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Advocating for Change: July Smoke-Free Update

This month we have two exciting updates on local smoke-free efforts.  Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance on June 17th and we are seeing great progress in Lubbock.

Wichita Falls

We are very excited to announce that the City of Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive ordinance on June 17th! Wichita Falls makes the 37th city in Texas to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!

Mayor Glenn Barham, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Smith, Councilman Ben Hoover, and Councilman Brian Hooker all voted YES to a comprehensive ordinance that prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars by 2016.  This is a great accomplishment for all 104,553 residents of Wichita Falls. 

The Smoke-Free Wichita Falls coalition spent many hours meeting with councilmembers, recruiting volunteers, and getting petition cards signed throughout the city.  Many members of the coalition including Mindy Giles, Glen Rabideau, Rachel Brown, and Jackie Bush testified at multiple City Council meetings to urge the Council to support a comprehensive ordinance. 

AHA volunteers sent out numerous letters, emails, and phone calls to the councilmembers. During the day of the vote AHA volunteers delivered over 250 petition cards from Wichita Falls residents supporting a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  There are now over 300 Wichita Falls residents in our You’re the Cure network!  Pictured are just some of the volunteers that attended the City Council meeting. 

Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible.   Your hard work and dedication paid off.  It is because of your work that all Wichita Falls workers will be able to breathe smoke-free air by 2016! 



The West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition has been busy fighting for clean air!  On June 26th the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition made presentations during citizen’s comments about the public health impact of secondhand smoke exposure. 

AHA Executive Leadership Team member Dr. Scott Shurmur presented evidence to the City Council regarding a decrease in hospitalizations once a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance is in place.  Dr. Naidu Chekuru, Kavitha Selvan, Matthew Harris, and AHA Local Policy Manager Kelsey Bernstein all presented public health arguments to the Council. 

In addition to the presenters, there were over 20 hospitality industry workers in attendance!  In fact, during Matthew Harris’ testimony he asked all workers to please stand and get recognized.  This was incredibly impactful as it gave the City Council a great look at the lives that they will be directly saving if they pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  These workers as well as coalition members are pictured.  There were so many volunteers that attended that we could not fit them all in the picture!

The coalition has decided to present to Council again on July 10th.  This time they will be presenting the positive economic impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance will have in Lubbock.  Many business owners and workers will share their stories with the City Council during this time.  



Let us know about any smoke-free movement in your community!

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Ruthie Ewers: Smoke-Free Champion

When the City of Harlingen passed a strong smoke-free ordinance, it was like a dream come true for Texas volunteer Ruthie Ewers.  Ruthie has been the driving force behind the Harlingen smoke-free initiative that started more than 8 years ago.

Passionate about improving her community and the lives of its residents, she has been determined to protect Harlingen employees from secondhand smoke exposure since 2005.

A past president of the Cameron-Willacy County American Heart Association, Ruthie co-chaired the 2005 Smoke-Free Harlingen coalition. The coalition succeeded in expanding the Harlingen smoke-free ordinance to include most worksites, including restaurants. In February of 2014, Ruthie made it her mission to “finish the job” and ensure that ALL worksites in Harlingen would be smoke-free.

Three months later, the City passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that covers all worksites, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities. This public health win is due, in large part, to Ruthie’s grassroots efforts to educate and inform the mayor and city commissioners about the ordinance and to include all stakeholders in the process.

Ruthie has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done in her community. It’s not surprising to see a “Don’t Mess with Ruthie” bumper sticker every now and then when driving through town, and residents are lucky to have her on their side.

Harlingen residents and employees can now breathe easier thanks to Ruthie and all You’re the Cure advocates who stood up for the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Ruthie will continue working with the American Heart Association as a member of the Texas Smoke-free Leadership Council.

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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email to find how you can get involved.


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Arkansas Advocate Stars in PSA for CPR in Schools

Arkansas volunteer and Miss Teen International, Haley Pontius, is on a mission to educate more people – especially her peers – about how CPR can save a life.  That is why she supports CPR in Schools legislation and recently starred in a Public Service Announcement. 

You can view the PSA video by clicking here.

In addition to her CPR advocacy Haley has volunteered for the American Heart Association since 2007 in a number of roles.  Haley was a summer intern at the Central Arkansas office in 2012 and has volunteered at several events, like the Heart Ball and Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Thanks to advocates like Haley 1 million students across the nation each school year will be trained in CPR, including students in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas where advocates helped to pass CPR in Schools initiatives. 


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Advocating for Change: Smoke-Free Update

Harlingen recently passed a strong smoke-free ordinance to join 35 other Texas cities in protecting their workers, residents, and visitors from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.  We have more information on the big win from Harlingen as well as updates from Wichita Falls and Lubbock!

Harlingen Goes Smoke-Free

Harlingen will now join 35 other cities in Texas that can proudly proclaim to be smoke free! 

During a specially called meeting on May 27, the Harlingen City Commission gave final approval to a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that will make all worksites in the city of Harlingen, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities smoke-free. 

Thanks to the efforts of You’re the Cure volunteers, who educated and encouraged the city commission to pass the ordinance, more residents will now be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. During the campaign, volunteers helped secure 115 local smoke-free postcard petitions that were delivered to the city commission, emailed numerous letters to the mayor and commissioners, and testified at public hearings. 
AHA volunteer Dr. Victoria Parada, Stroke Director and Clinical Director of Neurosciences at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, testified before the commission, submitted a letter to the editor to the local newspaper, and appeared on a local Fox/Univision morning show to help raise awareness about this issue. 

Erlinda Abantao, Stroke Coordinator at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and AHA volunteer, testified twice before the commission and helped AHA staff to collect smoke-free petition cards from Harlingen residents.

A special thank you to long-time AHA volunteer and Smoke-Free Leadership Council member Ruthie Ewers, who personally reached out to the mayor and city commissioners to help them understand the need to strengthen their smoke-free ordinance, coordinated and attended meetings with the mayor and city commissioners, and testified at public hearings. Mrs. Ewers deserves a great deal of gratitude for her efforts in the Harlingen smoke-free campaign. 

Thank you to all of our You’re the Cure advocates who took action on this issue – your voices were heard! The Harlingen smoke-free ordinance goes into effect on July 1, 2014.

Wichita Falls

The Wichita Falls City Council is expected to vote on a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance on June 17th at 8:30am.  On June 3rd the Health Department presented the council with the proposed comprehensive ordinance. 

During public comments AHA volunteer Mindy Giles spoke about her time as a hospitality worker having to quit her job because of second-hand smoke exposure.  Mindy has also written this letter to the editor:

We encourage everyone to share this story on social media and comment in support of this letter. In addition to Mindy’s testimony we had volunteers there wearing blue and a “I Support a Smoke-Free Wichita Falls” sticker to show their support.  As of today we have had 301 Wichita Falls residents sign “I Support Smoke-Free for My Community” petition cards.  The cards will be delivered to city council members on June 17th.   


We would like to highlight that our volunteer Michael Clintsman, owner of Local Bar and Grill, has decided to make his establishment smoke-free!  Over the past couple of months he has become very involved in the campaign as Co-Chair of the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition and believes that this is best for his business, but most importantly, for the health of his employees. 

After holding a media advocacy training with the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition they have become very strong advocates in the media. 

Most recently, Stephen LoCascio (General Manager for Bar PM) and Coalition Chair Matthew Harris gave interviews to KCBD which aired the story on June 4th.  Please view the article that was written about it here: and share the article on social media.

Please contact if you would like to get more involved in Smoke-Free efforts in your city!

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State Advocacy Committee Shows Vision for Heart Disease Prevention in Texas

The Texas State Advocacy Committee met in Dallas June 4th to begin planning for the upcoming 2015 legislative session. This dedicated group of volunteers serves as the advisory board to Texas volunteers and staff on public policy issues. The committee establishes public advocacy priorities each year, while actively participating in grassroots and lobbying activities including coordinating You’re the Cure recruitment at local events, providing public testimony at committee hearings and delegation meetings, participating in federal and state in-district meetings and spreading the mission and message of the American Heart Association.

The State Advocacy Committee is made up of a diverse membership from around the state. We had great representation at our recent meeting including members from Abilene, Lubbock, D/FW, Austin, Houston, El Paso, and Galveston. And congratulations to 2014-2015 Chair Suzanne Lozano of San Antonio, who will lead this great committee into the next legislative session!

Contact if you’d like to submit an application to join our State Advocacy Committee or one of our regional Grassroots Action Team. 

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Smoke-Free Texas Update

There has been great progress in our smoke-free efforts in Lubbock!  On April 17th we had volunteers sign people into You’re the Cure at a booth during the Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Overton Hotel.  We had over sixty Lubbock residents sign our “I Support Smoke-Free for My Community” petition cards.  We will be handing these petition cards out to city council members in the upcoming weeks. 

The West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition chair Matthew Harris and his wife Carrie Harris volunteered their time to work our booth and attend our Go Red for Women Luncheon.  The event was very successful and motivated a lot of Lubbock residents to get involved with our smoke-free efforts.

Our very first Grassroots Action Team meeting in Wichita Falls took place on April 4th.  Our volunteers for this team consist of United Regional Medical Center employees, concerned citizens, doctors, musicians, and cancer survivors. 

Everyone in Wichita Falls has been working extra hard in getting You’re the Cure sign-ups.  Our next GAT meeting will take place sometime early this month.  We will also be meeting with all council members to discuss a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. 

Want to get involved in your city?  Leave a comment below or email

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AHA Volunteer Tirelessly Pursues Improving Care

Dr. Robert Wozniak has tirelessly worked to improve care for cardiac patients since earning his medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine.  Now residing in Austin, Texas he helps advance our mission across the country by sitting on AHA’s National Mission Lifeline Advisory Working Group.  Through advocating for change within our Mission Lifeline program and with elected officials he is a true leader in our efforts to improve cardiac care.

While twice receiving volunteer leadership awards from the American Heart Association Dr. Wozniak recently received the prestigious 2014 Frist Humanitarian Physician of the Year Award for HCA St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. The Frist Humanitarian Awards recognize employees, physicians and volunteers at HCA-affiliated facilities across the country who demonstrate extraordinary concern for the welfare and happiness of patients and their communities.

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Take Control of Your Health

Did you know high blood pressure has also been called the “silent killer”? That’s because its symptoms are not always obvious, making the need for regular check-ups important.  As we recognize High Blood Pressure Awareness Month, here are the facts:

• High blood pressure (aka: hypertension) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

• It’s the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.

• One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.

• More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
• Despite popular belief, teens, children and even babies can have high blood pressure. As with adults, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent the harmful consequences of this disease.

Now that you know the facts, what can you do to take control? The answer is a “lifestyle prescription” that can prevent and manage high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, stress management, and eating a healthy diet, especially by reducing the sodium you eat. To learn more about taking control of you blood pressure, be sure to visit our online toolkit!

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Chloe Sumrall Saves a Life

When Chloe Sumrall entered a restaurant last March, the senior high school student was looking forward to enjoying a celebratory lunch after a long season as president of the Sub-Debutante committee.

Chloe heard a scream of terror from across the restaurant and responded immediately.  Seeing a man's body laid out on the floor, apparently non-responsive, Chloe said firmly to those attempting to help, “I am CPR certified, are you?”  When no one responded, she hurried to begin hands-on chest compressions.  For the next several minutes, Chloe and her mother worked to resuscitate the stranger.

A doctor who was also patronizing the restaurant told Chloe that she could stop, that there was no chance of this man's survival.  While family members and onlookers huddled in prayer, Chloe continued performing CPR until the paramedics arrived.  Even then, things looked grim. 

Compelled to know whether the man had survived, Chloe and her parents went to find his family at the hospital.  This complete stranger to Chloe had suffered Sudden Cardiac Death, a condition that in Mississippi has less than a 2% chance of survival.  Because of Chloe’s immediate action, this man joined the 2% of survivors that day! 

Today, Chloe is a freshman at the University of Mississippi and the survivor is enjoying life with his family.

To find out more about local area CPR classes, visit

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