American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
RI Awarded $3.5 Million to Prevent Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke

Good news for Rhode Island...and many thanks to our You're the Cure advocates who fight for federal funding that comes back to our state! 

Following is a press release from the RI Department of Health:

Rhode Island Department of Health Awarded $3.5 Million to Drive Down Chronic Diseases: New program addresses obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

The Rhode Island Department of Health was awarded a grant of $3.5 million to support implementation of population-wide and priority population approaches to prevent obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke, and reduce health disparities in these areas among adults on a statewide basis.

The State and Local Public Health Actions to Prevent Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease awards are part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will administer the grants, which will run for 4 years, subject to availability of funds.

Overall, HHS awarded $69.5 million in new grant awards to 21 state and large-city health departments to prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke and reduce health disparities among adults through combined efforts of communities and health systems. The State and Local Public Health Actions awards are financed by the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act. This new program complements and expands on a state-level program, State Public Health Actions, that began in 2013.

"The Department of Health is responsible for providing leadership and technical assistance to selected communities since fifty percent of these funds will be awarded to communities. We will ensure overall coordination in four key areas that are common to multiple disease and risk factor prevention programs such as, epidemiology and surveillance, environmental approaches, health system improvements and community-clinical linkages to enhance coordination across program activities for the greatest public health impact and to maximize these investments" said, Ana Novais, MA, Executive Director of Health.

States will sub-award half of their funds to support activities in four to eight communities each. Community approaches will build support for lifestyle change, particularly for those at high risk, to prevent diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Health system efforts will focus on linking community programs to clinical services for populations with the largest disparities in high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.

Specifically, the work that communities will do to have a statewide impact will be to employ strategies that promote health, support and reinforce healthful behaviors, and build support for healthy living for the general population and particularly for those with uncontrolled high blood pressure and those at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Priority populations include people with racial/ethnic or socioeconomic disparities, including inadequate access to care, poor quality of care, or low income.

"Achieving the best preventive health care is vital to successful health outcomes. Primary care providers supports the work of the health care system through provision of services such as mammography and tobacco cessation counseling for underserved populations, work on issues of health care access, planned care, self-management, patient navigation, and quality prevention services. Through community-based public health efforts that support intensive and sustained interventions that include health care settings, together we can improve population health outcomes," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health. "In this country, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death, disability, and health care costs, accounting for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year, and more than 80 percent of the $2.7 trillion our nation spends annually on medical care."

To learn more about Rhode Island's prevention and wellness projects, visit


Release date: 10-03-2014

Read More

Deb Koziol, Rhode Island

A heart defect she’d had since birth caused Debra Koziol to go into sudden cardiac arrest.  Her husband’s CPR training—and a lifetime of keeping her heart healthy—saved her.

Debra had spent her life trying to stay healthy. She exercised often and watched her diet.

In her 20s she’d been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse—a condition causing her heart to occasionally skip a beat. Her doctors said her MVP wasn’t cause for concern.

In August 2006, Debra was on the couch reading a book to her grandson when her husband saw her suddenly tip over. Her eyes were open and fixed, so he immediate called 9-1-1 and began CPR.

The paramedics arrived, put Debra on a machine that provided compressions, and intubated her because she wasn’t breathing on her own.  For more than 30 minutes she didn’t breathe on her own, which put her at risk for brain damage.

Debra, who was 47, had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. That’s a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating stopping blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. To start her heart beating again, she was shocked six times with an automated external defibrillator on the way to the hospital.

At the hospital, doctors put her into an induced coma to allow her heart to rest; her survival the first night was uncertain.

After three days, Debra began to come out of her coma. It was two weeks before she was strong enough to have open-heart surgery to repair the leaking mitral valve that had strained her heart. Due to complications, it was two months before she could have surgery to implant a cardioverter defibrillator, a device to shock her heart should it ever stop again.

After her recovery, Debra participated in cardiac rehab and learned more about her condition and how to keep her heart healthy.

She’d had always tried to lead a healthy lifestyle, but today she’s more consistent about exercise. She’s made important changes to her diet, too, minimizing saturated fats and carbs.

Today, Debra has no limitations due to her condition, but she’s under the close care of a cardiologist. All four of her heart valves leak, and one section of her heart is slightly enlarged.

Debra’s doctor says that her husband’s quick action and her good health at the time were critical to her survival.

“My doctor told me that I may not have even survived the CPR if my heart hadn’t been as strong as it was,” she said.

Debra is now 54 and a strong advocate for CPR training. She shares her story through the American Heart Association and urges others to get training.

Debra’s condition never produced symptoms before her sudden cardiac arrest. That’s why she emphasizes the importance of keeping your heart healthy: it will be better able to withstand an emergency.

“It could be something other than heart disease, but your heart still has to be strong to withstand whatever you’re fighting,” Debra said. “I tell women, ‘Hopefully you’ll never be the one in the ambulance, but if you are, how strong do you want your heart to be?’”


Read More

Little Heart Heroes Gather in Rhode Island

On September 13, the American Heart Association hosted the 5th Annual Little Heart Hero Day at Goddard Park, drawing more than 50 families affected by congenital heart defects for a fun day of play – and advocacy!

Little Heart Hero Day is the American Heart Association’s annual celebration for special survivors dressed in red “heart hero” capes and their “super” siblings.  Children and families affected by congenital heart defects enjoyed a day of fun and excitement along with their peers, outside of the medical setting.

Little Heart Heroes “colored for the cure,” drawing pictures of their favorite healthy foods on petitions that will be delivered to elected officials urging support for strong school nutrition standards.  Additional activities included: CPR training, “touch a truck” fire truck, princess time with Snow White and Queen Elsa, face painting, arts and crafts, soccer, bubble time, parachute games and a drum circle!

Special thanks to our Little Heart Heroes and their amazing families for all they do to support the mission of the American Heart Association!


Read More

Is Childhood Obesity a Problem in Rhode Island?

September was Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and, according to the annual report The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, we still have some work to do in Rhode Island!   

How does the Ocean State rank in The State of Obesity report?

  • 13.2% of 10- to- 17-year-olds are obese in Rhode Island
  • 10.7% of high school students are obese in our state  

Rhode Island has lower childhood obesity rates than many other states, but 13.2% and 10.7% are still far too high!  We have to make sure that all kids have access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active – we need to create a culture of health in our state where the default choice is the healthy one.  

Rhode Island's success can serve as an example to the rest of the country - but we can't put ourselves on a pedestal while leaving 10% of our kids behind.

The American Heart Association is starting a petition asking the Governor-Elect to prioritize childhood obesity prevention in our state – click the following link to sign today:

The petition will be delivered after the General Election in November.   
To view The State of Obesity report visit:

Read More

Karen Aspry, M.D., M.S., ABCL, FACC, Rhode Island

Karen Aspry, M.D., M.S., ABCL, FACC is the American Heart Association’s newest local Rhode Island Board of Directors member. Dr. Aspry’s education, training and clinical activities have been focused on preventive aspects of cardiovascular disease, especially in the area of diagnosis and management of cholesterol disorders. Needless to say, her joining of the board during Cholesterol Awareness Month is well timed! Dr. Aspry received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in human nutrition from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of California at Berkeley.

In medical school at an institution with an NIH Preventive Cardiology Academic Award, she helped design one of the first preventive cardiology electives for 4th year medical students, and authored research highlighting gaps in lipid treatment among peripheral vascular patients. In residency and fellowship she pursued research investigating the accuracy of exercise testing in women, and the effects of exogenous estrogens on platelet reactivity and vascular function. After fellowship, Dr. Aspry joined Kaiser Permanente in Northern California as an invasive cardiologist, where she became 1 of 10 physician champions for Kaiser’s regional cholesterol management program, Multi-Fit cardiac rehabilitation program, and PHASE (“Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes Everyday”) population management initiative. In 2005-06, she joined Memorial Hospital of RI where she established a Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinic and patient outreach program. Currently she is the Director of the Lipid and Prevention program, and Associate Director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, for the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute, and a clinical faculty member of the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Dr. Aspry is board certified in cardiovascular medicine and clinical lipidology, and has an active practice treating lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular risk. She is actively involved in the National Lipid Association as Co-Chair of the Practice Development Committee and board member for the Northeast Chapter, and is a member of the ACC’s new Prevention Section.  She lectures regularly on topics related to clinical lipidology and cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention, is involved in community outreach activities aligned with the mission of the AHA, and engages in clinical research related to population management of lipid disorders.  Her favorite motto is: “A clinician is only as good as the system he or she practices in.”  Dr. Aspry is honored to join the American Heart Association’s local board members in their efforts to close gaps in awareness, detection and treatment of cardiovascular risk within healthcare systems and at the population level.

Read More

Rhode Island Advocate Leads Congressional Visits During August Recess

On August 29, Rhode Island advocate, grandmother and Pawtucket Wellness Committee member Miriam Plitt dropped by the offices of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse to talk about a very important issue – school nutrition.  The visits were part of a national campaign where advocates from across the country made special deliveries to their congressional offices in support of healthy school meals and snacks.  Advocates delivered a brown lunch bag that contained 5 puzzle pieces (see picture below) – 4 pieces fit together to display a healthy lunch, while 1 piece representing junk food did not fit.  The message on the bag read, “We’re puzzled!  Healthy school meals fit perfectly into a successful school day for every child.  Yet, efforts in Congress to weaken or delay strong nutrition standards threaten the progress being made to improve the quality of school meals and snacks.  Do your part to give kids a head start on a healthy heart.  Protect the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

We know that nutritious school foods are essential to heart health, teaching life-long healthy habits and helping children perform better academically. We are very lucky that Rhode Island has been a leader in school nutrition – and the RI Congressional Delegation and the RI General Assembly have been very supportive.  Let’s keep Rhode Island – and the country – moving forward!  Our kids deserve nothing less…

For more information on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act click the following link:

Read More

Rhode Island to Require Pulse Ox Screening for Newborns

Good news for Rhode Island's tiniest hearts!  The RI Department of Health recently finalized a regulation that adds critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) to the mandatory newborn screening panel in the Ocean State.  The new requirement will take effect on July 1, 2015.  Implementation is well underway – all birthing hospitals in RI have adopted pulse oximetry screening for CCHD as the standard of care.   

The Department of Health has been working with Rhode Island’s birthing hospitals over the past two years on this vital initiative.  We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Department and the many physicians, nurses and medical professionals who helped lay a strong foundation for this policy change.  

Special thanks to the many You’re the Cure advocates who supported this campaign – especially our Little Heart Heroes and families from Mended Little Hearts of Rhode Island!


Read More

RI’s Tobacco Settlement Refinance is Now Toxic Debt

Very interesting piece from GOLOCALProv News. ZERO dollars devoted to tobacco cessation & prevention, and now RI faces $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052. Tobacco Free RI weighs in on the latest development in this shameful saga…





RI’s Tobacco Settlement Refinance is Now Toxic Debt

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kate Nagle, GoLocal Contributor

Rhode Island's effort to balance the state budget in 2002 and 2007 from tobacco settlement money may be blowing up into toxic debt to the state.

In a report issued by ProPublica -- "How Wall Street Tobacco Deals Left States With Billions in Toxic Debt" -- Rhode Island is now facing $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052, a revelation that comes nearly sixteen years following the landmark United States tobacco settlement intended to combat the adverse impacts of smoking.

Rhode Island recently announced a plan to buy out some holders of $197 million of the capital appreciation bonds (CABs) it sold in 2007, which would take $700 million off the $2.8 billion and allow for the refinancing of older tobacco bonds, but Oppenheimer is suing to stop the deal, as reported in Bloomberg and multiple news outlets on August 5.

Moreover, of the $51 million in settlement money Rhode Island received in 2014 (100% of which is pledged to repay the bonds), the state spent less than 1% of that amount on smoking prevention programs, according to the same ProPublica report.

"We're investing just $388,000 in the state smoking prevention program in 2014.  The CDC recommended we spend $15 million," said Karina Holyoak Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island.  "Smoking costs Rhode Island close to $870 million in economic costs each year, and every year 1,600 Rhode islanders die from tobacco use, and thousands more suffer expensive and debilitating illnesses."

"We had that money," Holyoak Wood of the landmark tobacco settlement. "I would say it's shameful that the General Assembly and the Governors back then plugged deficits as one time fixes -- now there are even greater consequences than we realized."

Margaret Kane, who was with the Rhode Island chapter of the American Lung Association at the time of the settlement and opposed the state tobacco bonds, and is now with Operation Clean Government, said she was shocked at the level of the state's refinanced debt.

"I would have though of something like that could happen, but not to this extent," said Kane. "Holy crap."

States' New Realities

Cezary Podkul, author of Pro-Publica's state-by-state report, shows that a number of other states find themselves in the same predicament as Rhode Island, having utilized capital appreciation bonds -- "high-risk debt that squeezed out a few extra dollars for the governments but promised massive balloon payments, some in the billions, down the road."

"They amount to only a $3 billion sliver of the approximately $36 billion in tobacco bonds outstanding, according to a review of bond documents and Thomson Reuters data. But the nine states, three territories, District of Columbia and several counties that issued them have promised a whopping $64 billion to pay them off," writes Podkul.

"Just as mortgage lenders bet that home prices would keep rising, the tobacco deals relied on optimistic predictions of how much Americans would smoke," Podkul continued.  "Forecasters rightly saw that cigarette sales would continue to decline, but now the yearly drop — about 3 to 3.5 percent — is nearly double what was cooked into the deals."

URI Distinguished Professor of Business Edward Mazze offered a historical perspective of how Rhode Island came to this juncture.

"Rhode Island took its share of the tobacco settlement upfront in cash to balance the state's budget. Capital Appreciation Bonds (also known as tobacco bonds in this situation) were then issued by the state to private investors so that taxpayers would not be affected if and when tobacco money fell short in the future because of a decline in cigarette sales. Investors were promised huge payouts. This is a high-risk debt with a large balloon payment in the future to be repaid with settlement dollars and not tax dollars," said Mazze.  "These bonds are difficult and costly to sell.  One out of every three dollars coming in under the settlement goes to investors. Rhode Island recently presented a plan, which will not happen because of a lawsuit, to buy out some bond holders and refinance older tobacco bonds at better interest rates."

Mazze continued, "Even though most of the payments are not due for many years into the future, if past history is an indication of the future, Rhode Island will have a difficult time filling the gap between what it expects to continue to collect under the settlement and what it owes investors. What ever is collected in the future will have to be used to pay off the bonds. This means less tobacco funds available to support other government programs in the budget. This has a significant impact on balancing future state budgets. An example of poor governmental leadership when it comes to fiscal matters - spend now and don't worry about tomorrow."

Rhode Island's Failing Grade

In January, Rhode Island received an "F" from the American Lung Association in its "State of Tobacco Control 2014" report card.

"The good news is that Rhode Island earned an “A” grade for our smoke free air and our high cigarette tax, which prevents youth smoking and motivates adults to quit," said Holyoak Wood. "The bad news is that Rhode Island earned an “F” for being one of the bottom ten states in the country for tobacco control and prevention spending."

"When tobacco companies agreed to turn over this money to compensate the victims who were mislead about the deadly effects of smoking, that's what the states should have spent the money on," said Holyoak Wood.  "Now we're living with the legacy today of leaders who didn't use that money to help people with their battles against lung cancer, or provide cheaper coverage -- we were meant to put that money into prevention, which is the best strategy.

"It's broken promises -- that's how I see it as well.  Broken promises of political leaders to the people.  This money was so hard fought, it was such an enormous victory -- the biggest settlement ever from corporations to the people of the country, it was a wonderful thing that the states' Attorney Generals managed to win.  And Wall Street came along and made them great offers, and look what's happened."

Read More


The American Heart Association recently launched its new brand “Life is Why.”  We want people to experience more of life's precious moments. It's why we've made better heart and brain health our mission. And until there's a world free of heart disease and stroke, we'll be there, working to make a healthier, longer life possible for everyone. Why do we do what we do? Life is why.

What is your “why?”  Tell us why you advocate for heart health and stroke care and your story could become our “Advocate Spotlight” in an upcoming issue of the Rhode Island Beats newsletter.  Simply email your story along with a photo to Megan Tucker at

Need inspiration?  Check out

Our success at the American Heart Association would not be possible without the passion, dedication and commitment of advocates like YOU!  Thank you for all that you do!

Read More

Rhode Island Has Second Lowest Youth Smoking Rate in the Nation

The Rhode Island Department of Health recently announced that the Ocean State has the SECOND LOWEST youth smoking rate in the nation.  The finding is based on national survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The results show that Rhode Island’s youth smoking rate dropped from 11% in 2011 to 8% currently (second only to the state of Utah). 

This good news is in large part due to the strong tobacco control laws that Rhode Island has on the books – laws that we fought for!  These proven policies include our comprehensive smoke-free air law and high cigarette tax.  But our work is not over – an 8% youth smoking rate is still too high and we won’t stop until that number is zero!   

Click here to view the Department of Health’s press release:

Read More

[+] Blogs[-] Collapse