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A week in the life...

I thought I would take a moment to tell you what a great and busy week I had this week.

Monday: 4 separate meetings in Augusta with legislators on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee to discuss tobacco taxes—then off to Portland to help set up for the Go Red for Women Luncheon. Some legislators were engaged and supportive. Others (who will not be named) were busy checking their phones. Luncheon set up went smoothly—and the pizza was very welcome.

Tuesday: Go Red Luncheon in Portland! I was joined by Advocacy Committee member, Richard Veilleux and Maine Board member Jen Hunt-Maclearn at the Advocacy Table. We spoke to dozens of people about our policy priorities and signed folks up for You’re The Cure. We were so busy that I did not have time to bid on any of the wonderful auction items. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Wednesday: Carpooled with Hilary from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to Augusta to meet with more members of the Appropriations Committee and Senate Leadership (again, about tobacco taxes). As usual, the timing of the meetings shifted and we barely made it back (in the snow) to pick up kiddos at after-school care. C missed gymnastics, but will make it up next week.

Thursday: CoverMENow Coalition call, followed by a strategy call on tobacco taxes. Later that afternoon, I called into the Maine Cardiovascular Health Council Board meeting where we discussed fundraising, our annual conference and I gave an update on legislative activities.

Friday: My supervisor, David Day, made a trip to Maine to discuss progress to date on our priorities and to look ahead to the rest of the year.

I feel very lucky to have such strong support from partners, volunteers and other American Heart Association staff. I could not do all that needs to get done without you! Thanks.

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Opening Day!

Opening Day!

Apparently, only the MLB believes that spring actually started in March this year. Mother Nature does not agree. I was awoken last night by the sounds of plows. Yup. Had to scrape the car again this morning
However, today is opening day. The Sox play any minute now. I firmly believe that spring will come and the Sox will win the World Series again.

I am also ever-hopeful that the legislature will look beyond politics and do the right thing when it comes to providing health coverage to all needy Mainers. All reputable, science-based and economic-based organizations support our position. Allowing hard-working, low-income Mainers to join Medicaid will save the state money, will save taxpayers money and, most importantly, will lead to better health.

So, I am optimistic. Spring will come. The Sox will win the World Series again this year and the Maine legislature will set aside partisan politics and do the right thing. Who is with me?!?

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1800 Calories

1800 calories.

I went online to see how many calories an average woman burns while shoveling snow. It is about 400 an hour. So, I figure that over the past week or so, I burned 1800 calories. This is great for almost all of me. My shoulder, however, disagrees.

The piles at the end of my driveway are so tall that I have to actually bend my knees and hurl the snow backwards over my shoulder or it will just come crashing back on my head. . However, it is nice to be able to exercise outside and the fresh air feels great.

I actually don’t mind shoveling, except when I am racing the clock to get to the state house. Then it is less fun. Next week looks to be a very busy one for the American Heart Association. We have our Hall of Flags Event (more in the next post) and potential committee votes on our efforts to provide medical coverage to 70,000 adults. Also, the Appropriations Committee just announced that they are considering a tax on cigarettes and other types of tobacco products to help close the budget gap.

More than enough to keep me running when I am not shoveling.

The tobacco tax proposal is identical to one the American Heart Association pushed last year--$1.50 a pack on cigarettes and an equal tax on other tobacco products. You will be hearing more from me about how you can help us with that and other efforts. So, please stay tuned (when you are not out shoveling).

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Women Legislators Lunch and Learn

Flying snow could not deter these women legislators from enjoying themselves at the 8th Annual Women’s Legislative Caucus Heart Luncheon. Unfortunately, due to one of the many snow storms we have had this year, some could not attend.

The event was fun and informative nonetheless.

Tracy Sabol from WMTW News emceed the event and the legislators learned the latest AHA policy priorities and about a fantastic new grant that will put 300 more AEDs in rural locations around the state. They met staff and volunteers from the American Heart Association as well as staff from the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s cardiovascular health program.

Just as importantly, they got to spend a little downtime with their colleagues sharing laughs and making their hearts happy.

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Jane Cleaves, Maine

My name is Jane Cleaves, I am a "mostly" retired nurse from Yarmouth, ME. I am also a board member and current advocacy committee member of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Maine.

I have been volunteering for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for over 20 years. I was also a nurse at Maine Medical Center for 32 years. Over the past 3 + decades I have seen the effects of poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco use on my patients’ hearts. Time and time again, I saw patients with congestive heart failure. We would patch them up the best we could, educate them in the short time we were together, and send them on their way, only to see them back in the hospital with a relapse. This revolving door is incredibly expensive to Maine’s health care system.

I know, from my personal experience, that preventing these cardiac events is our only way to get health care costs under control and to allow the people of Maine to live healthy and productive lives. We need to change the way everyone in Maine thinks about tobacco, poor nutrition and exercise. I volunteer my time with the American Heart Association’s advocacy committee because they are leading the charge to make this change. Won’t you join me?

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Gooooaaaallll!

Later this year, the 2/3rds of MaineCare smokers who want to quit will finally have all the tools they need. Last session, the American Heart Association and our partners worked hard to restore cuts made by the LePage Administration and their allies in the Legislature a few years ago. Those cuts really ticked us off. They made no sense. They would actually cost Maine money—not save Maine money. They just hurt people for no good reason. They cost lives. So, we did what we always do. We did not stay mad. We dug in and got even. We not only restored those cuts by overriding the Governor’s veto (131-10 in the House and 31-4 in the Senate) but the bill we passed enhanced the MaineCare tobacco cessation benefits. Maine now has the best evidence-based benefits in the country and 161 legislators are on the record saying it is the right thing to do. Rep. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham) was the sponsor of the bill and a fantastic advocate.

Also, actions by you, our You’re the Cure Advocates convinced some "fence-sitters" to vote with us. Thank you for your actions. If you did not take action, that is ok, just remember next time! The vote might be a lot closer.

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Weird vegetables--Great people.

I was fortunate to be able to attend a Voices for Healthy Kids (VHK) training with my friend and colleague, Tina Pettingill from the Maine Public Health Association. VHK is a joint venture between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association that seeks to combat obesity through policy change. Tina and I agreed that we learned a lot and that we have some new great ideas about how to bring those changes to Maine.

The bulk of the training was done by M+R Strategies. They taught us the steps we need to take in order to plan a successful campaign. I had heard this training before, but learn something new every time. Of course, the most valuable part of trainings like this is the time you spend outside of the meeting rooms. We were able to meet, socialize and connect with folks working on childhood obesity across New England, NY and NJ.

However, one of the most fun take-aways was the name of this funky mild cauliflower. It is called Romanesque and neither Tina nor I had seen it before. We have vowed to look for it to add to our healthy food repertoire. Tina said it looked like dinosaurs and we remarked that kids would probably like it—especially when pitched as "eating dinosaurs." Can’t wait to try it.

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Megan Allen, Maine

My name is Megan Allen, and I live in Waterville, Maine. I am a member of You’re the Cure and volunteer for the American Heart Association because I believe it is critically important that all newborns are screened for critical congenital heart defects. The American Heart Association is leading the fight to make sure all babies have this important screening.

My daughter Ava would not be alive today if her heart defect was not detected and I have been fighting since she was a baby to make sure others have a fighting chance. 

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect, occurring in 1 in 100 babies. These are structural defects in the heart that occur during the mother’s pregnancy. There is no known cause. CHD's are also the number 1 birth defect related killers. Often, more than one defect is present. 

There is a simple test, called pulse oximetry that can detect congenital heart defects, or CHD's. It's a non-invasive test that quickly measures how much oxygen is circulating through your body. Most major hospitals and birthing centers in the state are already performing pulse oximetry testing on newborns as part of their newborn screenings—but not all. That is why Maine needs policies in place at the state level.

Ava has had 4 open heart surgeries as treatments for her heart defect, Tricuspid Atresia. As her CHD was diagnosed, we had time to carefully plan the timing of these surgeries, and today she is doing great! The best prevention of mortality from a heart defect is early detection, and that is why we need to make pulse oximetry testing a standard of care for all newborns in Maine.

Maine is almost there, and I will keep fighting until we are!

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Ringing in the New Year!

Long gone are the days where I wandered around Boston in the freezing cold on New Year’s Eve with my friends. In fact, when I was in my late-teens and early twenties trying to find my friends at First Night Boston, you could still find phones like the one pictured above and none of us had cell phones.

Now, New Year’s Eve is more about ringing in the New Year from the comfort of my own home. We usually have a special dinner and a bit of champagne—but it is pretty tame. Maybe even lame, but I am not going to dwell on it.
2013 was a pretty good year for the advocates on You’re The Cure. We were able to move the ball forward on two very important issues: pulse oximetry testing for all newborns and tobacco cessation treatment for smokers on Medicaid. The battle is not yet over on either bill, but, with a little new year’s luck, they will both be finalized in January. I truly hope so!

2014 will be busy as well. The legislature has their "short session" but that does not make it any less important. We need to pass the bill that will provide 70,000 Maine residents including 3,000 veterans with health care. We need to make sure that policymakers understand that tobacco is still the #1 killer and we need to begin to educate them on the link between sugary drinks and obesity.

Hope you will not just "phone it in" this year and join me in our fight to decrease cardiovascular disease in Maine.

Becky

PS: My New Year’s resolution is to use fewer puns.

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Where did 2013 go?

Wow! Where did 2013 go? As we celebrate all we did this year, I find myself once again thinking about New Year resolutions.  The perennial favorites are there….eat better, get more exercise, save more money…but these goals are all centered on making my life better.  What if for 2014 we all put more focus on our community goals. Goals that will make life better not just for us, but for our communities as a whole

How about…

  • CPR as a Graduation Requirement
  • Policies fighting Childhood Obesity
  • Pulse Ox Screening for Every Newborn
  • Quality Daily Physical Education for all Students
  • Better Systems of Stroke Care
  • Improved AED Access

That’s just a few. We all live in different places and will have different goals, but we can make them all come true together.

Thank you for all that you do as a You’re the Cure advocate.  Without you we would never be making the progress we are against heart disease and stroke.

And I am excited to see what we can accomplish as a team in 2014!

Heart Disease and Stroke. You’re the Cure.

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