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A Heartfelt Thanks

Each year, we like to pause and give thanks during National Volunteer Week (April 6th-12th) for the amazing contributions of volunteers like you.  We know you have a choice when deciding which organization to dedicate your time and talents to and we’re honored you’ve chosen to contribute to the American Heart Association’s mission.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet many You’re the Cure advocates in person to say ‘thanks’, but since getting together isn’t always possible, I wanted to share this special video highlighting the progress you’ve made possible.

(Please visit the site to view this video) 

You’ll see we are making strides to create smoke-free communities across the country, develop the next generation of life-savers trained in CPR, and ensure all students have healthy meal choices in schools.  The effort you’ve made to contact your lawmakers, share your story, and spread the word through your social networks have led to those successes and more. In fact, in just the last eight months, You’re the Cure advocates have helped contacted local, state, and federal lawmakers more than 140,000 times and it’s these messages that can lead to policy wins.

So take a moment to pat yourself on the back and enjoy a job well done!  I look forward to continuing our efforts to pursue policy changes that will help build healthier communities and healthier lives for all Americans. We couldn’t do it without you – thanks!

- Clarissa

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Look At All We've Done

In the hustle and bustle of life, it seems there is always something that needs our attention.  Maybe it’s a lunch appointment, a meeting after work – did you remember to call your mom to wish her a happy birthday?

With so many things monopolizing our time, it begs the question: “Why do we do what we do?”  How do we choose to prioritize what gets our few free moments?  As a You’re The Cure Advocate, why do you choose to align yourself with our mission?  Do you know all that we have accomplished?

Today, we are bragging on you. Each action you have taken: every email you’ve sent to your lawmakers, every meeting you’ve attended has helped propel forward many vital pieces of legislation.  We want to tell how you’ve shaped our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate over the past few years.

Maryland:
2012 Legislative Session: tax on small cigars and all smokeless products was raised. Legislation was also passed to require insurance carriers to cover and reimburse healthcare providers for services delivered through telemedicine.
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in MD are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. 
Thank you.

North Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: required all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  In addition, a total of $2.7 million in non-recurring funding was secured for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in NC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital.   Also signed into law was a policy that ensures designation of Primary Stroke Centers - ensuring stroke patients receive appropriate & timely care. 
Thank you.

South Carolina:
2012 Legislative Session: advocates were able to preserve $5 million for the Smoking Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund. 
2013 Legislative Session: hospitals in SC are required to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects with pulse oximetry before they are discharged from the hospital. Additionally, the Senate passed legislation requiring all high school seniors to be proficient in CPR in order to graduate high school.  This legislation is headed to the House of Representatives, and our SC advocates will be vital in ensuring this becomes law.
Thank you.

Virginia:
2012 Legislative Session: Governor McDonnell issued Executive Directive 4, developing an implementation plan for pulse oximetry tests in hospitals. The House also required the Board of Education to develop PE guidelines for public elementary and middle schools.
2013 Legislative Session: Gwyneth’s Law was signed into law.  All high school students will be required to achieve proficiency in CPR for graduation – and all teachers must be proficient in order to achieve their licensure.  The state budget allocated $400,000 for 12-lead ECG’s for EMS, which helps to diagnose the most severe type of heart attack.
Thank you.

Washington, DC:
2012 Legislative Session: the DC City Council allocated $495,000 for tobacco control programs within the Department of Health.
2013 Legislative Session: the DC Telehealth Reimbursement Act of 2013 requires all payers to reimburse services rendered by telemedicine.
Thank you.

Advocates are driving more policies in the 2014 sessions!  Some say “It takes a village to raise a child.”  With You’re The Cure, it “takes a network to make a difference.” Each and every one of you has made a difference.

Thank you for giving your heart.

 

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Big Changes in Store for Food Labels

After more than two decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing sweeping changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods.

The proposals would require food manufacturers to list added sugars, nutrition counts for more-realistic portion sizes and total nutrition information for multiple servings of food within a single package.  The government also wants to require potassium and vitamin D to be listed.

The changes are being released on Thursday during a critical time in the U.S. A third of all adults in the nation are obese, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another third of Americans are overweight.

“Eating healthy is a habit all Americans need to have and the FDA’s new nutrition labels will help put that goal within reach,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “By arming consumers with more knowledge about nutritional content, calories and serving sizes, the new labeling information proposed by the FDA takes an important step toward improving the health of all Americans.”

Despite the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity has declined by 43 percent for children ages 2 to 5, it has not changed significantly for adults or the larger pool of kids ages 2 to 19.

Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. And obesity in children is causing a health problems that used to be seen only in adults, like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Changes to nutrition labels will take time. The FDA will collect comments for 90 days on its proposed new rules from food manufacturers, the general public and nutrition and health advocates. It will consider clarifications or changes based on the comments, then give food manufacturers time to reprint their labels and replace existing inventory.

“These new labels will empower consumers with a valuable source of nutrition information, and the American Heart Association commends the FDA for proposing these changes,” Brown said.

Proposed changes include:

Added sugars: for the first time, added sugars will be on the nutrition facts panel. Previously, naturally-occurring and added sugars were combined into a single listing of “total sugars.” This will allow consumers to know how much sugar has been added by the manufacturer. The AHA recommends that women consume a maximum of 100 calories a day from added sugars, or 25 grams, and men consume 150 calories a day, or 37.5 grams.

“The addition of added sugars to the Nutrition Facts Panel is a giant step forward,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “High intakes of added sugars are associated with many risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and elevated triglyceride levels. A recent study demonstrated an association between high intakes of added sugars and death from cardiovascular disease. Consumers want to know how much sugar has been added during the processing or preparation of foods so they can make wise decisions about the foods they eat.”

Serving sizes: Adjusted for 17 categories of foods to better reflect what people are actually consuming. For example, ice cream will go from ½ cup to 1 cup; muffins and bagels will go from ½ to 1; and beverages will go from 8 ounces to 12 oz. This gives people a more realistic idea of what they’re actually consuming in a single sitting, so they can better monitor what they’re eating and make healthier choices.

Sodium: This will be adjusted slightly to reflect a 2,300 milligram daily value, which is the maximum amount per day recommended in the dietary guidelines for someone consuming a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends that the ideal sodium consumption, especially for people trying to lower their blood pressure, is 1,500 mg. per day.  “There is strong scientific evidence that indicates lowering sodium reduction can result in significant reductions in blood pressure,” Brown said. ”Therefore, the association will continue to recommend sodium intake to be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day. We intend to work with the FDA, during this 90-day comment period and beyond if need be, to highlight the increased benefits from further sodium reductions and to advocate for stronger action.”

Package size: Like serving sizes, package sizes will be labeled more accurately. So a large muffin or bottle of soda will have nutrition information for the entire package.

Per serving and per package: If a package has 2-4 servings in it, the label will be required to show nutrition information per serving and per package. This helps make it clear when the package has multiple servings inside.

Calories bigger and bolder: Although the format of the label won’t change dramatically, calories and serving sizes will be emphasized with a bigger and bolder font. This may help people make healthier choices by knowing what they’re consuming.

Nutrient listings: The amount of potassium and vitamin D will now be required, calcium and iron will remain and vitamins A and C will be optional. When the nutrition label was last updated 20 years ago, health officials were more concerned about people getting enough of vitamins A and C, but attention now is on potassium and D.

Want to help inform friends & family about these changes?  Share this graphic on Facebook.





















For more information:

FDA announcement

AHA CEO Nancy Brown's Statement

Understanding food nutrition labels

American Heart Association Nutrition Center 

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How to Love Yourself for National Nutrition Month

If a full commitment to healthy eating seems too tough to swallow, then start with a taste test.  March is National Nutrition Month, a great time to love yourself a little more by trying some new habits that just may stick. 

Little by little, you’ll start to see a difference in how you feel and look.  And those small steps can lead to bigger payoffs.

“We know from research that being exposed to healthy food means you will develop a preference for that food over time. For example, once you become accustomed to eating lower-sodium foods, you will find that foods you used to eat taste very salty,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, RD, chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “By adopting a healthier diet you will not only add years to your life but you’ll improve the quality of the years you have.”

Here are some tips to try this month, and any other time of the year: 

  • Slow down on the sodium: Did you know Americans eat more than double the daily amount of sodium recommended by the American Heart Association? Too much sodium increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems, but this excess isn’t just from salting your food. Americans get most of their sodium — 77 percent! — from processed foods. If you choose these foods, compare the labels and look for lower-sodium versions.
  • Pile on the fruits and vegetables: Choose all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, juiced and dried. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Load your shopping basket with fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Then try the “slender sauté” using a small amount of liquid to cook vegetables. Need a quick, healthy weeknight dinner? Try a salad. The American Heart Association has tasty recipes packed with everything from bacon to broccoli to tofu to mushrooms and much more.
  • Get the skinny on fats: Learn how to substitute good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) for bad fats (saturated and trans fats). For example, try canola oil or olive oil instead of butter. Choose lean meats, poultry without skin and fish instead of fattier cuts of meats. Enjoy heart-healthy fats in moderation and remember this tip: 1 teaspoon equals 1 serving.
  • Save your waistline and your wallet by cooking at home. Cooking at home is not only a great way to make sure the ingredients that go into your recipes are healthy, but it gives you control over your portion sizes too. (Not to mention your budget.) Try using a smaller salad-size plate for your main meal instead of a big dinner plate.

“Achieving a healthy weight is essential to living well,” Johnson said. “Adding fiber-rich, low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help you feel satisfied on fewer calories.”

For more healthy eating tips, recipes and a guide to products with the Heart Check mark, visit heart.org/healthyliving.

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Welcome, Kim!

The Mid-Atlantic Government Relations team is pleased to announce that the American Heart Association Grassroots’ staff is growing.  Please join us in welcoming to our team, Kim Chidester, Director of Grassroots and Local Advocacy.  Kim will be focusing on North and South Carolina and is based out of our office in Charlotte.  Kim’s first day was January 13th and we are excited to have her on board.   Read this greeting from Kim and then comment below to welcome her to the American Heart Association and You’re the Cure!

 

Greetings from the Queen City!

I am beyond excited to join the AHA Grassroots and Advocacy family of North and South Carolina.  Before we work together, I will fill you in a little bit on who I am.  I was born and raised in Charlotte (I’m told I’m 1 of 4 natives!) and I am the third of four kids.  I graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a major in Business Management, and I am very much a huge “Niner Nation” football fan.  I have a Shih Tzu I adore, and in my free time (when I have it) I am an incredibly passionate and devoted Carolina Panthers fan (I am always happy to talk football any day of the week!), I love to run and play golf, and travel to the mountains of NC.  The wineries aren’t too bad to visit either!

I am most excited to be joining this team because I feel like our priorities really make a difference in the lives of people everywhere.  Throughout my professional career, my main objective has been to serve and to work for my volunteers and our community in the ways that will most make the largest, most positive impact - and the greatest part of coming to AHA is that we do this every day.  I know that in 2014 and beyond we will continue to make a deep imprint with the AHA policies and programs in the communities where we work, and I’m really looking forward to meeting and working with each and every one of you.   

With Heart,

Kim

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Use the Press to Push Policy Forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

The press influences people.  As You’re the Cure grassroots advocates, we need to influence people.  Put 2 and 2 together, and You’re the Cure advocates can use the press to influence people.  Let’s do it!

Here’s a down and dirty guide to pushing a policy forward through a simple letter-to-the-editor:

  • Gather American Heart Association (AHA) fact sheets on the issue.  (Ask us!)
  • Choose target publication from your area and check their guidelines and word-count limit online.
  • In the first sentence, state the need and why it’s important to the public.
  • In a new paragraph, add two or three sentences about why it’s important to you personally. 
  • In a new paragraph, include a sentence or two with supporting data from our fact sheet(s).
  • Summarize by stating what you want, what readers should do, and/or what legislators should do.
  • Check to be sure you’re within the word-count limit (just the letter itself, not the salutation and signature).
  • If you wish, send to your AHA staff contact so we can provide a little polishing.
  • Once finalized, submit online per their rules, including your full contact information.
  • Connect to tell us you’ve submitted your letter.
  • Watch for publication!  

Note: If you can reference a related recent article from the same publication in your opening it could raise the chances of getting your letter published.

That’s it!  Not complicated, but highly impactful.  Not only can we educate the public about our policy issues this way, but we can reach legislators as well.  They and their staff comb newspapers that serve their districts for relevant content.  You can even name a legislator you want to influence in your letter, so it comes up in their Google searches. 

Would you like to write a letter-to-the-editor on a current You’re the Cure issue in your area?  Ask your local American Heart Association advocacy staff for information to get you started!  

 

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What's On Tap for SC Session

Happy New Year!  The new state General Assembly session (beginning January 14) promises to be an important one for SC citizens.  With a number of key issues expected on the docket, You’re the Cure advocates will have opportunities to help drive significant advances critical to preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 

Here’s a quick look at several policy areas already on tap:

  • CPR Training in High Schools – Support the establishment of quality school based programs that will require hands-on CPR training and AED awareness in high school as part of the required health education curriculum.  The program should be evidence-based and nationally recognized.

Take action NOW to urge support for CPR training in high schools. 

  • Tobacco Control – Establish, strengthen, and protect smoke-free air laws at the local level and prevent any laws that will usurp local control pre-empting current and future comprehensive smoke-free ordinances.  Also, support tobacco control prevention and cessation programs by establishing and protecting sustainable funding at levels that meet or exceed CDC recommendations.

We also anticipate securing public funding for heart disease and stroke and prevention.  As always, new issues could emerge that we will engage in or follow, and we’ll keep you posted about those we need your voice on.

Want to learn more?  A short informational call is scheduled for Friday, January 31, 2014 from 11:00am to 11:30am to discuss what’s unfolding for your state session.

Click here to register.     

Call-in information will be provided to those registered before the call. 

Click here to send your customizable letter now.

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Chat Up Your Lawmakers Like a Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to know how to make chatting up your lawmakers really count?  A few simple steps make all the difference in the world, whether it’s in a phone conversation or a face-to-face visit. 

  • Share where you live, so they know they are working for you, their constituent.
  • State the issue or need concisely in just 1 or 2 sentences.
  • Personalize it:  share a 3-4 sentence description about how it affects you, someone you love or work with, and others in the district/state. Don’t be afraid to get sappy!  Sappy helps make it real.
  • Include 1-3 facts to illustrate the need.  Use American Heart Association talking points or information from the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org, so you’re sure the information you are sharing is accurate and science-based.
  • Ask straight-out if they will support the issue.  Then ask why or why not.
  • Offer follow-up for any questions we can help answer.
  • Connect with us right away to let us know about your conversation.

Practice the format above a few times before your call or visit, and it will help you feel comfortable and prepared. 

And remember, our lawmakers are regular people just like you and me, who happen to be elected officials sworn to serve their district. Telling them what their constituents want is simply helping them do their jobs. 

 

(Pictured: NC You're the Cure Advocate Frank Amend talks with Rep Walter Jones about a pending policy issue.)

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Peak Behind the Scenes: How a Bill Becomes a Law

All that stuff you learned back in school about how a bill becomes law takes on a whole new light when you’re a voting citizen.  So here’s a little refresher on what happens behind the scenes!   

In the United States all of our laws began as bills.  Bills must be approved by the US House of Representatives, the US Senate and the President before becoming a law.  Though the steps for getting through each of the chambers are slightly different, the overall basics remain the same. Let’s take a quick journey through the process as if the bill was introduced into the US House of Representatives.

  1. Bill Idea Begins and is Proposed: Bills begin as ideas from a citizen or a representative.  A Representative takes the idea, researches it, and writes it into bill format.  Then a legislator willing to serve as sponsor and find others to support the bill is identified.  Once the bill has a sponsor and support, it’s ready to be introduced to the chamber.
  2. Bill is Introduced: In the House of Representatives, only a representative can introduce a bill.  Once introduced, it’s assigned a number and sent by the Speaker of the House to one of the standing House committees.
  3. Bill Goes to Committee:  In committee, the bill is reviewed, researched, and revised by a group of issue-related experts.  The committee votes to see if it will be sent back to the House floor.  Sometimes, committee members want even more information and the bill can be sent to a subcommittee.  In subcommittee the bill is examined even more closely before being sent back to the committee for a vote.
  4. Bill is Reported, Debated, and Voted on: When a committee has approved a bill, it is sent to the House floor.  During the debate, the reading clerk reads the bill section by section, and the Representatives recommend changes.  When all changes have been made, the bill is ready to be voted on.  Before it can continue on its journey, it must receive a majority of yes votes from the Representatives. 
  5. Bill is Referred to the Senate: When the bill reaches the Senate, it goes through many of the same processes it went through in the house, and must also receive a majority of yes votes before it’s passed on to the President.
  6. Bill is Sent to the President: The President has three choices when a bill reaches his desk.  He can sign and pass the bill, making it law.  He can refuse to sign (veto), and send it back to the US House of Representatives with his reason for veto, where the bill can again be voted on.  In this situation, if two-thirds of the Representatives and Senators support the bill, the President’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.  The third option: the President can do nothing (pocket veto)—if Congress is in session the bill becomes law after 10 days, if Congress is not in session the bill does not become a law.

When a bill has passed through both chambers and is approved by the President (or the veto is overridden), the bill becomes a law!

At every step along the process before the bill is finalized, YOU have the opportunity to influence how your lawmakers vote.  The emails you receive from us make it easy to help drive our bills forward, and your voice is needed on every one of them.

Here’s a little ditty you might even remember from school that sums it up with a beat!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. Every year in the United States, emergency medical personnel treat almost 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests – that’s more than 1,000 a day. Currently, less than 12 percent of victims survive, but we’re fighting back. 

When someone nearby provides effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, a victim’s chance of survival  can double or triple, but only 41 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

So, how do we fill our communities with people trained in CPR and increase the survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest?

The American Heart Association recommends that CPR training, including hands-on skills practice, be a requirement for graduation from high school.  12 states now require this type of rigorous CPR training before graduation, and efforts are underway to bring the other 38 states on board.  

Learning this life-saving skill takes less than 30 minutes, and we know it works: Pierson High School in Sag Harbor, NY began its CPR program in 1994. Amazingly, 16 lives have been saved so far because these students used their CPR skills in the real world!

If the children from one school can save 16 lives, imagine how many lives we could save if all students learned CPR before graduation.

To learn more and pledge your support for training every high-schooler in CPR before graduation, visit www.becprsmart.org today.

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