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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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Come and help grow Grassroots at our fall Heart Walks!

Heart Walk is a wonderful opportunity to help make walkers aware of our important advocacy efforts and engage them in the You're the Cure grassroots network. We need your help manning our You're the Cure booths at these events! Take a look at the full list of Heart Walk events below and let us know if you can help.

RSVP to come work a booth with us! 

Charleston Heart Walk: Saturday, September 27 at Liberty Square, 340 Concord St, Charleston, downtown next to the SC Aquarium
Pee Dee (Florence) Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Florence-Darlington Technical College
Waccamaw (Myrtle Beach) Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Broadway at the Beach, 1325 Celebrity Cir

Volunteer to help grow grassroots at a Heart Walk near you! Send a quick email to let me know you plan to come help us recruit!

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What Is Your Why?

As you may know, the American Heart Association has kicked off our new "Life is Why" campaign. We know there are many reasons "why" you are passionate, and we’d like to know what the reasons are behind your "why!"

We are running a social media campaign focused on this question throughout the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, and would love for you to include your story via Facebook (#lifeiswhy), Instagram (@heartmaa) or Twitter (@midatlnticheart). We want to hear and see the motivation for your passion, so please join us by sharing your Why today!

What’s OUR Why?

At the August Mid-Atlantic Affiliate’s All Staff meeting, your Government Relations team was awarded the "Greatest Health Impact" award.  What does this mean? It means that your Government Relations team has most positively impacted the lives of the residents of our Affiliate through our accomplishment of passing public policy (like the Pulse Oximetry bill in North Carolina, or CPR in Schools legislation in Virginia and Maryland) and improving the health of our local communities. 

Cathleen Grzesiek, Vice President of Government Relations for the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, said "This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our government relations directors, grassroots directors, and all of our volunteers over the past year.  Our policy success couldn’t happen without each of them, and together, we are making a huge impact on health across the Mid-Atlantic.  Our team embodies the idea that ‘making a difference is why.’"

We could not have done this without the help of you, our You’re the Cure family!

While at times the policy process can be labored, this just proves that your resolute determination and passion have made a true difference all across the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.

So today, it is with pleasure that we share that YOU are our why, and we hope that you will share your why with us!

You are invaluable to us, and we are thankful for you and for the great impact you have made on the health of your local and regional communities.

Thank you!

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We've Come So Far Because of You, South Carolina!

The 2014 Legislative Session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation while providing us room to continue in 2015.

Senate Bill 1094: School Nutrition Guidelines
This would have required stronger nutritional guidelines for competitive foods sold on school grounds during afterschool hours. Competitive foods include foods sold in vending machines, snack stores, and a la carte items in school cafeterias. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the Senate Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full Senate once the bill was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Bill 160: CPR in Schools
This would have required all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED awareness as part of the already required high school health education class. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the House Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full House once the bill was placed on the House calendar.

This issue continues to be vital to residents of South Carolina, even during the summer months when the legislature is not in session. Please email your elected officials today and let them know you support CPR in schools.

Tobacco Control Funding
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $8 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories
Three more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, joining 55 other South Carolina municipalities, for a total of 58 cities/counties, covering 39% of the state's population!

As part of the You're the Cure team, you've helped us make GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2015 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do. You are our hero.

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Mary Kay Ballasiotes

Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

Mary Kay Ballasiotes has been advocating for children for over 15 years.  Her daughter, Michelle had a stroke before she was born and that moment changed both of their lives forever. Mary Kay’s advocacy days started in 2002 in Chicago where she founded the Childhood Stroke & Hemiplegia Connections of Illinois, simply because there was a need for it.  Before long, Mary Kay and her daughter were fixtures at Lobby Day.  At National Lobby Day, May 2006, Mary Kay spoke with the Vice President of the American Stroke Association (ASA) and told him about her daughter having a stroke before birth.  She learned that the VP had never heard of pediatric stroke. From that day on Mary Kay made it her mission to collaborate with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the ASA about pediatric stroke, and to raise awareness about it.

Over the years, Mary Kay and Michelle attended heart walks, lobby days, and were very vocal about pediatric stroke in each state they have lived in: Illinois, Georgia, and now North Carolina. Most recently, Mary Kay co-produced a pediatric stroke awareness video with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  The video was created to raise awareness that strokes can happen in babies, children and even before birth. Join us here  to watch this impactful video.   

Making a difference in people’s lives is the most rewarding element of being part of advocacy.  Mary Kay and Michelle have attended many lobby days over the years, both national and state.  The experience never gets old to Mary Kay.  She loves seeing how her passion and effort can make a difference, and strongly feels that one person can make a difference!  In August 2010, Mary Kay and her family moved to North Carolina where she soon started working with Betsy Vetter, the AHA Director of Government Relations in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.  Mary Kay readily admits her love of working with Betsy.  She is one of the reasons Mary Kay is still volunteering and advocating with AHA.  Mary Kay feeds off Betsy’s passion and enthusiasm and feels that Betsy has a gift for working with volunteers and government officials.

Mary Kay is very proud of her daughter Michelle and the hard work that she has been doing right alongside her mother. While back in Chicago in 2007, Michelle was chosen to be one of the 12 “Faces of Cardiovascular Disease.”  Her image was captured on one of many large posters that were circulated around the United States for Heart Walks.  These posters are still being used today.  Because of Mary Kay and Michelle’s hard work, they were both featured in an ABC news article once again shedding light on pediatric stroke. In 2009, Michelle was honored with the Stroke Hero of the Year and received the National Youth Advocate of the Year award.

Mary Kay’s calling is to advocate for children. She feels that things happen for a reason. The stroke that Michelle suffered enabled both Michelle and Mary Kay to reach other families and make a difference in their lives and in the area of pediatric stroke.  Mary Kay does not have much free time, but when she does, she enjoys going out to lunch with friends and reading. 

One great memory Mary Kay has included that of her son, Alex.  While driving back from picking Alex up at college, he remarked how much he admires the work that she has done over the years.  The example that Mary Kay has provided has empowered him to pay it forward by getting involved in politics and leadership roles.   May Kay continues to advocate for children and wants everyone to know that one person can make a difference.

 

 

 Advocate interview provided by Blog Contributor Amanda Orfitelli.

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Help You're the Cure by Having a Party?!

Huh?!  I can help You’re the Cure by having a party?  You sure can, and it’s fun to do!    

Tupperware might have started the trend, but many since have figured out the beauty of sharing a message with a group of friends to help get something done.  One of the ways we get advocacy done is with ‘house parties.’  

Growing the You’re the Cure network is our how we have power to leverage, to get our bills passed – bills that help people live longer healthier lives.  A house party is a fun way you can pull your friends and family into the fold, helping them understand the importance of our work, and inviting them to help the cause by joining the network.  And unlike Tupperware, it won’t cost them a penny. 

Here’s how simple it can be:

  • Let us know what you want to do so we can provide support! If you don’t already have our contact information, find your AHA advocacy contacts here.  
  • Pick a date and invite your contacts.  Include information about why working with us is important to you.  Many now use online event-planning tools like Eventbrite, to make sending invitation and tracking RSVPs easier than pie.  Facebook is a good distribution vehicle too.  Or maybe phone calls or written invitations are more your cup of tea.  You decide what works best for you.
  • Plan a few healthy snacks….yeah they should be healthy!  You are representing the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, after all.  We have lots of free healthy recipes online, and you can keep it very simple.  
  • At the event, mingle with your guests, have fun, and make a short pitch asking them to join the effort.  We have guides and sign-up sheets you can use to make it easy.
  • Take pics for sharing, and be sure to thank everyone!
  • Let us know how it went, and return sign-ups so we can get them entered in the network!

Here’s what Larry and Karen Calhoun, a North Carolina couple who do house parties annually, say: 

“We do a party for You’re the Cure and the Heart Walk every year, and it’s become something we really look forward to. We cook a heart healthy Cajun meal and thus our team name, the Cardiac Cajuns. The American Heart Association has helped us get organized and given support by providing information and visual displays about YTC, heart disease, and the work of AHA.  We really enjoy getting our friends together and love knowing we’re helping build the grassroots network in the process.”

You can put your own twist on the idea to ‘make it your own.’  We even heard of someone who did a mobile house party, going around to their friends’ houses to do individual sign-ups! 

Host the Ultimate House Party: a party that can save lives!   Will you do one?

 

 Guests mingle and chat at a 'House Party' at Larry and Karen Calhoun's

 

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Be One In A Million

Million Hearts is an answer. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country and the #1 killer of women.  But effective community CVD prevention interventions have been underutilized due to a lack of a coordinated national effort.  We must do something to change this, but what could be big enough?

Million Hearts is a national initiative by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that has set an ambitious goal to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Million Hearts aims to prevent heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving access to effective care.
  • Improving the quality of care.
  • Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke.
  • Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Improving the prescription and adherence to appropriate medications.

Each year there are approximately 2 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States. The campaign is expected to produce a 10 percent reduction in the rate of acute cardiovascular events each year for 5 years resulting in one million heart attack and strokes prevented.

The AHA applauds the launch of Million Hearts and is grateful for the opportunities we have been provided to help inform, shape, and support the initiative. We look forward to joining and partnering with the HHS in implementing this initiative, which has the potential to advance the mission and work of the AHA dramatically and to help us achieve our ambitious 2020 Health Impact Goal.

This initiative will focus, coordinate, and enhance cardiovascular disease prevention activities across the public and private sectors in an unprecedented effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 and demonstrate to all that improving the health system can save lives.

Will you be one in a million?  Be one who makes the commitment to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle….do your part to live a life free of heart disease and stroke. 

Watch your inbox for our action requests to support You’re the Cure policy efforts around healthy living and prevention.  Open and click to help more of the million get there!

 

Thanks to volunteer writer/YTC advocate Karen Wiggins, for help developing this blog post.

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The FDA and New Tobacco Products

The FDA is accepting comments on its proposed deeming rules to cover new tobacco products. The rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to regulate electronic cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.  The AHA believes it is a good first step, but it doesn't go far enough to protect young people.  So, we are asking our advocates to submit comments to the FDA urging them to strengthen the regulation.

We know that the FDA pays close attention to the number of comments it receives. Their decision to extend the comment period (despite the objections of the public health community) was directly linked to the thousands of requests they received to delay the comment period. 

So, have you sent the FDA your comments?  This is a great opportunity to let the FDA know what you are seeing in your communities.  We have made it easy for you to submit, simply click here:  http://bit.ly/1l3kxzi.

A 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics reported youth exposure to television advertising for electronic cigarettes increased by 256 percent from 2011 to 2013, exposing 24 million U.S. kids to these ads. The researchers predicted that “if current trends in e-cigarette television advertising continue, awareness and use of e-cigarettes are likely to increase among youth and young adults.”  The study showed that the North Carolina Triad area had the most e-cigarette television ad exposure in the United States, as measured by target ratings points compiled by research firm Nielsen. There were 770 e-cigarette television ads in the Triad during the study's time period. 

With bright, colorful packaging and fruit and candy flavorings that appeal to children, it’s no surprise there has been a rapid increase in youth use of cigars and e-cigarettes. Help us tell FDA that stronger regulations are needed to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco.  Let the FDA know what you are seeing – tell them your story.  http://bit.ly/1l3kxzi

Do you need more information?  Please contact Betsy Vetter, Sr. Director of Government Relations (betsy.vetter@heart.org). 

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