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Advocating for Heart at Texas Capitol

On September 16 more than 20 Texas advocates met at the Capitol for an American Heart Association “Advocating for Heart Day.”

The day kicked off with an informative training and inside look at the ways hospitals utilize data for quality improvement. The team then split into groups and made visits to key legislative offices, but not before taking a moment to reflect on their own “why.”

For the AHA, Life is Why. We want people to experience more of life's precious moments. It’s why we do what we do. For us – “Life is why.” For volunteer Susan Patten, “research is why.” It was the years of research that potentially saved her life a few years ago when she received an emergency angioplasty.  For Marcie Wilson, her son is why. He was saved by CPR as a two year old.  For others, their friends, family, and community are Why.

This dedicated team of volunteers visited members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees to thank them for appropriating $500,000 last session for STEMI and stroke statewide data collection and to ask them to maintain the funding next session. They also shared the importance of a well-organized system of care in Texas.

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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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Youth Advocate Brett Harris Steps Up for Smoke-Free

One of our youngest advocates is making one of the biggest impacts to a community by helping to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!  Brett Harris is a middle-school student in Lubbock whose passion for a smoke-free community goes back as far as he can remember. 

His dad, Matthew Harris, who is the Chairman of the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition and a part of AHA’s Statewide Smoke-Free Leadership Council, has always encouraged him to stand up for what he believes in. 

At just 12 years old, Brett's been able to effectively lobby City Councilmembers, recruit volunteers, and educate the public on the positive impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance would have in Lubbock.

On September 20th he even secured over 30 petitions cards during the Lubbock Heart Walk, which was one of the biggest hauls a single person had collected that day!  During the Heart Walk, he also helped people create their Vine videos to post to social media about why they support a smoke-free Lubbock.

He has also educated his community through teaching his Boy Scout troop the dangers of secondhand smoke, attending community events with his dad, and even recording his own call to action for the Lubbock City Council on Vine.

The Harris family is also interested in other heart healthy activities.  For instance, on the weekends Brett can be seen hiking with his Boy Scout troop, working out, and gardening with his dad.  The two have a passion for growing fresh vegetables to give to the community.  We caught up with Brett and got to know a little more about this Youth Advocate.


Getting to Know: Brett Harris

1.       What's the most exciting part about advocating for Smoke-Free Lubbock?

Meeting some of the survivors as part of the Heart Walk.  I’m hoping they can come and speak to the city council. 

2.       What was it like for you to get people to sign SF petition cards?

It was pretty fun.  Some people turned me down, but most people went for it. It was really cool and fun doing it.

3.       What are your hobbies?

I really like riddles, but what I like the most is going camping with my Boy Scout troop and playing with Legos.  Playing with Legos is useful everywhere.  Legos expand your mind with imagination.

4.       What do you want to be when you grow up?

I plan to go and work at Lego.  It would be pretty cool to work there.  It would not be just for the pay.  I’d do it for $1 just to play with all the Legos they have. I would like to test out the instructions and see how it goes, and also make models with random pieces.

 

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Bill Owen is a You're the Cure Advocate Extraordinaire!

Bill became an American Heart Association volunteer when he joined You’re the Cure in September 2013 after signing an online petition asking the city council members and mayor of Irving to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. Bill grew up in Irving, graduated from Irving High school (class of ’76), and now lives there with his family, making the smoke-free issue close to his home and heart.

However, Bill’s main motivation for advocating on behalf of the American Heart Association comes from the fact that he “comes from a family that has lost too many members to preventable heart disease.” Bill’s “goal is to help other families avoid that pain through greater awareness!”

In April 2014, Bill  wrote a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News, urging the city council and mayor of Irving to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. His letter exposed the truth about ventilation systems and their inability to remove the toxins from secondhand smoke.

In May 2014, Bill accepted the American Stroke Month proclamation on behalf of the American Heart Association, speaking before the city council and Mayor Van Duyne about using the F.A.S.T acronym to recognize a stroke and the need for quick treatment in the event of a stroke.

He also volunteered at the Taste of Dallas event in July gathering over 30 petition card signatures showing support for the smoke-free effort in Irving and will volunteer for the upcoming Heart Walk in Dallas, again helping gather more petition signatures.

Bill also serves on the AHA’s Smoke-Free Leadership Council, working with Advocacy staff and other AHA volunteer leaders across the state of Texas working towards the passage of a state-wide smoke-free law.

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Waxahachie Goes Smoke-Free!

On August 18th the City of Waxahachie passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance by a 4-1 vote.  The smoke-free ordinance will remove harmful secondhand smoke from all public workplaces including restaurants and bars and makes Waxahachie the 39th Smoke-Free City in Texas!

The new law will go into effect on September 18th.  American Heart Association volunteers and staff worked over the past few months to engage the public and City Council on smoke-free workplaces.  Their hard work resulted in numerous visits with Council members, public testimony and Council meetings and hundreds of postcard and photo petitions delivered to City Hall. 

Over 200 people were represented in 60 pages of photo petitions throughout the community posing with “I Support a Smoke-Free Community” posters.  Over 140 new You’re the Cure volunteers were recruited, and we presented over 56 smoke-free cards on the night of the vote.

Let us know what city you want to be the next to go Smoke-Free in Texas!

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Advocates Visit Congressional Offices, Promote Healthy School Meals

You’re the Cure Advocates from throughout Texas utilized the August Congressional break to advocate for reauthorization of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.” Volunteers visited district offices to share the message that new nutrition standards ARE working and should not be delayed or weakened.

Houston Grassroots Action Team Chair Bill Clayton hosted a group of advocates at his downtown office, where they reviewed the materials, discussed advocacy 101 and practiced talking points before heading out.  Together, they visited the offices of Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressman John Culberson.

The team delivered the message to Congress that healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids- and that we’re ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards.  To help make this point, the advocates delivered a lunch bag of puzzle pieces, 4 of which fit together to display a healthy school meal and 1 showing unhealthy food that doesn’t fit. 

Advocates also visited the offices of Congressman John Carter in Round Rock and Congresswoman Kay Granger in Fort Worth.

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Texas Heart Walks Coming to a City Near You

Heart Walk season is upon us and you are invited to join us at Heart Walks across Texas.  Whether you want to create a team and help fundraise or volunteer on the day of the event, we need your help!

Visit www.heartwalk.org to find your closest Heart Walk and email brian.bowser@heart.org about volunteer opportunities. 

Lace up your sneakers and we’ll see you out there!

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Newborn Screenings Now in Effect in TX

Because of the hard work of advocates like you, all newborns in Texas will now be screened for critical congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital!

Starting last week a simple procedure called pulse-oximetry will be performed on all newborns before they leave the hospital. It’s quick and painless, and most importantly, it can save lives. Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the United States, and early detection and treatment are crucial.

Please click here and thank Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey and Health & Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek for implementing this life-saving law in Texas!

Wider use of pulse-oximetry could help ensure that more than 90% of heart defects are detected. Lives have already been saved as a result of these screenings. Recently in New Jersey a newborn’s life was saved just hours after their law took effect!

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Why I Advocate for Heart, by April Wade Peters

I’m excited to share my personal journey of advocating for heart, which ultimately led to AED machines being placed at my workplace. It began in 1998 when my husband learned he had a heart murmur and kept tabs on it via an annual EKG. However things worsened and his bicuspid aortic valve was weakened causing aortic regurgitation (AVR) and endocarditis, a serious infection in his heart.

Life was fairly normal until February of 2013 when he thought he was run down by allergies, very common for anyone living in Central Texas. Unfortunately, it was his heart. 

On May 22nd of 2013 he had open-heart surgery where his aortic valve was replaced by bovine tissue. "Holy Cow" is said in our household daily! He is recovering well and feels better with each day. This event is the scariest thing we've ever been though in our lives.

This has led me to become a strong advocate for the American Heart Association. I joined the AHA’s Passion Committee to promote physical activity, research and awareness for leading healthier lives.

In February 2014, my mission was for all our work associates to be dressed in red for National Wear Red Day. Thanks to the support of my husband and many work colleagues, our office shined in red that day! We hosted a staff get-together where I shared our story and University of Texas Volleyball Coach Salima Rockwell shared her personal survivor story with our team.

This event lead to an engaged Q&A session where a colleague discussed how an AED machine could have saved the life of a dear friend. His question sparked a project in our team immediately.  From there we made it our mission to get AEDs placed in and around our office. 

I’m thrilled to report, AED machines are now placed in our workplace creating an environment to treat sudden cardiac arrest. My vision is to continue to make an impact and be viewed as an active, engaged contributor in the heart health community.

This is just a small example of how one person sharing their voice can lead to big change.  I hope you will join me in being an advocate for heart health at your workplace, school, community, or wherever there may be a need!

This post was written by AHA volunteer and Passion Committee member April Wade Peters.

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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! 

 

Lubbock

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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