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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Look At All We've Done

In the hustle and bustle of life, it seems there is always something that needs our attention.  Maybe it’s a lunch appointment, a meeting after work – did you remember to call your mom to wish her a happy birthday?

With so many things monopolizing our time, it begs the question: “Why do we do what we do?”  How do we choose to prioritize what gets our few free moments?  As a You’re The Cure Advocate, why do you choose to align yourself with our mission?  Do you know all that we have accomplished?

Today, we are bragging on you. Each action you have taken: every email you’ve sent to your lawmakers, every meeting you’ve attended has helped propel forward many vital pieces of legislation.  We want to tell how you’ve shaped our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate over the past few years.

Maryland:
2012 Legislative Session: tax on small cigars and all smokeless products was raised. Legislation was also passed to require insurance carriers to cover and reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine.
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in MD are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. 
Thank you.

North Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: required all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  In addition, a total of $2.7 million in non-recurring funding was secured for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in NC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital.   Also signed into law was a policy that ensures designation of Primary Stroke Centers - ensuring stroke patients receive appropriate & timely care. 
Thank you.

South Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: advocates were able to preserve $5 million for the Smoking Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in SC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the Senate passed legislation requiring all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  This legislation is headed to the House of Representatives, and our SC advocates will be vital in ensuring this becomes law.
Thank you.

Virginia:
2012 Legislative Session: Governor McDonnell issued Executive Directive 4, developing an implementation plan for pulse oximetry tests in hospitals. The House also required the Board of Education to develop PE guidelines for public elementary and middle schools.
2013 Legislative Session: Gwyneth’s Law was signed into law.  All high school students will be required to achieve proficiency in CPR for graduation – and all teachers must be proficient in order to achieve their licensure.  The state budget allocated $400,000 for 12-lead ECG’s for EMS, which helps to diagnose the most severe type of heart attack.
Thank you.

Washington, DC:
2012 Legislative Session: the DC City Council allocated $495,000 for tobacco control programs within the Department of Health.
2013 Legislative Session: the DC Telehealth Reimbursement Act of 2013 requires all payers to reimburse services rendered by telemedicine.
Thank you.

Advocates are driving more policies in the 2014 sessions!  Some say “It takes a village to raise a child.”  With You’re The Cure, it “takes a network to make a difference.” Each and every one of you has made a difference.

Thank you for giving your heart.

 

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Advocates and Legislators Support Breanna’s CPR Bill at MD Lobby Day

The American Heart Association, the Maryland Women’s Legislative Caucus, and the American College of Cardiology hosted our 2014 Maryland Legislative Event and Lobby Day on February 6th in the House Building in Annapolis. It was a very successful event and greatly appreciated by all those who attended.

More than 145 legislators and staff attended the legislative heart healthy event where they were offered CPR training, a heart healthy breakfast, screening by Dare to Care, and health consulting by the American College of Cardiology. Over 30 You’re the Cure advocates attended the event and met with their legislators.

The focus of this year’s lobby day was Breanna’s Bill, which proposes making CPR training a high school graduation requirement. The bill is named after Breanna Sudano, a sixteen-year-old girl from Perry Hall, Maryland. Three years ago, Breanna went into cardiac arrest after playing field hockey. Her coaches and a few parents at the game saved her life by performing CPR until the paramedics arrived.  Breanna and her mom have lobbied strongly for this bill.

A Virginia couple helped too. The Griffin’s lost their twelve-year-old daughter, Gwyneth, in 2012 when she went into cardiac arrest and suffered severe brain damage because she did not receive CPR until medical personnel arrived. Last year, the Griffin’s helped to introduce and pass a similar law, Gwyneth’s Law, in Virginia.  Through their loss, they have committed to helping the AHA in passing similar laws across the nation and were ready to share their story in Annapolis.

The legislative event and lobby day received substantial news coverage. A number of media stations, including WBAL-TV 11, ABC2, WUSA 9 DC, WJLA TV ABC7, Associated Press, 99.1 News Radio, Capital News Service, and WPOC, attended the press conference. Their stories and clips from the press conference can be viewed at: WBAL-TV 11 – Baltimore News, ABC2 News – Baltimore, WUSA 9 DC, and WJLA TV ABC7 News DC.

Our many partners helped make this event possible including: the Maryland Women’s Legislative Caucus, the American College of Cardiology, the Chesapeake Training Center and Baltimore County Fire Department which provided CPR training for the legislators and advocates, The Medicine Company which generously provided CPR Anytime Training kits for the legislators, and Dare to Care which provided on-sight cardiovascular screening. 

Click here to view photos from the event.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of the event and who supported Breanna’s Bill!

(Pictured above left to right: Senator Pugh, Breanna Sudano, Rebecca Sudano)

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Big Changes in Store for Food Labels

After more than two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing sweeping changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods.

The proposals would require food manufacturers to list added sugars, nutrition counts for more-realistic portion sizes and total nutrition information for multiple servings of food within a single package.  The government also wants to require potassium and vitamin D to be listed.

The changes are being released on Thursday during a critical time in the U.S. A third of all adults in the nation are obese, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another third of Americans are overweight.

“Eating healthy is a habit all Americans need to have and the FDA’s new nutrition labels will help put that goal within reach,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “By arming consumers with more knowledge about nutritional content, calories and serving sizes, the new labeling information proposed by the FDA takes an important step toward improving the health of all Americans.”

Despite the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity has declined by 43 percent for children ages 2 to 5, it has not changed significantly for adults or the larger pool of kids ages 2 to 19.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. And obesity in children is causing a health problems that used to be seen only in adults, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Changes to nutrition labels will take time. The FDA will collect comments for 90 days on its proposed new rules from food manufacturers, the general public and nutrition and health advocates. It will consider clarifications or changes based on the comments, then give food manufacturers time to reprint their labels and replace existing inventory.

“These new labels will empower consumers with a valuable source of nutrition information, and the American Heart Association commends the FDA for proposing these changes,” Brown said.

Proposed changes include:

Added sugars: for the first time, added sugars will be on the nutrition facts panel. Previously, naturally-occurring and added sugars were combined into a single listing of “total sugars.” This will allow consumers to know how much sugar has been added by the manufacturer. The AHA recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories a day from added sugars, or 25 grams, and men consume 150 calories a day, or 37.5 grams.

“The addition of added sugars to the Nutrition Facts Panel is a giant step forward,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with many risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and elevated triglyceride levels. A recent study demonstrated an association between high intakes of added sugars and death from cardiovascular disease. Consumers want to know how much sugar has been added during the processing or preparation of foods so they can make wise decisions about the foods they eat.”

Serving sizes: Adjusted for 17 categories of foods to better reflect what people are actually consuming. For example, ice cream will go from ½ cup to 1 cup; muffins and bagels will go from ½ to 1; and beverages will go from 8 ounces to 12 oz. This gives people a more realistic idea of what they’re actually consuming in a single sitting, so they can better monitor what they’re eating and make healthier choices.

Sodium: This will be adjusted slightly to reflect a 2,300 milligram daily value, which is the maximum amount per day recommended in the dietary guidelines for someone consuming a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the ideal sodium consumption, especially for people trying to lower their blood pressure, is 1,500 mg. per day.  “There is strong scientific evidence that indicates lowering sodium reduction can result in significant reductions in blood pressure,” Brown said. ”Therefore, the association will continue to recommend sodium intake to be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day. We intend to work with the FDA, during this 90-day comment period and beyond if need be, to highlight the increased benefits from further sodium reductions and to advocate for stronger action.”

Package size: Like serving sizes, package sizes will be labeled more accurately. So a large muffin or bottle of soda will have nutrition information for the entire package.

Per serving and per package: If a package has 2-4 servings in it, the label will be required to show nutrition information per serving and per package. This helps make it clear when the package has multiple servings inside.

Calories bigger and bolder: Although the format of the label won’t change dramatically, calories and serving sizes will be emphasized with a bigger and bolder font. This may help people make healthier choices by knowing what they’re consuming.

Nutrient listings: The amount of potassium and vitamin D will now be required, calcium and iron will remain and vitamins A and C will be optional. When the nutrition label was last updated 20 years ago, health officials were more concerned about people getting enough of vitamins A and C, but attention now is on potassium and D.

Want to help inform friends & family about these changes?  Share this graphic on Facebook.





















For more information:

FDA announcement

AHA CEO Nancy Brown's Statement

Understanding food nutrition labels

American Heart Association Nutrition Center 

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How to Love Yourself for National Nutrition Month

If a full commitment to healthy eating seems too tough to swallow, then start with a taste test.  March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to love yourself a little more by trying some new habits that just may stick. 

Little by little, you’ll start to see a difference in how you feel and look.  And those small steps can lead to bigger payoffs.

“We know from research that being exposed to healthy food means you will develop a preference for that food over time. For example, once you become accustomed to eating lower-sodium foods, you will find that foods you used to eat taste very salty,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, RD, chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “By adopting a healthier diet you will not only add years to your life but you’ll improve the quality of the years you have.”

Here are some tips to try this month, and any other time of the year: 

  • Slow down on the sodium: Did you know Americans eat more than double the daily amount of sodium recommended by the American Heart Association? Too much sodium increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems, but this excess isn’t just from salting your food. Americans get most of their sodium — 77 percent! — from processed foods. If you choose these foods, compare the labels and look for lower-sodium versions.
  • Pile on the fruits and vegetables: Choose all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Load your shopping basket with fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Then try the “slender sauté” using a small amount of liquid to cook vegetables. Need a quick, healthy weeknight dinner? Try a salad. The American Heart Association has tasty recipes packed with everything from bacon to broccoli to tofu to mushrooms and much more.
  • Get the skinny on fats: Learn how to substitute good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for bad fats (saturated and trans fats). For example, try canola oil or olive oil instead of butter. Choose lean meats, poultry without skin and fish instead of fattier cuts of meats. Enjoy heart-healthy fats in moderation and remember this tip: 1 teaspoon equals 1 serving.
  • Save your waistline and your wallet by cooking at home. Cooking at home is not only a great way to make sure the ingredients that go into your recipes are healthy, but it gives you control over your portion sizes too. (Not to mention your budget.) Try using a smaller salad-size plate for your main meal instead of a big dinner plate.

“Achieving a healthy weight is essential to living well,” Johnson said. “Adding fiber-rich, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help you feel satisfied on fewer calories.”

For more healthy eating tips, recipes and a guide to products with the Heart Check mark, visit heart.org/healthyliving.

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Use the Press to Push Policy Forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

The press influences people.  As You’re the Cure grassroots advocates, we need to influence people.  Put 2 and 2 together, and You’re the Cure advocates can use the press to influence people.  Let’s do it!

Here’s a down and dirty guide to pushing a policy forward through a simple letter-to-the-editor:

  • Gather American Heart Association (AHA) fact sheets on the issue.  (Ask us!)
  • Choose target publication from your area and check their guidelines and word-count limit online.
  • In the first sentence, state the need and why it’s important to the public.
  • In a new paragraph, add two or three sentences about why it’s important to you personally. 
  • In a new paragraph, include a sentence or two with supporting data from our fact sheet(s).
  • Summarize by stating what you want, what readers should do, and/or what legislators should do.
  • Check to be sure you’re within the word-count limit (just the letter itself, not the salutation and signature).
  • If you wish, send to your AHA staff contact so we can provide a little polishing.
  • Once finalized, submit online per their rules, including your full contact information.
  • Connect to tell us you’ve submitted your letter.
  • Watch for publication!  

Note: If you can reference a related recent article from the same publication in your opening it could raise the chances of getting your letter published.

That’s it!  Not complicated, but highly impactful.  Not only can we educate the public about our policy issues this way, but we can reach legislators as well.  They and their staff comb newspapers that serve their districts for relevant content.  You can even name a legislator you want to influence in your letter, so it comes up in their Google searches. 

Would you like to write a letter-to-the-editor on a current You’re the Cure issue in your area?  Ask your local American Heart Association advocacy staff for information to get you started!  

 

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Learn & Share Your Post-Stroke Tips

After a stroke, even the simplest tasks can be very challenging.  Survivors often face limb weakness, numbness or paralysis, communication challenges, and difficulty with their vision.  However, we know stroke survivors and caregivers across the country are persevering and discovering new, creative ways to carry out the daily tasks they need to.  Through their recovery, they find a 'new normal' and we want to help share these helpful tips far and wide. 

That's why the American Stroke Association created a volunteer-powered library- Tips for Daily Living- to gather ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!  For example, do you have to put up a ponytail with one hand?  Watch Karen’s video!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Help us grow the library!  Do you have something to share that could help stroke survivors?  Share your tips by completing the online submission form at www.StrokeAssociation.org/tips.  You’ll get a FREE AHA/ASA recipe book and Stroke Solidarity String for participating!

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What's on Tap for MD Session

Happy New Year!  The 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly (beginning Jan 8), promises to be an important one for MD citizens.  With a number of key issues expected on the docket, You’re the Cure advocates will have opportunities to help drive significant advances critical to cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 

Here’s a quick look at several policy areas already on tap:

  • CPR as a Graduation Requirement - Promote CPR training, consistent with AHA guidelines and incorporating psychomotor skills and AED awareness instruction, as a requirement for high school graduation.  CPR is a life-saving skill that stays with you for a lifetime!

Take action NOW to urge support for teaching CPR in all MD schools.

  • Preventive Health Benefits Availability and Affordability -  Support policies to ensure the availability of preventative benefits through private insurance and public health programs.

We also anticipate working on supporting public funding to address health disparities and improve health equity, monitoring state health reform implementation, establishment of healthy vending policies for Baltimore City Government, and promoting the AHA standard that all students in elementary schools receive at least 150 minutes a week of physical education.  As always, new issues could emerge that we will engage in or follow, and we’ll keep you posted about those we need your voice on.

Want a little more scoop? We have a short call scheduled for Monday Jan 27 from noon to 12:30pm to discuss what’s unfolding for your state session.

Click here to register for the call!

Call-in information will be provided to those registered before the call.  

Click here now to send your customizable letter about teaching CPR in schools.

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Lori Valencia Greene

Lori Valencia Greene, Maryland

Lori Valencia Greene is a woman of many hats: mother, daughter, friend, student, and an advocate for change in her community. She was surprised at the young age of 47 to also find herself a stroke survivor!

Lori has always had a desire to make a difference. Because of this she volunteered in her native District of Columbia since she was a teenager.

Lori first became involved with advocacy work in 1985 when she took a job as a legislative assistant on the Hill where she worked for 10 years, including two stints as Legislative Director. She fell in love with the work and eventually took jobs lobbying for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Black Women's Health Project, and the American Psychological Society (APA). While working for the APA, Lori was an advocate for a bill that would eliminate race and ethnic health disparities. One of her proudest moments was seeing this bill turned into law. She says, “I like advocacy work because I feel like I am making a difference, particularly when I am advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves.”

Lori’s stroke experience brought her many challenges, but it also gave her a new drive for advocacy work. “After going through the whole process I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done. I had great care, but there were things that could have been improved and there is still a lot that isn't known about why people have strokes.” After her stroke, Lori stumbled on the American Heart Association web page where she happily signed up for advocacy volunteer work, and has been an active advocate for You're the Cure ever since. She is currently serving on an advisory committee for You’re the Cure.

Of all of the experiences that Lori has had, she says she is most gratified by her advocacy work. Lori’s advice to advocates is to have passion and patience. “Don't give up. Just don't give up. Its' easy to give up, but don't do it. The people you are advocating for need you.”

Are you passionate about advocacy? Tell us your story HERE.

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Chat Up Your Lawmakers Like a Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to know how to make chatting up your lawmakers really count?  A few simple steps make all the difference in the world, whether it’s in a phone conversation or a face-to-face visit. 

  • Share where you live, so they know they are working for you, their constituent.
  • State the issue or need concisely in just 1 or 2 sentences.
  • Personalize it:  share a 3-4 sentence description about how it affects you, someone you love or work with, and others in the district/state. Don’t be afraid to get sappy!  Sappy helps make it real.
  • Include 1-3 facts to illustrate the need.  Use American Heart Association talking points or information from the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org, so you’re sure the information you are sharing is accurate and science-based.
  • Ask straight-out if they will support the issue.  Then ask why or why not.
  • Offer follow-up for any questions we can help answer.
  • Connect with us right away to let us know about your conversation.

Practice the format above a few times before your call or visit, and it will help you feel comfortable and prepared. 

And remember, our lawmakers are regular people just like you and me, who happen to be elected officials sworn to serve their district. Telling them what their constituents want is simply helping them do their jobs. 

 

(Pictured: NC You're the Cure Advocate Frank Amend talks with Rep Walter Jones about a pending policy issue.)

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