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In MA Stroke is Preventable, Treatable and Beatable

Today, October 29th is World Stroke Day, which was established to help spread public awareness of the world's high stroke risk and stroke prevalence. It is also a good time to remind our legislators why we need to create a strong stroke system of care in the Commonwealth.

While stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and leading cause of disability in the U.S., many Americans do not think of stroke as a major health concern.  We have made a lot of progress, but we still have a ways to go and need your help! If you learn and share the F.A.S.T. stroke warning signs (F-face drooping; A-arm weakness; S-speech difficulty; T-Time to call 911) with your friends and family, you may save a life, possibly yours. Why? Because spotting the warning signs and calling 9-1-1 immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life.

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without oxygen‐rich blood, brain cells die. Patients should seek immediate medical treatment by dialing 9‐1‐1 at the very first sign of stroke, even if the symptoms go away.  Stroke is a leading cause of long‐term disability in the U.S. and a leading cause of preventable disability. Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. On average, every four minutes, an American dies from stroke. But we know we can stroke is preventable, treatable and beatable, with your help!

Massachusetts has a chance to be a leader in stroke by ensuring that our primary stroke service hospitals are delivering the care that they have promised to do. When we make sure that patients are getting to the hospital in quickly after having a stroke, we need to make sure that we have a strong stroke system of care.

 

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Victory! Coaches will be required to know CPR in 2015!

Victory! Thanks to your advocacy, critical lifesaving legislation that would require coaches to be trained in CPR is headed to the Governor’s desk. This law, when signed by the Governor, will require all public high school coaches to be certified in CPR by August 2015!

This has been a long battle (5+ years) and we can't thank you and the legislators, especially lead sponsors Sen. Downing and Rep. Lawn, for the continued dedication. We know that coaches will now be trained to be prepared to respond immediately to sudden cardiac arrest at organized practices and competitions.

Sudden cardiac death in young athletes is a tragic event with devastating effects on a family, athletic team, and local community. Thanks to the actions of advocates like you, we can make sure that because coaches will be trained there will be no more tragic losses on our fields, rinks, and gyms.  

 

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A Victory for Improving Our Communities in the Commonwealth

Complete Streets Will Help Increase Options for Safe Physical Activity and Better Access Healthy Foods. The MA Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced that they are launching a $3 to $5 million pilot project for the Complete Streets Certification Program! This means cities and towns will be able to apply for funding to make local streets safer and more inviting for people to walk, run, and bike. This will result in better health for Massachusetts residents, who will have more opportunities to be active, reducing chronic disease. This is especially true in low-income communities, which currently have fewer places, sidewalks, and bikeways for residents to safely be outdoors and be active. It also supports the state’s goal to triple the number of people that walk, bike and take public transit. 

Thanks to a lot of hard work by you our advocates and our partners we were able to get the MA Legislature to include language from the initial Active Streets bill in the Transportation Bond bill, along with $50 million of bond funding over five years. We worked with MassDOT- urging them to move forward on this new program (and start appropriating the bond-funded money to municipalities) sooner than later. And that’s just what they are doing- launching a pilot project for a brand new program to award upwards of $5 million this year. 

Even with this great news of $5 million, there’s more work to do– and we’ll still need your help-to get the remaining $45 million appropriated and awarded to municipalities. This will be a key opportunity for our new governor in 2015 to be a leader for healthier communities!

 

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THE HEALTHY INCENTIVES PILOT

The Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) investigated the im­pact of making fruits and vegetables more affordable for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assis­tance Program (SNAP). The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 authorized funds for pilot projects to determine if providing financial incentives to SNAP recipients at the point of sale would increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables, or other health­ful foods. On the basis of this legislative authority, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) designed HIP.

Under HIP, SNAP participants received a fi­nancial incentive for the purchase of fruits and vegetables. Specifically, for every dollar of SNAP benefits the household spent on targeted fruits and vegetables (TFV) in participating retailers, 30 cents in SNAP benefits was added back to their EBT card. TFVs included fresh, canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables without added sugars, fats, oils or salt, but excluded white potatoes and 100% fruit juice.

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) implemented the pilot in Hamp­den County. Located in western Massachusetts, Hampden County is a mix of urban, rural, and subur­ban areas with approximately 55,000 SNAP house­holds and the lowest median household income in the State. Massachusetts, like the rest of the country, suffers from an obesity epidemic, and residents in the western region have the highest rates of obesity and related chronic illnesses in the State.

Just last week the MA DTA released findings on the Pilot Program:

  • HIP increased fruit and vegetable consumption of pilot participants. HIP participants consumed almost a quarter of a cup more targeted fruits and vegetables than non-HIP participants. This 26 percent increase in consumption over non-HIP participants is both statistically significant and large enough to be nutritionally relevant.
  • HIP impacts were not affected by the presence of children in the household, employment status, age, or amount of the household’s SNAP benefit. Some evidence indicated that impacts were larger for households who before HIP had more posi­tive attitudes about fruits and vegetables.
  • HIP households spent more SNAP benefits than non-HIP households on targeted fruits and veg­etables in participating supermarkets and su­perstores—$12.05 versus $10.86 each month—an increase of $1.19 or 11 percent. HIP households earned average incentives of $3.65 each month. Average monthly purchases of targeted fruits and vegetables by HIP households were similar throughout the pilot and were less than originally anticipated.
  • According to self-reports, HIP households spent $78.17 each month on all fruits and vegetables in all types of stores and with cash as well as SNAP benefits. In contrast, non-HIP households report­ed spending $72.02 each month, which was $6.15 (or 8.5 percent) less than spending reported by HIP households.
  • HIP participants clearly responded to the price incentive and used their SNAP benefits to pur­chase more targeted fruits and vegetables. How­ever, the amount of TFVs they purchased with their SNAP benefits in HIP participating stores was insufficient to account for their entire in­creased intake. This suggests that HIP affected consumption through other mechanisms as well, such as informational and attitudinal effects, and may also suggest an incomplete understanding of how the pilot worked.
  • HIP had relatively little effect on store opera­tions. Most retailers reported that HIP purchases were easy to process. Over 90 percent of retailers reported no change in check-out time. Few retail­ers reported problems during the pilot.
  • HIP might have induced retailers to increase their supply of fruits and vegetables to attract HIP households, but only a minority of retailers reported such changes during the pilot.
  • HIP increased SNAP redemptions at Hampden County retailers due to the incentives earned, but because incentive earnings were small, the im­pact on retailer sales was also small. Most SNAP spending occurred in supermarkets, superstores, and grocery stores, and HIP participating retail­ers in these categories experienced the HIP-relat­ed spending increase.

HIP was an innovative and complex project. With these results it would be something that could be considered to replicate not only across the Commonwealth but for other States. The experience in Hampden County demonstrat­ed that HIP was both technically and operational­ly feasible. Projected start-up costs to expand HIP nationwide are estimated to be $89.8 million. The projected value of incentives with nationwide ex­pansion, based on plausible scenarios about SNAP households’ fruit and vegetable spending, ranges from $0.8 billion to $4.5 billion annually.

 

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Gracie Soultanian, Massachusetts

After hearing Michael Ellsessar’s story, a 16-year-old who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2010 after getting hit in the chest during a football game, Gracie Soultanian, then 12 now 13, decided she needed to do something. There are no warning signs for sudden cardiac arrest, allowing any athlete to be at risk. Gracie felt that it was important to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and funds to help schools and athletic fields to have AEDs and for coaches and students to know CPR.

Through essay contests, grants and fundraising, Gracie has raised more than $5,000 to purchase AEDs to be placed at playing fields, town beaches and town pools in the Ayer-Shirley area. In fall 2013, Gracie began her Youth Venture project, “Heartstrong”, to help educate her community about sudden cardiac arrest and to promote CPR in schools. She has shared her story at the American Heart Association’s annual Heart on the Hill event, testified in front of the Joint Committee of Public Health in support of AEDs in School and has conducted a CPR training for coaches in her community. She was recently honored as one of our Heart of Gold. The Heart of Gold Award is presented each year to a member or group of members of the Central Massachusetts’ community who have enhanced the quality of life in the region and have played a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association.

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We are Looking for Go Red Spokespeople!

Are you a woman who is a heart disease or stroke survivor? Has heart or stroke touched your life personally? Has a loved one had a heart attack or stroke? Have you made a lifestyle change to help prevent heart disease or stroke? We are looking for you to share your story! Help us spread the message!

Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women. By speaking up, we can save more lives! Raising your voice and sharing how you or a loved one have overcome heart disease or stroke is one of the strongest actions you can take against our leading health threats. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® movement is looking for women to share their stories of survivorship, lifestyle changes, caregiving or another personal connection to heart disease and stroke to help empower others to put their health first.  Women who share their stories will have the chance to become a local spokesperson for the cause – representing Go Red For Women® in the community. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, please contact allison.slattery@heart.org.

We would love for you to take the time to share your story today!

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Heart of Gold

I am excited to be able to celebrate some amazing advocates from Central MA as Heart of Gold Winners at the Heart of the Commonwealth Event.

The Heart of Gold Award is presented each year to members of the Central Massachusetts’ community who have enhanced the quality of life in the region and who have played a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association

John and Luann Ellsessar, Sutton; Ben and Dawn Symes, Millville and Gracie Soultanian, Shirley-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that our schools and communities are equipped with AEDs and that our students are trained with the lifesaving skill of CPR in memory of Michael Ellsessar, in honor in Tyler Symes and in recognition of 13 year old Gracie’s inspirational efforts.

Rachel Henry, Worcester-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that all stroke patients receive quick, high quality care like she did; and that all residents of the Commonwealth know the signs and symptoms of stroke so they can have the opportunity to not only survive but thrive following a stroke like she has.

 Patricia Degon, Worcester-Heart of Gold for advocating to ensure that our children will get quality daily physical education in schools to create the foundation of lifelong physical fitness.

The Heart of the Commonwealth Celebration & Wine Tasting, which will attract more than 250 of Central Massachusetts’ most prominent business and healthcare professionals, is the annual social event benefiting the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association in its mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We can be proud that over $31 million of American Heart Association funded lifesaving research takes place right here in Massachusetts. The evening will include a cocktail reception followed by wine and microbrew tasting, silent auction and live music performed by Rusty Scott Jazz Trio. For more information and to purchase event tickets, please visit http://heartofthecommonwealth.heart.org

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Does Your Child have PE in Schools?

As we start another school year and our students head back to start learning critical skills, I wonder what about their health? Are they getting the opportunity to be physical active in school? Are they learning the life-long habit of the importance of being active? With your help we can start to make sure that kids are getting the opportunity to have physical education in school. We think that schools are a perfect place in which to promote positive healthy behaviors because students spend large amounts of time in the school environment. Although we know schools are under increasing pressure to increase student scores on standardized tests, the recent dramatic rise in the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents suggests that there is a need for our schools to find ways to promote healthy behaviors. Will you join with us and help us ensure that our kids are exposed to quality PE? Physical Education is Critical to a Complete Education for our Kids!

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Susan Canning, Massachusetts

Sue Canning became an advocate because of her son Kevin. Kevin was born on April 8, 1992.Kevin was loved by everyone because he didn’t take life too seriously and was always trying to make people laugh. Kevin started playing sports very young, including hockey competitively from the age of 3 on as well as baseball, lacrosse, golf and was a member of the Springfield Rifle Rugby Team. As many of Kevin’s teammates would tell you, his motto was “No Excuses, Play like a Champion”. Off the ice or field, Kevin would live by another motto: “Live Every Day, Laugh Every Moment, and Love beyond Words.”

Kevin had a big heart, unfortunately on July 11, 2011, this physical “big heart” took Kevin’s life. After Kevin died his family found out he had a “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)." He had experienced no symptoms and the family never knew he had this condition.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 5,000 young people between 15 and 34 years of age die annually from “Sudden Cardiac Arrest." The leading cause of death is HCM, an abnormally enlarged heart muscle. Because of what happened to Kevin, Sue started KEVS Foundation to sponsor cardiac screenings for young people in our community and to bring awareness and education around CPR and AED information.

Sue’s goal has always been to help raise awareness of “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” through education, cardiovascular screenings for young persons and to provide state of the art Automatic Emergency Defibrillators (AED) and CPR in the community. Sue has become a tireless advocate around requiring coaches and students to know CPR. She has made phone calls, visits to her lawmakers, reached out to the press and has activated all her friends and family to do the same. She knows that Kevin could have suffered sudden cardiac arrest on a field or in a rink and she would have felt safer knowing that the coach was equipped with the knowledge of CPR. She also thinks about if Kevin’s friends had known CPR would they have been able to save them in that situation? She has become a strong voice around the issue of CPR and AEDs and without her advocacy we would not have passed critical legislation that requires all coaches in high schools to know CPR. Because of Sue's efforts and dedication to the issue lives will be saved!

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