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Stories from Central and Eastern Oregon

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

Recently, I have had an opportunity to connect with a special kind of survivor: those who live in rural Oregon.

From Deschutes County in the high desert of Central Oregon, to Umatilla County in the rugged, wheat-growing region of Eastern Oregon, our fellow Oregonians living in these regions face unique challenges when it comes to caring for their health.

Their challenges become even greater when managing the effects of cardiovascular disease or stroke. With fewer hospitals and fewer providers, time and distance to receive care can be much longer.

In particular, I had the great privilege of meeting two incredible women—both survivors living east of Oregon’s more populated western corridor.

Both were willing to discuss their challenges with health care and to stand with the AHA to call for improvements in rural Oregon. They share an impressive self-sufficiency and a deep pride in their community.

Anne of La Pine knows that in addition to ensuring stroke survivors have access to the consistent rehabilitation therapy, access to public transportation is just as important for her and her husband. While she has great admiration for her various medical providers, systematic improvements could be made to help her coordinate care between them.

Cathy, whose family roots go back generations in Umatilla County, will tell you that she doesn’t like to complain—she does the things that need to be done, and knows that things can be even tougher for others. Cathy, like many survivors, has the daunting task of managing multiple prescriptions to treat her heart condition and diabetes. As a caregiver to family members also managing chronic conditions (including her son, a stroke survivor), Cathy also sees to the appointments and needs of her loved ones.

The AHA advocates for the care of all Oregonians with decision makers in DC and in the state—but that advocacy would fall flat if it weren’t for brave survivors like Anne and Cathy being willing to speak up.

We have the deepest gratitude and appreciation for their recent efforts—and I feel lucky to have met them. They took the time and energy to go the extra mile to join our advocacy efforts—and like everything else for them—they had to work go a little further than many of us to do so.

If you are a survivor or know survivors of heart disease or stroke anywhere in Oregon, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at

Here’s to the survivors in Oregon’s more rugged and absolutely inspiring landscapes!

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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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Advocate Spotlight: Jennifer Stafford, RN Critical Care, Practicing Nurse of 30 years, CPR/First Aid instructor of 27 years

I’ve looked everywhere for it, but I can’t find it. I know it’s just got to be there—somewhere attached to her nurses uniform.

Despite my inability to spot an actual red cape, I am still convinced that Jennifer Stafford is some kind of super hero. Consider this: All great super heroes have boundless energy (check) and a passion for protecting the public (check). They go out of their way to save lives and makes it look easy.  When help is needed, they come running. (Check, check, check.)

A busy Critical Care nurse and mother, Jennifer goes above and beyond serving on the AHA’s Oregon CPR Committee. Her expertise, enthusiasm, and willingness to speak up play a critical role in helping the AHA spread the message about CPR and equip Oregonians to save the life of a loved one or a stranger. Jennifer is a tremendous advocate for CPR in Schools—Oregon’s biggest opportunity to put more lifesavers in our communities by ensuring every student learns hands-only CPR before they graduate.

Since Hands Only CPR was shown to be scientifically sound in 2008, Jennifer has been on a quest to teach as many groups and community members how to recognize heart attack, women’s atypical heart attack symptoms, signs and symptoms of stroke, why to call 911 vs. drive yourself in, and how to respond to cardiac arrest with Hands Only CPR.  Do you know Hands Only CPR? Learn by clicking here.

In the last three years alone, she has taught over 1,500 individuals Hands-Only CPR. Taryn Lust [fellow AHA CPR Committee Member] and Jennifer have been awarded a grant to teach middle schools in their area two classes: 1) how to have a healthy heart (lifestyle) and 2) about cardiac arrest and Hands Only CPR.  To date, they have educated over 3,000 students in their area.

Jennifer is extremely passionate about getting the word out about Hands Only CPR.  She has been to Oregon State Capitol for AHA’s Lobby Day three times and worked on the bill in 2013.  In her own words: “We will get this done!”

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Cameron Croonquist - Summer Intern Highlight

Cameron Croonquist

Hi everyone my name is Cameron.  I am currently a student studying Public Health Policy and Management at Oregon State University and I’m also wrapping up my advocacy internship with the American Heart Association this summer. For the last three months I’ve been working on our effort to ensure all students learn Hands-Only CPR in school by 2015.  I am extremely passionate about improving the quality and longevity of people’s health here in Oregon, so working with the American Heart Association has been a great fit.

My experience at the American Heart Association has been filled with excitement.  I was fortunate to work with many advocates in various Oregon communities who support our effort to educate more people in Hands-Only CPR as well as state legislators throughout the state.  I really enjoyed hearing about the successes regarding CPR education and listening to heartwarming stories where lives were saved.  Improving the health of our communities is a priority of mine, and I’m grateful for the opportunity that the Heart Association has provided me with the opportunity to create a safer community for all of us.  I look forward to using the experiences I’ve gained at the American Heart Association to reach my educational goals at Oregon State University.

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Governor Kitzhaber's Special CPR Message

I couldn’t be more excited to share with you this special message from Oregon’s Governor, John Kitzhaber, and Portland Fire & Rescue. This past spring while driving through downtown Portland, Gov. Kitzhaber spotted a person in urgent need of help. He acted quickly and stepped up to save their life by calling 9-1-1 and performing CPR. A former Emergency Room physician, Gov. Kitzhaber is familiar with lifesaving protocol. He also knows that you don’t have to be a doctor or a governor to save a life—with Hands Only CPR, any bystander can give someone they see collapse double to triple the chance of survival.

It’s simple:

Step 1) Dial 9-1-1.

Step 2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Please watch this PSA and share it on Facebook to help us spread this lifesaving message. You can also learn more about Hands Only CPR here. (View the message here:

Everyone can and should learn Hands Only CPR—thanks for your help!

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Back to School - Join us as we advocate for healthy kids!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

Whether or not you’ve got students or teachers in your home who are gearing up to head back to school, we can all agree on the importance of ensuring Oregon’s kids have a bright and healthy future ahead of them.

This time of year, many of us start to notice the kids in our neighborhoods walking and biking to school. Whether or not you see kids making the trek really depends on what neighborhood you live in, since many communities in the Metro area lack sidewalks or bike lanes to safely commute to school. There couldn’t be a more important time to give all kids this opportunity to get moving—1 in 4 kids in Oregon is overweight or obese, and they’re getting less exercise than any previous generation. Already, kids are facing chronic diseases earlier than ever and are threatened with a shorter life expectancy. In light of this, actively commuting to school—and leaving the car behind—has become a critical opportunity to help kids stay healthy. By walking or biking to and from school, Oregon kids can meet 60% of the daily physical activity recommendations. They’re also more likely to perform well in school. That’s why programs like Safe Routes to School are so exciting—by improving street infrastructure and educating parents and students about safety, we’ve as much as quadrupled the number of students getting active at some schools already. Join us this fall as the American Heart Association advocates for a Safe Routes to School program at every school district in the Metro region.

When it comes to healthy food for our kids in school, we’ve made incredible progress by improving nutrition standards. However, the junk food industry still spends $149 billion every year marketing to kids in schools—from logo-covered scoreboards and vending machines to fast food-sponsored school nights, junk food marketing sends the wrong message to our kids. It should be simple: If it’s not healthy enough to serve in school cafeterias, then you shouldn’t be allowed to market it in schools. The American Heart Association is partnering with Upstream Public Health (hyperlink) to ensure we get the junk food marketing out of Oregon schools with legislation in 2015. If you see examples of junk food marketing in your neighborhood schools, please let us know.

One other exciting issue we’re working on is our effort to make sure that every student in Oregon learns Hands-Only CPR in school. In less time than it takes to watch a TV sitcom, students can learn a skill that equips them to save the life of a loved one or a stranger. It’s simple: Dial 9-1-1, and then push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Nearly 400,000 cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital every year, and less than 11% of people survive—largely because there wasn’t someone there to step up and quickly perform CPR. Since the AHA started promoting Hands-Only CPR as an easier and just-as-effective option for the public, 18 states in the US have already made Hands-Only CPR a requirement for students. In Oregon, we could put 45,000 new lifesavers into our communities every year with this policy. There are some programs already at work in Oregon, from Medford to West Linn, Hood River to Clackamas, communities have come together to prove teaching Oregon students Hands-Only CPR is not only simple and possible—it’s effective and life-changing. Join us as we advocate for a bill in the 2015 legislature that would make Hands-Only CPR a part of every Oregon student’s curriculum.

With all of this important work ahead of us, we’re going to need your help. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping us tell the stories, share the expertise, and urge our decision makers to put Oregon kids’ health first—

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Amanda Lindsay

Amanda Lindsay

My name is Amanda Lindsay and I am excited to be interning for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association this summer, so that I can gain hands on experience in the different areas of Public Health and become more involved in my community.

I currently reside in Oregon City, Oregon. I am in the process of completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health with the option of Promotion and Behavior at Oregon State University. I am also in the process of completing a Psychology minor.

I have experienced loss in my family due to lack of education and motivation to seek help early and this is why I have chosen public health as a career. I have a passion for health promotion and disease prevention and this internship is paving the way for me to work towards a healthier and safer Oregon. The American Heart Association has allowed me to take charge and speak up in the community while working towards making Hands-Only CPR a graduation requirement in Oregon High Schools by 2015.

These past two months have been very busy as I have been working on the Hands-Only CPR in Schools campaign. I have been able to meet and connect with people from all over the state of Oregon as they have shared their success stories with me.

One of these inspiring people that I was able to meet with was EMS Officer Bill Conway of Clackamas Fire Department. He shared his input, passion, and knowledge, and is making a huge difference in our community. I was very honored to meet with him.

I also attended Representative Margaret Doherty’s Town Hall Public Safety Event in July where she was joined by Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue who taught Hands-Only CPR.

I am thrilled to be working with the American Heart Association on this exciting campaign for Hands-Only CPR this summer. I plan to take the knowledge that I have gained from school and the American Heart Association and continue dedicating my time to promoting healthy behavior in the community. 

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Life is Why - What's yours?

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association unveiled this month Life Is Why, a new way of expressing our message to the public and to decision makers. Life is Why is a concise answer to the question of why we do what we do: We believe everyone deserves to live a healthier, longer life. Why? Life. Life is why.

Life Is Why represents a strategic shift for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.  It’s designed to help us reach our goal of dramatically improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 2020. The supporting campaign was created to make a more personal connection with the public, volunteers, employees and partners, while strengthening AHA’s visibility and impact.

The Life Is Why is a national campaign, including digital, print, television, social media and public relations. The reveal of Life Is Why began with a video announcement in Times Square in New York City, culminating a two-week teaser campaign. I hope you’ll take a moment now and watch it here.

Nancy Brown, the CEO of the American Heart Association, had this to say: “The very essence of the campaign is personal and evokes an emotional response. We wanted people to be able to be able to share with others the reasons for embracing a healthy lifestyle in heart and mind.”

Here in Oregon, we kicked off this exciting new conversation with our own staff. We shared the moments, the people, the places that we believe make life worth living. I was so touched to hear about what drives my colleagues to do the inspiring work of making Oregon a safer and healthier place to live. 

 Laughter is why.

Adia is why.

Nature is why.

Hugs from my dad is why.

The good life is why.

Personally, fairness is why for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to quality health care, nutritious food, physical activity—the opportunity to be healthy so I could get down to the business of living life. I believe in AHA’s mission and I work every day because I believe everyone deserves this chance—and unfortunately, we have a long way to go in Oregon to make that a reality. Efforts like CPR in Schools, Safe Routes to Schools, and tobacco control policies all help ensure that all Oregonians can lead healthier lives.  

Direct citizen engagement and social sharing is a big part of the Life Is Why campaign. A microsite,, features a toolkit designed to give you the ability to customize and share your personal Whys.

So I invite you to share your personal Why with us! Visit and let us know why you care about the important work of the AHA. We know our work touches your life and the lives of others every day and we know there’s more work to do. Why do you care?

I can’t wait to hear from you and start sharing your Whys with our staff, our volunteers, and decision makers right here in Oregon.

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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  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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Advocate Spotlight - Brittany Badicke

Brittany Badicke, Oregon

My name is Brittany Badicke, and I’m one of AHA’s Oregon Advocacy Interns. This summer, I’ll be working on our Tobacco Control efforts, with the ultimate goal of giving more Oregonians access to resources to help them quit smoking, and ensuring fewer actually start smoking. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of disease in Oregon.

I grew up in Longview, Washington and after graduating high school became a Certified Nursing Assistant, and began pre-requisites for nursing school. Thinking acute care was my niche, and with more opportunity to work in an acute care setting in Oregon, I earned my CNA II acute care license and moved to Portland, Oregon. After years of working as a CNA, and meeting several patients that were suffering from preventable diseases, I realized that my passion is in health promotion and disease prevention, which led me to pursue a degree in health education.

Currently, I am a Health Studies student at Portland State University where I will graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education in March of 2015. After graduating, my goal is to put my undergraduate degree and passion for promoting healthy behavior to use in the field before applying to the dual MPH/MSW program at Portland State University.

In the future, I’d like to dedicate my time to promoting healthy behavior focusing on education and systematic change, which is why I am beyond thrilled to be an intern for the American Heart Association! I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to learn and practice advocacy skills while gaining hands-on experience that is impossible to learn in a classroom, as well as to meet and work with like-minded people that are actively working for healthier communities.

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