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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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Walking Day at Capitol Spreads Awareness

Colorado advocates participated in a lobby day to promote National Walking Day and highlight “Safe Routes to School” legislation.  Lawmakers received healthy snacks and information on physical activity.

 We had a great turn out with 12 legislators and an additional 15 staffers, for a total of about 27 folks who stopped by to chat with our volunteers.  They all received information about the Safe Routs to Schools bill, the importance of walking and exercise and getting at least 30 minutes a day.

 AHA worked with LiveWell Colorado and Bicycle Colorado to get the word out and we invited all of the legislators to stop by our table.

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Recap of Walking Day in Utah

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

On April 2nd, 2014, people from across the nation gathered together for National Walking Day – a day set aside each year by the American Heart Association|American Stroke Association to encourage Americans to get active for their heart health.

Here in Utah this day was celebrated at various businesses, hospitals, stroke rehab centers, and government offices. Governor Gary Herbert recently declared April 2, 2014 as “Walking Day in Utah” where he joined with the American Heart Association “to encourage all our residents, both young and old, to increase our physical activity by starting to walk regularly, and fight against heart disease and stroke by reducing our risk for cardiovascular diseases.”

Additionally, the Summit County Council recently passed a Proclamation in support of National Walking Day. Based on the fact that “50 percent of adults and 62 percent of children do not engage in daily vigorous physical activity,” the County Councilmembers reached out to all County Employees and encouraged them to go for a 30 minute walk at some point during the day.  Turnout was great as countless county employees to the streets for a brief walk.  The hope is that all of those that participated will not only recognize the need for their own daily exercise routine, but share that message with their family and friends as we aim for a healthier state and community.

Whether it is the choice to go to the gym instead of watching a show, or picking the healthier snack instead of the late afternoon donut, all of us have the opportunity to take little steps towards living a healthier life. I hope this Walking Day has sparked your interest to develop a daily workout routine that works for you.  If you are bored of doing the same workout, please click here to see new walking paths in your area.

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Start Walking Today!

Guest blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Arizona Government Relations Director

In most parts of the US, the weather is starting to warm up and thaw, but lucky for us Arizonans, we have absolutely wonderful weather conditions on most days.  Seize the day and get out and enjoy our gorgeous weather!

In case you missed it, National Walking Day was April 2, 2014. On this day, we encouraged all Arizonans to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk.  This was 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 by, 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.

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Last Reminder to RSVP for California's Lobby Day - April 23rd

California Lobby Day will take place on Wednesday, April 23rd on the West Steps of the Capitol building in Sacramento.  If you haven’t registered already, please RSVP here before it’s too late! 

This year’s 2014 Lobby Day highlights will include: an opportunity for you to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, an advocacy training to ensure you are prepared for the day, motivational speakers and survivors connected to the AHA/ASA mission, the opportunity for you to directly communicate with your state legislators, and a heart-healthy lunch.

Additionally, we will be hosting a teleconference training for those interested about a week prior to the event.  Please keep an eye out for an action alert with more information!

We hope you will join us for this exciting and important day! Click here to visit our event page

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions:

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Fighting Obesity in Louisiana!

On Tuesday, March 25, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 4-3 in favor of a bill requiring chain restaurants with 15 or more locations to list calories and other nutrition information on menus and menu boards. This essential legislation is authored by State Senator David Heitmeier of Algiers. 

Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named Louisiana the most obese state in the nation. Research shows the link between frequent eating out and obesity. As a result, it is important for consumers to have nutritional information available in order to make healthy food choices at restaurants, just as they do in grocery stores.

Thank Senator Heitmeier for making the health of Louisiana citizens a priority!

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Advocate Highlight: Idaho-AHPERD

In association with the American Heart Association, Idaho-AHPERD has been working diligently for the past two years to strengthen Physical Education (PE) requirements in the state of Idaho. Meetings were conducted to poll the top priorities for PE requirements and included physical education teachers from all around the state, key stake holders, and a health lobbyist.

The proposed requirements started off with many elements, but were modified several times. In the end, specific amounts of time for PE classes were suggested as a state requirement in elementary, junior high/middle school, and high school. Along with the PE requirement, it was proposed to teach CPR in junior high/middle school, and again in high school.

In February, the Idaho Senate Education Committee, after postponing the vote four different times, rejected the PE minutes requirement for all schools. They passed the CPR requirement, but not the PE minutes/week. Unfortunately, this means the PE requirement is done for this legislative session. Idaho-AHPERD plans to regroup and try again. There are movements all around our nation to make PE a core class. Idaho has a dream to see this movement come into fruition. We will be heard from again!

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Get moving Vermont and take some tips from a Vermont Olympian!

If you missed National Walking Day on April 2nd, don't fret. You can still get out and move! 

Come hear Vermont Olympian Andy Newell speak at our legislative reception April 10th at 4:30-6pm at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Newell is a country skier who will talk about his recent experience in Sochi and the importance of physical activity.

Then check out some of the following events that are happening in Vermont and are to get you moving and be healthy.

And Vermonters NEED to get moving! Over 58% of VT adults and nearly 27% of our kids are overweight or obese. One in six Vermont adults didn’t participate in any physical activity last month! And only 13% of Vermont middle school students participated in physical education class every day.

That’s why we’re pushing for legislation to increase PE in schools and offer all Vermonters more places to move, play and exercise. Help us with our advocacy efforts by speaking with your legislators. And help your health by participating in one of the events below:

May 7: Vermont Walk and Roll to School Day and Intergenerational Walk

May 7: National Bike School Day

May 12-16 2014: Way to Go! Week 

Get your clean commute on by walking, biking or car-pooling to school. More info on these events can be found at

September 27th: The American Heart Walk at Oakledge Park in Burlington. Click here to sign up for a walk team today!

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You helped Protect Heart Health Funds

Earlier this year, we told you about efforts to consolidate many state programs, including those which protect heart disease and stroke. And while consolidation sounds nice, it means the public wouldn't have a good sense of how state funds are being spent on important health programs. Thanks to your help, the final state budget rejects attempts to consolidate and maintains funding for:

• The Tobacco Control Program

• Obesity and Diabetes Prevention funds

• The Healthy Heart Program

• The Childhood Obesity Prevention Program

• The Cardiac Services program

• Emergency Medical Services

And we know funding is critical: Heart disease and stroke are the number one and four killers of New Yorkers. However, we are making progress and with your help can continue to make New York a healthier state!

Thanks for all you do!

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