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We're Thankful... For You

It has been an incredibly exciting year in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, full of policy advancement and growth in our You’re the Cure network. None of our success could have happened without the work of you, our many dedicated advocates.

We are thankful for you.

Our DC advocates worked hard and accomplished two major policy wins so far this year: a tobacco funding policy that went into effect as of October 1, as well as a Worksite Wellness healthy vending and procurement policy win. These deserve major congratulations! As our year progresses, we know without a doubt we will be able to achieve even more success across our affiliate.

We are thankful for you.

Advocates and staff have been working together at Heart Walks across the affiliate to recruit new You’re the Cure members, and educate walkers on our policy issues for this year. Since July 1, we have seen our You’re the Cure network grow by over 5,000 new advocates who have been adding their voice to our campaigns to help us make even more progress this year. We would like to share a very large "thank you" with all of our advocates who joined us early in the morning to help us accomplish this growth!

We are thankful for you.

In August, we reached out to our advocates to participate in our August Recess activity and help deliver lunch bags with puzzle pieces to their federal legislators in support of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This policy’s aim of protecting strong nutrition standards for school meals was just one of many opportunities for advocates to get to know their advocacy staff and other advocates, as well as their legislators, on a deeper level while completing offline actions – actions which have resulted in a direct, positive impact on their communities.

We are thankful for you.

Recently we were able to offer a virtual Volunteer Summit in AHA offices across the nation, which brought together high level volunteers, board members, and staff to discuss the new Community Plan 2.0. We had four volunteers attend. Tracey Perry shared her experience: "The Volunteer Summit was an excellent opportunity to review the Community Plan 2.0 and National Agenda of AHA. It was then very helpful to review our local Charlotte Market and see how our Health Assessment compared. We discussed ways to increase engagement of volunteers, increase prospects, and focus on the three top Health Priorities for 2015.

We are thankful for you.

Nothing causes our hearts to sing more than when an advocate has that feeling of making a true difference. Ginnie Gick summed up one of her experiences as an advocate. "Being able to participate in the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill really brought home the importance of advocating for the funding that is so necessary to support the fight against heart disease and stroke. I met so many incredible people who are struggling with the challenge to live a normal life in spite of their risk or illness, and every one of us deserves the opportunity to ask for and receive the benefit of advancements in medicine."

We are thankful for you.

Over the next several months, our states will begin their new 2015 sessions and there will be a host of new opportunities to amplify your voice through advocacy. Without your passion and involvement, the American Heart Association would not be where we are in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, passing policy that keeps communities healthy.

Thanksgiving is why.

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Join Us For An Online Food Fight!

Fall brings about visions of harvest and nature's bounty. Unfortunately what we see when we are out on the go doesn't always match that vision. What do you see?

We want to know what you see - in convenience stores or where you stop to shop when you are on the go. We’ve started a statewide campaign and we’d like for you to show us what’s out there. Simply snap a picture for us and then upload it to your favorite social media site with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC.

If you see some great healthy food, let us know by uploading your pictures and captioning them with "This corner store is making it easy for me to be #healthyonthegoNC." Or is your local selection not so great? Show us with "This is all I have to choose from? I want my corner store to be #healthyonthegoNC" - or simply create your own caption with the hash tag! 

We’ve already seen some great social media action so far since we started. Since we kicked off our campaign, we’ve gotten over 64 mentions, which is incredible! We’re learning that a lot of our neighbors in surrounding communities aren’t thrilled with their healthy options on the go, and we know that with this campaign, we have been able to reach up to 53.8 thousand people – so why don’t you join us and show us what’s in your neighborhood? Help us change our communities to make them healthier for everyone.

So take those pictures and help us find out what choices (good or bad) you find when you are on the go. Remember to tag them #healthyonthegoNC!

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Richard Benson

Richard Benson, MD/PhD, District of Columbia

“I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” When it comes to preventing heart disease and stroke, the #1 and #4 most common causes of death in the US, respectively, I think of those famous and poignant words by the late great Michael Jackson many years ago. As a neurologist who has dedicated his life to diagnosing, treating and preventing strokes, I am often faced with the unenviable job of having to tell some individual or family member that they or someone that they love has suffered a stroke. The largest tragedy of this unrehearsed, but all too common narrative is having to explain that heart disease and stroke are largely preventable diseases.

Surprisingly, although many people have some knowledge of these common killers, they have ignored their own health or personal responsibility related to the development and/or treatment of these diseases.

As a physician working in an acute care hospital, I automatically start the complex series of ruminations, studies, and medications that any well trained doctor makes when faced with either of these life or death situations, regardless of person, situation, or insurance status. But as a human being and a person of faith, my heart bleeds as I think, “if only this person had had a better diet, exercised more, decreased his salt intake, took her medication, visited his doctor, then perhaps this could have been prevented.” Although far from perfect, health care providers have standards of training and care that we must uphold. But as a society, the most important weapons in the fight against these two common killers (e.g. eating right, exercising, and seeing your doctor regularly) are often left abandoned.

The most effective way to decrease the numbers of people suffering from heart disease and stroke, is for “the man in the mirror to make that change” in his/her lifestyle. You are the cure!

 

 

Dr. Richard Benson (left) with Michelle Williams (formally from Destiny’s Child) and Dr. Rani Whitfield (the hip hop doc), both National Power To End Stroke Ambassadors

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You're Invited: Join Us to Learn More About Advocacy

We have a special opportunity from the NC Alliance for Health (NCAH), our statewide coalition advocating for obesity prevention and tobacco control policy change. The American Heart Association is a proud member of the NCAH.

NC Alliance for Health Healthy Food Access Training

You are invited to an interactive training on combating obesity and other chronic diseases by increasing access to healthy foods. There will be a discussion of food insecurity in North Carolina, and the many different ways people around the state are working to increase access to healthier foods.

You will how you can help make a difference. Attendees will have an opportunity to sharpen their advocacy skills, and learn tips to be more effective with media and decision-maker advocacy.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Sarah Jacobson at sarah@ncallianceforhealth.org.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Forsyth County Health Department
799 N. Highland Avenue, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Lunch will be served!

Register here by Thursday, November 6!

PS: Don't forget to post pictures of what you see in your food environment on your favorite social media with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC!

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Share Your Pics: Join Us for an Online Food Fight

Fall brings about visions of harvest and nature's bounty. Unfortunately what we see when we are out on the go doesn't always match that vision. What do you see? This fall we want to know what you see - in convenience stores or where you stop to shop when you are on the go. Simply snap a picture for us and then upload it to your favorite social media site with the hash tag #healthyonthegoNC.

If you see some great healthy food, let us know by uploading your pictures and captioning them with "This corner store is making it easy for me to be #healthyonthegoNC." Or is your local selection not so great? Show us with "This is all I have to choose from? I want my corner store to be #healthyonthegoNC" - or simply create your own caption with the hash tag! 

**Many thanks to Victoria Scholl, who has been interning in our Morrisville Office, for putting together this post!

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Trick or Treat?

Candy Corn, Gummy Bears, Peanut Butter Cups, Swedish Fish, Candy Bar, Bubblegum and Cotton Candy… These may sound like treats the neighborhood kids are hoping to pick up when they go trick-or-treating later this month, but they’re actually the tricks used by companies to hook our kids on nicotine. These are flavors of e-cigarette liquid available for purchase today.

With alluring flavors like those and a dramatic increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it raises concerns. Strong regulations are needed to keep these tobacco products out of the hands of children. We’ve asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and we’re still waiting for them to act.

Meanwhile, CDC launched this week their #20Million Memorial. 20 million people have died from smoking-related illnesses since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. Has smoking affected you and your family? Check out this moving online memorial, then share your story or honor loved ones lost too soon with the hashtag #20Million.  

AHA staff and volunteers across the country are preparing to fight the tobacco epidemic in upcoming state legislative sessions. They’ll ask for state funding for tobacco prevention programs and for increased tobacco taxes, a proven deterrent for youth smoking.

This Halloween, don’t let our kids continue to get tricked by the tobacco companies. Help end the tobacco epidemic for good. To amplify our message with lawmakers, ask friends and family members to join us, then watch your inbox for opportunities to act!  

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Find Who Cares Like You Do

You care about helping Americans live healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  We know you care because you are a You’re the Cure Advocate, supporting our efforts to change policies that impact this.

But we desperately need more like you – people willing to take simple actions to help drive the messages to legislators.  We’re hoping you know a few you can inspire for us.  Here are a few easy things you could do:

  • Ask your friends and family to be active advocates – they probably care as much as you do, and many will have stories of their own that help them understand how critical our mission is to saving lives. Send them to www.yourethecure.org to join.
  • Forward our emails to your contacts and tell people how important this is to you.  Ask them to help.
  • Use the sharing buttons that appear on the webpage after you’ve taken action on each of our alerts to post to social media and engage your own following to be part of the solution.
  • Know a small (or larger) group you could present to, to invite their participation?  This could be a huge help!  Faith groups, community groups, social clubs, and parents groups are all good places to start. We have tools and materials to make it easy, and you earn credit as an advocate for doing a ‘recruitment event’ for us.  It can be as informal as you like, and we can help prepare you.  Call or email any AHA Advocate Contact in your state to get connected with staff who can help.
  • Hold a House Party to introduce our mission to friends and family, or any group you’re part of, and get them on board.  It’s easy and fun, and a very meaningful way to make sure your own people are part of the network.  See all the scoop on how here
  • Know a company, organization, church, or alliance whose members or employees might care?  All they’d have to do is circulate a quick invitation from us to be part of the cure.  If you have a contact there and can open the door for us to tailor an invitation and get it out to their people, that could be a big recruitment win! 

You can contact us for guidance on any of these, and do be sure to tell us when you’re doing something to help recruit. (Here’s the link again to find AHA contacts in your state.)  It’s important we know how we’re growing our network, and we want to be sure your record reflects your work with us.

Right now we’re working hard to position ourselves for a successful policy session, and need to be sure our advocate network is strong and ready.  Every single voice is needed to make sure the messages are heard by our lawmakers.

Help us find other people who care like you do. It could mean all the difference when the time comes and we have to pull out the stops to help a bill pass.

 

 

<photo credit to Eneas on Flickr>  

 

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Joye Mullis

Joye Mullis, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

As with all children, my son’s story began well before his birth.  I had a fairly easy pregnancy, tainted by a couple of scares early on, but then all appeared well at my 20-week ultrasound. 

I was healthy.  Baby was healthy.  Life was good.

At 28 weeks, I had a second ultrasound to check on the baby’s growth and that sent my husband, Jeramie, and me into a fast-moving downward spiral of more ultrasounds, stress tests, and worries.  By the time our son, Ethan, was born on March 8th, 2009, I’d had a total of five ultrasounds, all attempting to diagnose what would be two birth defects – one urological in nature and one orthopedic.

“But...” an OB assured us, “...all of his major organs are healthy and strong!”

However, about eight hours after Ethan’s birth we learned that the doctor was not completely right.  After struggling to nurse and being an overall quiet newborn - two major red flags that weren’t apparent to us first-time parents - it was discovered that Ethan had also been born with a critical congenital heart defect known as Pulmonary Atresia.

My post-partum nurse was bringing Ethan back to our room from his newborn screening when she noticed that “he just didn’t look right”.  She wheeled him back into the nursery, hooked him up to a pulse oximeter, and found that his oxygen saturation level was in the mid-60s.  That discovery began a flurry of activity, unbeknownst to us, which culminated in someone coming to our room hours later to tell us about the broken heart of our brand new son.

Ethan was rushed to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina where he stayed for a total of nine and a half weeks, and where he underwent his first open-heart surgery at just three days old.  He had a handful of surgeries during that time – one of which was to implant a permanent pacemaker – and he also survived full cardiac and pulmonary arrest.

Over five and a half years, and three open heart surgeries later, Ethan is now thriving! His story is that of strength and resilience.  It's a story about rising above the brokenness and turning something so tragic into something so beautiful. It has taken a lot of work to get Ethan where he is today, and it all began with an observant nurse and a sticky light.  One simple test saved my son’s life and could do the same for countless others.

I’ve been known to say that the diagnosis of Ethan’s heart defect didn’t just break one heart – it broke three.  While Pulse Ox screening can’t take away the heartache of surgeries and complications, it can be the start of a lifetime of success for a baby born with a congenital heart defect.  It was for Ethan, and every baby born in North Carolina deserves that same start. 

   

 

 

 

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Throw Down the Gauntlet for Healthy Food Options!

Our North Carolina Advocacy Coordinating Committee Chair has a letter for all of our North Carolina You’re the Cure advocates encouraging everyone to take a few moments and let the Governor and Lt. Governor know how important access to healthy foods is important for all areas of North Carolina.  Take a moment to read Yolanda’s encouraging letter below, and then take some time to let Governor McCrory and Lt. Governor Forest know that healthy foods are important in all parts of North Carolina.

 

Fellow You’re the Cure Member,

This year, as the Chair of the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee, I am writing to challenge you to become an active advocate in You're the Cure NC's campaign to ensure we can shop for healthy foods, regardless of where we live.

A nearby, well-stocked grocery store is something many of us take for granted. But for 1.5 million North Carolinians living in food deserts, areas where it is difficult to buy fresh food, just getting to the grocery store can be a constant struggle. As a result, children and families rely on neighborhood corner or convenience stores for food purchases, which often may not offer fresh produce, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and other healthy foods.

But what if those same neighborhood corner stores sold healthy, affordable food? A healthy corner store initiative for North Carolina would help make better food options more accessible in our communities.

How can you help? Take two steps today!

1. Right now, click here to email Governor McCrory and Lt. Governor Forest and ask them to make a healthy corner store initiative a priority in 2015.
2. Then, forward this request to 5 of your friends, family, or neighbors and ask them to send an email, too.

Among children today - one in three of whom are either overweight or obese - we're seeing a range of preventable health problems that previously weren't seen until adulthood, such as high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Together we can start to change this tide by helping to make sure healthy foods are available just around the corner. Healthy corner stores can make the difference.

Are you up to the challenge? Join me and let's bring healthy corner stores to our communities!

Sincerely,

Yolanda Dickerson
Chair, NC American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee

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You’re the Cure Advocates Make A Difference in Mecklenburg County

On September 2nd, You’re the Cure advocates came together and attended a Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting to discuss proposed tobacco-free regulations pertaining to Smoke Free Government Grounds and Tobacco Free Parks and Greenways.

During this hearing, several You’re the Cure advocates, including Juddson Rupp, Dr. Sandra Burke, and Dr. Thomas Barringer, spoke to the social and health effects of smoking. 

Juddson, speaking to social effects of smoking, said: “Not only being a survivor but being a parent and a community leader, that I’d like to see our public parks be smoke free so that it’s not so much hypocrisy when you go to a park and seeing people exercise… also seeing several people smoking or even on the golf course for that matter.”

Dr. Sandra Burke, cardiovascular scientist, AHA National Research Committee member, AHA Charlotte Metro Board member, and NC You’re the Cure member, spoke to the science of the damage smoking & second-hand smoke can have on endothelial cells in our body, damage which can ultimately produce heart attacks and even strokes.

Dr. Barringer, a physician specifying in cardiovascular disease prevention, also an AHA Charlotte Metro Board member and NC You’re the Cure member, said there were several reasons to pass the legislation, one of which is that “secondhand smoke is harmful to humans (especially the smaller they are) … it is a known cause of lung cancer and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 25-30%.”

The American Heart Association was also joined by volunteers in other community groups, and walked away feeling confident that the reasons, both medical and social, for passing the proposed regulations were clearly and empirically supported and that the community of Mecklenburg County, as well as the Board of County Commissioners, was now more aware of why the vote on September 17th needs to be in support of the legislation.

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