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A Great Year for Heart-Health Policy in Illinois

Thanks to the hard work of advocates like YOU, Illinois had another great year in moving heart-health policies forward. Together, we have worked to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke and we have much to celebrate this year!

Below is a brief summary of this year’s legislative highlights:

Lauren Laman CPR and AED training law – HB 3724 signed on June 5, 2014

Starting in the upcoming 2014-15 school year, all Illinois high-schools must begin training students in both CPR and how to use an AED thanks to the Lauren Laman Law. The training will include hands-on practice with a CPR mannequin and an AED, creating a new generation of life-savers every year.

Hospital Stroke Center Designation – HB 5742 awaiting Gov’s signature

Following the Governor’s signature, expected later this summer, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health will have the legal framework to designate Comprehensive Stroke Centers and Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals. In practical terms, this will make the whole of Illinois’ stroke system greater than the sum of its parts, ensuring that patients suffering from a stroke will be taken to the right hospital, right away.

State Stroke Registry – HB 5742 cont.

Illinois will also be better able to assess and improve system-wide quality with regard to stroke care thanks to legislation which creates a small but sufficient dedicated funding stream to create a state stroke registry. State stroke registries are highly recommended by AHA/ASA national experts, because "you can’t improve what you don’t measure."

PE Taskforce – HB 5397 awaiting Gov’s signature

Illinois will soon begin to measure and improve physical education programs in schools throughout the state with the help of a newly created Enhanced PE Task Force. The Taskforce will recommend criteria to assess school fitness programs based on national standards, as well as the creation of reporting protocols which will allow the Illinois State Board of Education to get a clear picture on school fitness programs throughout the state.

Illinois EMS Alliance – SB 3414 awaiting Gov’s signature; HB 4523 awaiting Gov’s signature; etc.

The Illinois EMS Alliance, created in part by the AHA/ASA and key members of our Illinois Advocacy Committee, had a successful first year, playing a critical role in helping to pass many of the initiatives mentioned above. The Illinois EMS Alliance also helped to pass bills which will: help align Illinois’ EMS training and education with national standards, and; allow licensed Pre-Hospital RNs to use the full range of their medical skills to save a life if they are aboard an ambulance licensed at a lower level.

Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax

The legislature took important steps towards the creation of an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages aimed at incentivizing healthier consumer choices. Legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate, and a subject matter hearing was held in the Senate. While these bill did not make it through to final passage, they did succeed in starting a conversation in Springfield and around the state about the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, helping many Illinoisans realize for the first time that a standard 12-ounce can of pop actually contains 10 packets worth of sugar.

Thank you for your ongoing support and action this year! Please watch for opportunities over the coming weeks to thank your lawmakers for their leadership of heart-health policies this year.

We can’t spell CURE without U!

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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 to find how you can get involved.


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AHA Presents Awards to Illinois Doctors

This week at the Board and Committee meetings in Dallas Texas, awards were presented to two Illinois doctors. We would like to take a moment to say congratulations, and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the American Heart Association

 Gold Heart Award

Clyde W. Yancy, MD, MSc, FAHA

Clyde is chief of the Division of Cardiology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He was AHA president in 2009-10. A volunteer for more than 20 years, Clyde has been a highly effective national spokesperson for the AHA. He has also contributed to multiple AHA scientific statements and guidelines and most recently was the writing committee chair for the 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure and a leader in exploring innovative approaches as a member of the joint ACCF/AHA Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Clyde is currently a member of the Metro Chicago board, and is actively engaged in Power To End Stroke, Voices for Healthy Kids and Target: Heart Failure.

As president, Clyde provided steadfast leadership as the AHA worked toward and achieved its longtime advocacy priority of healthcare reform. Clyde also served on the writing committee that created the AHA's 2020 Impact Goal, and coined the term "Life's Simple 7" to help consumers understand key health factors and behaviors. As an AHA volunteer Clyde has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of cultural disparities in health care. In Dallas, where he was president in 1995-96, he helped establish the African-American Task Force, and in Chicago, where he relocated in 2011, he has helped develop board priorities for health equity and hypertension in minorities. In 2003, he received the AHA's Physician of the Year Award.

 Physician of the Year Award

Neil J. Stone, MD, FAHA

Neil is the Robert Bonow, MD Professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He is being honored for nearly three decades of exemplary service to advance the AHA's efforts to promote healthy lifestyles and cardiovascular risk modification.

An internationally recognized expert in preventive cardiology and lipidology, Neil has contributed his scientific expertise as a longtime member of the Nutrition Committee (which he chaired from 1993-95) as well as the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism (now the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health), the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology and the Council on Clinical Cardiology. He has made key contributions to numerous AHA statements and guidelines, including as co-chairperson of the 2011 scientific statement, "Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease." In addition, he was chairperson of the ACC/AHA expert panel that created the 2013 Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults, a paradigm-shifting contribution to the care of patients. He has been an associate editor for the AHA Learning Library since 2006.

As an AHA volunteer and with the patients he sees every day, Neil is a fervent proponent of lifestyle intervention, especially diet and physical activity. He has published more than 150 research papers, and is co-author of the textbook, "Management of Lipids in Clinical Practice," now in its 7th edition.

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Player's Life Saved by CPR and AED at Basketball Game

Just days after Gov. Quinn signed Lauren’s Law , requiring all Illinois high schools to offer CPR and AED training in the curriculum, a Porta High School student’s life was saved when his coach and bystander performed CPR and used an AED after he collapsed during a basketball game. Check out the great story from WICS below.

On June 5, Gov. Quinn signed Lauren's Law, a requirement for high school students to learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator. Two days after, a Porta High School student collapsed at a school event, and with the help of an AED, his life was saved.

"I've been around basketball and I played in college, watched it all the time, and I've never experienced anything like it," said Nick Rathgeb, varsity basketball coach at Porta High School.

Rathgeb was the first to reach his varsity player, Nick Atterberry, on the court after he collapsed seven minutes into a school basketball game.  Continue reading here

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Lauren’s Law Signed by Governor Quinn

On June 5, 2014, Governor Quinn signed Lauren’s Law! This law will require all Illinois secondary schools to include CPR and AED training in their curriculum starting with this upcoming 2014-15 school year. Below is an AHA news release on the new law. Check out photos from the signing on our Facebook page here.

Illinois firefighters and advocates from the American Heart Association applauded Governor Quinn for signing House Bill 3724 into law at the annual Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois convention in Bloomington-Normal. The legislation, which takes effect immediately, will require Illinois high schools to add Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training to their curriculum.

"This legislation will create a new generation of lifesavers in Illinois," said Lynne T. Braun, PhD, Chair of the American Heart Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee.

The bill was named for Lauren Laman, a 17-year-old in St. Charles, IL, who collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest during dance practice at school. CPR was not given before EMS arrived and no AED was used, even though there was one nearby. Lauren’s family members worked closely with Representative Dan Burke, Senator John Mulroe, and the American Heart Association to advocate for this new law.

"I am thankful for the support my family and I have received to make the Lauren Laman Law possible," said George Laman, Lauren Laman’s father. "Without Representative Dan Burke, Senator John Mulroe, President Pat Devaney of The Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois (AFFI) and Illinois State Fire Marshall Larry Matkaitis, Alex Meixner of the American Heart Association, Tom Lia of the National Sprinkler Advisory Board, Peg Paul – Publicist, Retired firefighter Steve Rose of Oak Park, and numerous proponents of House Bill 3724, we would not have required CPR/AED training in all Illinois High Schools for the 2014-2015 school year. This success is bittersweet because many lives will be saved in Lauren’s name. However, the cost of losing our daughter Lauren was a terrible price to pay. Lauren, we will love you forever!"

"We want to thank Governor Quinn for signing this bill into law, Representative Dan Burke for introducing it in the House and championing it throughout, and Senator John Mulroe for sponsoring it in the Senate," said Alex Meixner, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. "Most of all, we want to thank Lauren’s parents George and Mary and the entire Laman family for their unwavering commitment to building Lauren a permanent legacy in Illinois. We all know the math when it comes to CPR and AED training: the more people trained, the more lives saved, and both of those numbers are going to go up in years to come thanks to Lauren’s Law."

Approximately 424,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur in the United States each year, with an average survival rate of only 10 percent. Less than one-third of victims receive CPR from a bystander, and while AEDs are increasingly available, most people don’t know how to use them and are afraid to try.

However, bystander CPR can triple survival rates from cardiac arrest. If an AED is used in conjunction with CPR, the survival rate can jump to more than 50 percent.

"Studies show that trainees, including schoolchildren, can become proficient in CPR and AED use in 30 minutes or less," said Dr. Braun. "We have also learned that students who have practiced chest compressions on a CPR mannequin are more likely to use it during an emergency. We need a generation of people who won’t hesitate to act if someone near them collapses."

For more information on CPR and AED training, log on to, or learn how to perform hands-only CPR in less than one minute at

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Letter to the Editor on Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Since the issue of sugar sweetened beverage taxes has recently garnered a lot of media attention in Illinois and throughout the country, we wanted to make sure you saw this op-ed by AHA volunteer, Dr. Goutham Rao, in the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend.

Kudos, Goutham, on the nice piece! Thank you for leadership on this important issue!!!

Tax Sugary Drinks

We need a tax in Illinois on sugary drinks.

Obesity is a vicious epidemic making too many of our children, families and communities sick. The chronic diseases brought on and exacerbated by obesity — including diabetes, some cancers and heart disease — take a massive toll in premature deaths and mounting public health costs.

Our state requires a comprehensive set of proactive solutions to this public health crisis, starting with the passage of the HEAL Act, which was voted down in the House Revenue and Finance Committee during the spring legislative session. The HEAL Act would place a modest, penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, which are the single biggest source of added sugar in the American diet. Though modest, a penny-per-ounce tax could have a significant impact upon consumption of sugary drinks and help steer Illinois families toward more healthful beverage alternatives. This simple action would also fund efforts to combat obesity. This is why a growing chorus of voices, collaborating through the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, is calling for our Legislature to reintroduce and pass the HEAL Act in the 2015 session. Continue reading here


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Dr. Andrew Rauh submits Letter to the Editor on Lauren's Law

The celebration for Lauren’s Law, the CPR in Schools bill, continues!  Check out this great Letter to the Editor from Midwest Affiliate Board President and Illinois resident Dr. Andrew Rauh which was published in the Chicago Tribune last week.

As a cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate board of directors, I’d like to applaud Rep. Dan Burke and Sen. John Mulroe for their support of the Lauren Laman Law, House Bill 3724. The bill, which passed the Illinois State Senate and is now headed to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature, ensures that all secondary schools in Illinois include CPR and AED training in their curriculum.

Lauren Laman was a high school senior in St. Charles when she went into cardiac arrest during drill team practice. While there was an AED in the school building, it was not used, and those around her didn’t perform CPR. Laman tragically passed away that day at the age of 18. The Lauren Laman Law creates a fitting legacy for her, and it will save lives in Illinois for generations to come.

We see proof of this law’s value again thanks to the Bell family of Elmhurst. Harry Bell, a high school junior, learned CPR at school, and when his father, Eric, went into cardiac arrest, he used those skills to save his life. Continue reading here

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American Heart/Stroke Association honor Stroke Champions in Springfield

On May 22, in honor of American Stroke Month, volunteers from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association gathered to recognize former Representative Bob Biggins, Representative Robyn Gabel and Senator Heather Steans for their work to improve outcomes for stroke patients over the last five years



Five years ago, former Representative and stroke survivor Bob Biggins and Senator Heather Steans championed Public Act 96-0514, enacted in 2009, which has resulted in a number of victories for stroke patients in Illinois, including:

  • The Illinois Department of Public Health has designated 39 hospitals as Primary Stroke Centers, and 5 hospitals as Emergent Stroke Ready Hospitals, with more awaiting approval.
  • These specially designated stroke hospitals offer higher levels of stroke care, with strict national and/or state certification processes.
  • EMS providers have been directed to take stroke patients directly to these designated stroke centers, bypassing hospitals less-able to provide high quality stroke care.
  • According to the American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines Stroke Data Registry, which includes data from over 90 hospitals statewide, the annual percentage of stroke patients receiving the life-saving tPA stroke drug within the nationally-recommended 60 minutes from their arrival at the hospital has risen from roughly 16.8% in 2009 to 45.5% in 2013.
  • Creation of the Governor-appointed State Stroke Advisory Committee, tasked with advising the state on how to further improve stroke care.

"Five years ago, then-Representative Biggins and Senator Steans led a bipartisan effort to pass landmark legislation which built the foundation for advanced stroke care in Illinois," said Lynne Braun, PhD, Chair of the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association’s Illinois Advocacy Committee.  "We’ll never know just how many lives were saved and how many stroke survivors today face a brighter future than they otherwise would have, but considering the fact that stroke is the nation’s number four killer and number one cause of severe disability, we know that the number of lives saved is just going to keep growing.

Today, Representative Robyn Gabel and Senator Heather Steans are leading an effort to take the next step in strengthening Illinois’ stroke system by introducing and sponsoring HB 5742, currently awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor. HB 5742 picks up where the 2009 stroke bill left off, and takes full advantage of new techniques, technologies, and standards of stroke care which have been developed over the last five years.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allow the state to designate Comprehensive Stroke Centers, a new-since-2009 top level of stroke care hospital,
  • Bring Illinois’ Emergent Stroke Ready hospitals into line with new-since-2009 national Acute Stroke Ready standards,
  • Facilitate the creation of a critical state stroke data registry that will form the foundation of future quality improvement efforts, because as any doctor will tell you, "you can’t improve what you don’t measure."

These provisions are based on the recommendations of the State Stroke Advisory Committee created by the 2009 law, comprised of leading Illinois neurologists, emergency physicians, hospital stroke coordinators, nurses, EMS representatives, and stroke survivors.  Proponents of HB 5742 include the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association, the IL College of Emergency Physicians, the IL Critical Access Hospital Network (representing 52 small IL hospitals), the IL Dept. of Public Health, the IL EMS Advisory Council, the IL Fire Chiefs Association, the State Stroke Advisory Committee, and Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other, amongst others.


"HB 5742 will ensure that the trajectory of stroke care in Illinois keeps heading up," said Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, Director of Stroke Research at Northwestern University Medical Center and a member of the Governor-appointed Illinois State Stroke Advisory Committee.  "Illinois is at the forefront of medical research and is home to many advanced research projects studying how best to treat stroke.  It’s only right that all Illinoisans should be able to benefit from these advances, and that’s what this bill will do." 


"I’m grateful for this recognition, but mostly I’m grateful for the recent advances made in stroke care," Senator Heather Steans said. "The stroke center designation program for hospitals is a way government and health care can partner to save lives, and I am committed to helping stroke victims receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible."


"As a stroke survivor and a volunteer with the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association, I want to sincerely thank Representative Gabel, Senator Steans, and former Representative Biggins for all of their hard work on this life-saving bill," said Phyllis Weiss, President of Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other.  "I know first-hand that stroke care has improved in Illinois since the 2009 legislation passed, and I will be even more confident of receiving quality stroke care anywhere in the state once this new bill passes and goes into effect."

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Lauren's Law is on it's way to the Governor

We would like to share a bit of good news! Our bill to mandate that all Illinois high-schools add CPR and AED training to their curriculum, House Bill 3724, cleared its final legislative barrier earlier today when the Senate approved it 48 – 4.  HB 3724, which some of you may know as the Lauren Laman Law, will now be sent to the Governor’s office for signature later this summer (the Governor’s office is supportive of the bill). 

As you’ll recall, Lauren Laman was a high-school senior in St. Charles, IL when she collapsed from Sudden Cardiac Arrest in the school gym during dance team practice.  No one performed CPR as they waited for EMS to arrive, and while there was an AED in the building, it was not used.  We’ve been working with Lauren’s parents for about a year now to build a fitting legislative legacy for their daughter, and we are proud to say that as a result of today’s vote, we’re a lot closer to accomplishing that goal this afternoon than we were this morning. 

Considering the initial "no way, definitely not now, and maybe not ever" opposition we faced from various school administration lobbies, the degree of support this bill ultimately received is truly impressive.  That support is in large part a result of all the petition cards, You’re the Cure email actions, electronic witness slips, and in-person meetings generated over the past six months by that the Laman family, AHA/ASA volunteers, and partner organizations like the Illinois EMS Alliance. 

This has truly been a group effort, and it’s one we can all be proud of.  On behalf of the Laman family, the Bell family (who added their CPR survivor story to several committee hearings and helped legislators see that in-school training really does save lives), and all of our terrific partner organizations, thank you for your help in passing this life-saving legislation! 

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