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Improving Food Access in Alabama

On May 13, the American Heart Association will partner with VOICES for Alabama's Children to host a training for individuals and organizations interested in improving food access in Alabama.  During this free event, participants will have the opportunity to learn how healthy food financing can improve access to healthy foods; hear stories from folks who have worked on the issue in neighboring states; discuss next steps for healthy food access in Alabama; and join a community of advocates working for healthy change.  To learn more about the event, email the Alabama Advocacy team at gsa.advocacy@heart.org.

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Spring has Arrived - Time to Get Outside and Get Active

Did you know that Wednesday April 2 was National Walking Day? In most parts of the US, the weather is starting to warm up now that spring has arrived. After a cold winter it's always nice to be able to get out and enjoy the warmer temperatures.

In the spirit of National Walking Day we encourage you to lace up your sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of your day to get up and walk.  National Walking Day is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and also a wonderful way to get family, friends and co-workers started on the way to a healthier life.

Even though National Walking Day has passed, we still encourage you to take some time out of every day to walk and be physically active. Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.  The America Heart Association has even developed a website and an app that can help you find walking paths near wherever you are.  Check it out here to find a path near you.

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2014 Heart on the Hill a Success

April 2 was our Minnesota Heart on the Hill. We had 38 volunteers at the Capitol to meet with legislators. Our issues this year included asking for $6 million for Safe Routes to School infrastructure, AED registry, and comprehensive transportation funding that includes designated funding for active transportation. All told, volunteers had 58 individual meetings with legislators (that’s over ¼ of the Legislature!). Plus volunteers had many more contacts with staff and personal notes left where legislators were unavailable. Packets were dropped at the offices of all 201 legislators including more than delivered more than 700 petition cards in support of the SRTS and AED bills.

 We also held a walk as part of our Capitol Rotunda Rally to celebrate National Walking Day—we had over 60 participants including Sen. Senjem, Sen. Pappas, Sen. Kiffmeyer, Sen. Nelson, Rep. JoAnn Ward, Rep. Halverson, Sen. Franzen, Rep. Hortman, Rep. Clark Johnson, Rep. Bly, and delivering the keynote address was MnDOT Commissioner, Charlie Zelle.

Thank you to all of our great volunteers who attended and staff partners who helped make this a great Heart on the Hill day!  Make sure you check out photos from  the day on our Facebook page here.

Also check out the great media coverage of our event here in the media section.

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Results of Public Opinion Poll Show Illinoisans Support Daily Physical Education

Last month, advocates from across the state gathered in Springfield to draw attention to the importance of daily P.E. in Illinois schools. The American Heart Association participated in a press event on March 19 annoucing the latest polling results that showcase strong support by Illinois residents for daily P.E. Illinois Advocacy Committee member Beth Mahar spoke on behalf of the American Heart Association at the press event. Below is the news release from the event.

 A new poll shows the majority of Illinoisans support Physical Education (P.E.). Representatives from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Heart Association, the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity (IAPO) gathered at the Illinois State Capitol today to discuss details from a public opinion poll commissioned by ACS CAN on physical education requirements in Illinois.

Results of the poll, conducted by FAKO Research & Strategies, show the majority of respondents believe physical educational requirements are a high priority at all grade levels, with four out of five (80 percent) expressing that P.E. should be required at every grade level and to graduate from high school.

Illinois health organizations agree. "Quality daily physical education that engages both the mind and body leads to enhanced academic performance," said Mark Kattenbraker, past president of IAHPERD.

The poll also showed that Illinois voters strongly support current physical education requirements. At this time, P.E. is required for all students in grades K- 12. However, the state permits substitutions, like team sports, Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, etc., to replace the requirement. A school district can also apply for a one-time, two-year waiver for P.E., which can then be extended for up to six years.

"Physical education is key to our kids’ and our state’s long-term health," said Rhonda Pour, ACS CAN volunteer. "Obesity and inactivity already account for 1 in 3 cancer deaths in this country and at current rates, obesity threatens to surpass tobacco use as the number one preventable cause of cancer."

Poll participants were also asked about potential changes to P.E. requirements, which would limit waivers, prevent substitutions and require highly-qualified P.E. specialists as teachers. The majority of voters polled support the changes to the current P.E. requirements.

"Many of us who have been working on the issue of P.E. over a period of decades have noticed a positive shift in culture over the last few years. Even as some Illinois schools have mounted a campaign to cut P.E., people seem to value physical education more and more. These polling results only confirm that," said Elizabeth Mahar, a retired physical educator and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. "In this age of 24-hour health clubs and personal trainers, adults increasingly see P.E. as an important life-long health issue for their children -- a sharp contrast with their own old-fashioned ‘dodge ball in gym’ experience. And as they begin to understand that quality PE is a way to immunize their kids against a life-long struggle with obesity and chronic disease, parents begin to see PE as necessary rather than an optional."

ACS CAN, the American Heart Association, IAPHERD, the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity and other health officials throughout the state are calling on legislators to protect current P.E. standards and to make physical education a priority.

"We work with dozens of community coalitions around the state through our Healthy and Active Communities network, and they are making school programs like P.E. a critical priority for developing healthy kids, and thus, healthy adults," said Elissa Bassler, Executive Director, Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, and CEO, Illinois Public Health Institute. "Our community partners are working with parents, advocates and school officials on strengthening P.E."

"Today’s P.E. standards are not enough to combat the current obesity epidemic and to teach our kids how to be healthy for a lifetime," said Pour.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) recommends that states require all school districts to develop and implement a curriculum that adheres to national and state standards for physical education for a minimum of 150 minutes per week in elementary and 225 minutes per week in middle and high schools.

FAKO Research & Strategies, Inc., of Lisle, IL, interviewed a random sample of 600 registered voters in Illinois by both phone and mobile phone.

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April Update from Springfield

Below is a legislation update from Alex Meixner, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association.

All – we have some good progress to report in Springfield on the systems-of-care front, as Illinois’ annual spring legislative session rolls on.  So without further ado:

First off, our stroke legislation (House Bill 5742) passed the House Human Services Committee on March 26, setting the stage for a vote on the House Floor in the coming weeks!  HB 5742 is the product of a collaborative effort between the AHA/ASA, the IL Critical Access Hospital Network, Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other, and the IL State Stroke Advisory Committee (the official advisory body to the IL Dept. of Public Health on stroke care matters), and would serve to improve stroke care throughout the state.  Amongst other provisions, the bill would: allow the state to recognize Comprehensive Stroke Centers; bring IL’s Emergent Stroke Ready hospitals in line with the new national Acute Stroke Ready standards, and; institute a modest stroke hospital designation fee to pay for a statewide stroke registry and other stroke-related activities within the IL Dept. of Public Health. 

Yesterday’s successful vote was also the product of weeks negotiations with the IL Hospital Association which ultimately made the bill stronger. While we never want to count our legislative chickens too soon (especially since it’ll need to pass at least four more votes before being sent to the governor), things are looking good so far. I also want to take a moment to applaud the incredible work of our terrific stroke volunteers like Shyam Prabhakaran, Peggy Jones, Bob Biggins, Lisa Bartlett, Liz Kim, Jack Franaszek, and Lesley Cranick (just to name a few), our partner organizations like SSEEO, the Midwest Stroke Action Alliance, and the State Stroke Advisory Committee, and of course our terrific QI staff Kathleen O’Neill and Robin Hamann.

Second, the CPR/AED training in schools legislation (HB 3724) recently passed the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Specifically, HB 3724 would require all IL high-schools to include CPR and AED training in their base curriculum, representing a major step forward for CPR/AED training in Illinois. That said, even (hopefully!) with this bill’s eventual passage, there will still be additional work to do next year to get us our ultimate goal of ensuring that every IL high-school students receives CPR and AED training prior to graduation. 

 At the hearing, two Illinois families spoke out in favor of mandatory CPR training. The first, represented by George, Mary, and Matt Laman, spoke movingly about Lauren Laman (George and Mary’s daughter, Matt’s sister), a high-school senior from St. Charles, IL who went into sudden cardiac arrest during dance team practice in her school gym. While there was an AED in the building, no one knew how to use it, and by the time EMS arrived it was too late.  Next came Harry and Brigette Bell, who told the committee about the night earlier this year when Eric Bell (Harry’s father and Brigette’s husband) went into sudden cardiac arrest at home. Luckily, Harry had received CPR training during his freshman year of high-school, and knew exactly what to do. While his mother called 9-1-1, Harry began chest compressions, which ultimately saved his father’s life. According to Dr. Anand Ramanathan, who treated Eric upon arrival at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, "the CPR kept him alive until help got there.  The hospital intervention was after the fact, frankly. The main reason he’s alive today is because of the CPR he received at home." Those twin stories made clear for committee members the incredible life-saving value of CPR and AED training (see the attached photo of the Lamans and the Bells along with bill sponsor Rep. Dan Burke). The support of AHA/ASA volunteers, partner organizations like the IL EMS Alliance, IL Heart Rescue, and various IL fire and EMS organizations was crucial to achieving this major step forward. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Illinois EMS Alliance which we and so many of our volunteers have worked hard to build over the last 18 months is starting to show some real muscle in the Capitol. In addition to helping us build both political support and (even more importantly) implementation capacity for the CPR/AED training bill, the Alliance and the various EMS stakeholders it represents are making themselves heard on a range of emergency healthcare-related issues in Springfield. To point out just one, earlier this week leaders from the IL EMS Alliance put out a call for EMS agencies and EMS professionals around the state to voice their support for SB 3414, a bill which will help bring IL’s EMS education, training and licensure systems up to national standards (which is crucial because the emergency medical care provided by EMTs is only as good as the education and training they receive). The IL Dept. of Public Health has been trying to pass this bill for several years without success, and it seemed all too likely that it would once again die a quiet death in the Senate Public Health Committee on Tuesday, with only a handful of witness slips filed in support of the bill as of Monday afternoon. Within just a few hours of the appeals from IL EMS Alliance leaders, however, 123 witness slips had been filed in support of the bill (compared to just 3 opposed), most filed on behalf of local EMS systems, hospitals, fire protection districts, and state-wide healthcare associations. Thanks in part to this overwhelming support, the bill passed easily through a committee.  This was a huge show of strength for EMS in Illinois, and a big step forward for the political credibility of the IL EMS Alliance. 

As always, thank you for signing those petition cards, filing those electronic witness slips, and taking those You’re the Cure action alerts!  It really does make a difference!

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An Update on SB 2194, testing all Hawaii Newborns for Critical Congenital Heart Defects

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

Thanks to AHA You’re The Cure advocates, SB 2194, the bill that would require Hawaii birthing centers to perform a pulse oximetry screening to check for critical congenital heart defects prior to discharge, continues to move toward final passage. The bill was passed by the House Finance Committee on April 3 with no major changes to the pulse oximetry screening section (a second unrelated section was added to the bill during the committee hearing on which the AHA took no position). The bill now heads to the House Floor for a vote before it moves presumably to a conference committee where differences between the House and Senate version of the bill will be worked out. If agreement can be achieved there, the bill will move to the Governor for final passage into law.

The AHA is also supporting two other tobacco-control related bills which continue to advance. SB2495 would restrict the use of electronic cigarettes to places where only regular cigarettes are allowed, thereby protecting non-smokers from being involuntarily exposed to the nicotine and other particles and chemicals emitted as part of e-cigarette aerosol. SB 2496 would increase the tax on “other” tobacco products (all tobacco products other than cigarettes) to a rate of 85% of wholesale cost. Other tobacco products are currently under-taxed in relation to cigarettes making them more appealing to youths. The CDC has reported a sharp uptake in usage of those products by youths as cigarette prices have increased. Increasing taxes has been proven to reduce usage by youths. An as yet undetermined portion of the revenue from the tax increase would be earmarked for the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund to be used by community programs to reduce tobacco consumption.

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You're the Cure Across the SouthWest!

The 2014 Legislative Session wrapped up earlier this year and it was a successful one for advocates in the American Heart Association's SouthWest Affiliate (AR, CO, NM, OK, TX, WY).  With your help, we promoted issues dealing with congenital heart defect screening for newborns, CPR training in schools, and ensuring more people have access to health insurance across our region. 

While state legislative sessions won’t begin again until early in 2015, we are already planning our agenda and gearing up for another successful year.  We will host volunteer trainings and issue update calls throughout the summer and fall and would love for you to be a bigger part of our team.

Please email Brian Bowser, our SouthWest Affiliate Grassroots Director, at brian.bowser@heart.org if you would like more information about getting involved!

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Cities Around Texas Proclaim April 2nd National Walking Day

City Councils around Texas, including Fort Worth & Austin, recently proclaimed April 2nd as National Walking Day. On this day, Americans are encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk.

 It's a great way to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and to get your family, friends and co-workers started on a healthier way of life.

 More information on National Walking Day is available at: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/NationalWalkingDay/National-Walking-Day_UCM_448665_Article.jsp

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Congressman Marc Veasey Encourages Constituents to Get Healthy at AHA Event!

Congressman Marc Veasey recently attended an AHA luncheon in Arlington to promote Check.Change.Control and encourage his constituents to not only know their blood pressure reading, but control it.

 Why? High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about 78 million Americans. It increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and it can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms.

 It’s particularly prevalent among African-Americans, who are 33 percent more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than other races. Yet despite how widespread it is and damaging it can be, high blood pressure is still unknown, misunderstood or ignored by many people.

 That’s why the American Heart Association offers Check. Change. Control. The program began in 2013 and is uniquely tailored for communities around the country to help African-Americans monitor their blood pressure.

 Learn more at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/HighBloodPressureToolsResources/Check-Change-Control-Blood-Pressure-Program_UCM_449318_Article.jsp

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Open Streets OKC Features Hands-Only CPR Demonstration

On March 30th, thousands of Oklahoma City residents met at NE 23rd for the inaugural ‘Open Streets OKC’ festival. This event served as an opportunity for attendees to safely walk the street and visit booths promoting an active and healthy community.

 At this event, AHA volunteer Petra Colindres educated participants on the signs of cardiac arrest and how to perform hands-only CPR. She also promoted House Bill 1378, by Rep. Emily Virgin, a bill to ensure all students receive basic instruction in CPR and the purpose of an AED prior to graduating. Many attendees signed post card petitions to their state lawmakers asking for their support this lifesaving legislation.

 

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