are able to respond to cardiac emergencies, we can protect more young hearts.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?  Join our new Support Network today to connect with others who share the heart condition.   

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Schools Report Students Favor Healthier Lunches

According to a recent study conducted by Bridging the Gap Research of school administrators at elementary, middle and high schools of students’ reactions to the healthier lunches, 70 percent of schools thought that students liked the new lunches.

By the spring of SY 2012‐13, school administrators in U.S. public elementary, middle and high schools reported that the majority of students liked the new meals, at least to some extent. Across all grade levels, most respondents reported that students complained initially in fall 2012 but that far fewer students were complaining by the time of the surveys in spring2013.  

Most American children consume more sugar, fat and sodium and fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains than recommended. School meals, which feed more than 30 million children and adolescents each year, play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people.

Learn more about these findings here: http://www.bridgingthegapresearch.org/_asset/h6lbl9/BTG_student_opinions_school_lunch_Jul_14.pdf

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Arkansas Leads the Way for Decreasing Uninsured Rate

A recent Gallup article indicated that Arkansas is leading the way for reducing the rate of the uninsured population.  Arkansas passed the “Private Option” allowing hundreds of thousands of Arkansas residents access to private health insurance.  Here is more from the Gallup story:
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Arkansas and Kentucky lead all other states in the sharpest reductions in their uninsured rate among adult residents since the healthcare law's requirement to have insurance took effect at the beginning of the year. Delaware, Washington, and Colorado round out the top five. All 10 states that report the largest declines in uninsured rates expanded Medicaid and established a state-based marketplace exchange or state-federal partnership.

Delaware, Washington, and Colorado round out the top five. All 10 states that report the largest declines in uninsured rates expanded Medicaid and established a state-based marketplace exchange or state-federal partnership.

As Gallup previously reported, the states that chose to expand Medicaid and set up their own health exchanges had a lower uninsured rate to begin with: 16.1% compared with 18.7% for the remaining states -- a difference of 2.6 percentage points. The already notable gap between the two groups of states widened through the first quarter to 4.3 points, as states that have implemented these core mechanisms of the Affordable Care Act reduced their uninsured rates three times more than states that did not implement these core mechanisms.

These data, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, are based on respondents' self-reports of health insurance status based on the question, "Do you have health insurance coverage?"

Continue reading here:  http://www.gallup.com/poll/174290/arkansas-kentucky-report-sharpest-drops-uninsured-rate.aspx

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My Story

My name is Ryley Williams.  I am a high school student and stroke survivor.  This is my story. 

On July 8, 2013 my life was forever changed when I collapsed during warm up exercises at sophomore football practice. I was rushed to the ER, and they quickly told my parents that I needed a higher level of care, so I was taken in a helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. In less than 4 hours of being admitted my parents were told that I had suffered multiple strokes in the left side of my brain. I could not speak or move the right side of my body. But they still did not know what caused the strokes. I was 15 years old, and in the best shape of my life. How could this happen to me?! 

Less than 48 hours later I was taken into emergency surgery to remove a portion of my skull to relieve the terrible swelling from the strokes. I am told this saved my life. Immediately following the crainectomy, a transesophageal echocardiogram was performed and it was then that the vegetation like strands that had built up from an unknown (and never identified) bacterial infection were found, and I was officially diagnosed with negative culture endocarditis.

I was immediately started on several different strong antibiotics to fight the infection, so the next 6 weeks I had to carry around an IV for these medications.  I am told that I completely broke all expectations and predictions from the stroke damage and was moved out of PICU directly into the rehabilitation unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital. 

I was still getting my food through a feeding tube in my nose, and couldn’t sit up or move on my own. There was speculation that I might only get part of my right side working again. 

But gradually and in leaps, I started fighting to get my life back, beginning with talking, swallowing, moving my arm and leg, and eventually sitting up and standing. After almost 3 weeks in rehab, I took my first steps with the help of a walking machine, and several physical therapists. The next move was a transfer to a residential rehabilitation hospital closer to home, and I immediately started physical, occupational and speech therapy on a daily routine. After another 3 weeks, I was able to come home.

Altogether the total amount of time spent in the hospitals was 7.5 weeks. It was during this time that my neurosurgeon broke it to me that I would never play football again, or any other contact sport. This was devastating to me. In November of 2013, I went back to ACH for my final surgery that replaced the missing piece of skull with a prosthetic piece.

Once again I fought against the odds, and went home after only 2 days, and never lost any of my progress. In January, I went back to school with a shortened schedule, and daily PT/OT/Speech therapies, as well as trying out my new role as a student athletic trainer.

It has been a year since my stroke, and it’s been a very tough journey, not just physically, but mentally hard to accept my new limitations and lifestyle. I want to tell other stroke survivors to not give up, even a tiny progress is progress, and it’s further than you were a week ago.

A lot of people think I have it easy, but it’s really hard to see all my friends moving on in their lives, and I am just fighting to run again, or ride a bike, or play video games. It will all happen again…..just not as quickly as I wish, and that is okay. I have also had my 16th birthday since the strokes, but I will not be able to drive for another year or so, because I have had seizures that are “normal”, but should be controlled by medications I take daily. No matter what, I am alive and I am thankful that I am still on the earth to help others that have been through what I have been through.

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Arkansas Advocates Meet with U.S. Senate Office

On Wednesday July 2nd AHA Advocates Brett Stone and Carole Garner met with Senator Mark Pryor’s staff to discuss the Child Nutrition Act.  The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is currently making its way through Congress and would help keep strong nutrition standards for school meals.

Senator Pryor sits on the important Senate Appropriation committee that has influence over this bill.  In May his committee approved the Child Nutrition Act that included stronger standards than the House of Representatives version. 

We thanked Senator Pryor for keeping the Child Nutrition Act strong, and encouraged him to not accept any weakening amendments as the bill moves towards final passage. 

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Vickie Wingfield, Ultimate Advocacy Volunteer

Vickie Wingfield is one of the American Heart Association’s ultimate volunteers and has been involved with AHA for over 18 years.  She is currently the Chair of the Arkansas State Advocacy Committee and continues to bring cheer, passion, and enthusiasm to everything she does. 

While currently lending her leadership to You’re the Cure Advocacy efforts, Vickie has remained committed to many of our fundraising events including the Heart Ball, Central Arkansas Heart Walk, the Festival of Wines and the Go Red For Women Luncheon. 

Vickie works for the Arkansas Heart Hospital as the Director of Community Relations.  She is also a heart disease survivor and works tirelessly to educate Arkansans about their risk factors and to take charge of their heart health.  Vickie is the mother of two sons and has a grandson Brooks and granddaughter Riley. 

Prior to chairing the State Advocacy Committee Vickie served as the Grassroots Action Team leader. 

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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email teachinggardens@heart.org to find how you can get involved.

               

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Arkansas Advocate Stars in PSA for CPR in Schools

Arkansas volunteer and Miss Teen International, Haley Pontius, is on a mission to educate more people – especially her peers – about how CPR can save a life.  That is why she supports CPR in Schools legislation and recently starred in a Public Service Announcement. 

You can view the PSA video by clicking here.

In addition to her CPR advocacy Haley has volunteered for the American Heart Association since 2007 in a number of roles.  Haley was a summer intern at the Central Arkansas office in 2012 and has volunteered at several events, like the Heart Ball and Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Thanks to advocates like Haley 1 million students across the nation each school year will be trained in CPR, including students in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas where advocates helped to pass CPR in Schools initiatives. 


 

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