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Looking Back at the Washington 2014 Legislative Session

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Washington Government Relations Director

The Washington State Legislature adjourned March 13th. Given that 2014 was the second year of the biennium, the Legislature was committed to limiting the scope of the supplemental budget. Knowing that, we are very pleased with some of the investments legislators made:

  • For the first time in four years the state invested $1 million in the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. While we had hoped for a larger investment, we are glad to see this important first step toward rebuilding this life-saving program.
  • The Legislature also chose to make the first-ever state investment in obesity prevention - $350,000 to fund the Governor’s Healthiest Next Generation initiative. This initiative will provide for coordination across the Department of Health, Department of Early Learning and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to support and develop innovative approaches to fight childhood obesity in our state.

This past session we also supported budget requests to establish grant programs to fund school kitchen renovations and water bottle filling stations in schools. These investments would have been made through funds from the capital budget, however, the Legislature chose not to do a supplemental capital budget this year. Similarly, the Legislature did not arrive at consensus on a transportation revenue package, part of which we had hoped would fund Safe Routes to Schools.

Thank you all for your support throughout the 2014 legislative session. We made some important progress toward in improving the health of our state and we look forward continuing our work throughout the interim and in to next session.

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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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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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Advocate Spotlight: Colter's Story

Bobbie Cross

Heart disease has forever changed our family.  My son, Colter, was born on November 17, 2011. I had a healthy and normal pregnancy. We were able to take him home 24 hours after, he passed all of the required health screenings and passed as a seemingly healthy baby boy. Unfortunately, the hospital neglected to do one very important test called the pulse oximetry screening.

3 days later we took him to his pediatrician for his first checkup. It was there we found out our beautiful new baby boy had a birth defect. The doctor heard a very loud heart murmur and chose to check his oxygen levels, they were bad. . He immediately made arrangements for us to see a cardiologist. 5 hours later we received the most terrifying news that our perfect angel was broken inside; he was diagnosed with a severe Critical Congenital Heart Defect called Truncus Arteriosus. Our son's heart defect was undetected until he was 4 days old and without surgery; he would die.

We went to Seattle Children’s that night and tried to prepare ourselves for the unknown. Colter was 11 days old when he had his first open heart surgery. After a long, complicated surgery; we were told they didn't know if he would make it through the night. His situation wasn't a day by day or hour to hour he was surviving minute by minute. He was in some pretty rough shape. 8 days later they were able to get him off of life support known as ECMO only to face more challenges.  Colter had contracted pneumonia in his right lung that was extremely resistant to antibiotics making it very difficult to manage.

December 17th Colter crashed, every medical intervention they tried wasn't working, and the infection was ravaging his tiny body.  They planned to remove Colter's right lung, but as a last minute decision chose to put him back onto ECMO. The Dr. told us our son was deteriorating, and this was their last ditch effort to save his life. The doctor told us there was a slim chance Colter would survive and he suggested us to say goodbye to our son. We said our goodbyes and waited.

1 hour later they came out smiling, no interventions were needed, by the grace of god he started improving little by little, minute by minute. It was a miracle even in the medical world! 10 days later we were discharged from the CICU and remained in the hospital for an additional month for antibiotic treatment.

We took home Colter with fulltime oxygen, a feeding tube, 24/7 continuous feeds, meds literally around the clock, less than 25% heart function and a lot of doubtful doctors. We were faced with a challenging first year, it was trying and exhausting. As a mother these were all challenges I welcomed. The Seattle team was sure Colter would be back, and believed the odds of him keeping his own heart were grim. Colter survived, and with every hurdle life threw his way he leaped it with grace. Colter is alive and well today, matter of fact if you didn't know his story you'd probably think of him as a normal kid.

Being a heart mom you deal with a variety of emotions but the 2 most prevalent would be fear and joy. Fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of his next surgery, and fear of death. But there's one thing that being a heart mom has taught me that is that our joys are greater than any fear of the future. When I think about surgery day that was the 1st time we got to see what Colter was made of.

At only 11 days old he showed us his tremendous amount of strength and his will and desire to live. I looked up the word, persevere it's defined as follows: To continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. Despite Colter's dips and turns for the worst he always seemed to persevere. His tenacity to live was something that was undeniable from the beginning.

After each scare it was always followed by great JOY.

I feel so honored to be able to share Colter's story, I hope to continue to raise awareness about the importance of the pulse ox screening. This needs to be done on all newborns before they are discharged to go home. We were very lucky that this test was taken as it saved Colter's life. I think all new mothers and fathers should be educated about what a simple, non-invasive and CHEAP test this is. I feel it's so important that we remember the statistics, 1 in every 100 birth a baby is born with some form of heart defect . Heart disease is the #1 killer of our babies in the United States. And lastly a child is 2x more likely to die from heart disease than ALL forms of childhood cancer combined. So we need to be taking advantage of our resources and technology Pulse Ox Screening is a no brainer! It saves lives, my son is proof of it.

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2014 Washington Lobby Day Recap

On Tuesday, January 28 in Washington, 30 You’re the Cure advocates made a big impression at the Capitol for AHA’s annual Lobby Day. Our advocates, including five board members from the Seattle/Tacoma area, heard issue briefings from the Department of Health and the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and then hit the halls to meet with their Senators and Representatives who all were eager to hear from us!

Advocates urged leaders to re-fund the proven-effective Washington Tobacco Prevention Program which currently does not receive one penny from the state’s tobacco tax revenue or Master Settlement Agreement payments. Advocates also asked legislators to support a number of childhood obesity prevention policies including Governor Jay Inslee’s new Healthiest Next Generation Initiative and Safe Routes to School.  

Our advocates also asked legislators to support policies to improve access to healthier foods and beverages in schools through kitchen renovations to provide staff the infrastructure to prepare, store and serve more whole foods, and state-of-the-art hydration stations to provide clean, cold drinking water as a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.

2014 Lobby Day was a great day and an important step toward securing heart-healthy policy wins during this legislative session. Thank you so much to all of those who joined us in Olympia, it is wonderful to see how many passionate advocates we have with us and you really do make a difference in what we can accomplish in making the state of Washington a healthier place to live!

We look forward to keeping you up to date with the latest happenings as the legislative session continues and hopefully report back with many wins coming out of the capitol on these issues. If you were unable join us on Lobby Day, please be on the lookout for future action alerts to let your voice be heard!

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Introducing Kami Sutton

Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, Western States Affiliate

Hi there YTC Advocates! I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, my name is Kami Sutton and I am the new Grassroots Coordinator for the Western States Affiliate of the American Heart Association. As someone living with a congenital heart defect, I have been a longtime Heart Walk team captain and volunteer here in Seattle and after I graduated from the University of Washington (Go Huskies!) I knew I wanted to make a career of giving back to an organization that has made me who I am today. It is because of the research and medical advancements that have been made by the American Heart Association to repair congenital defects, I am here today. I have spent the past year as the Office Coordinator here in the Seattle office working on office operations, finance and community outreach and I am so excited to be joining the Advocacy team!

After attending my first Lobby Day last January, I knew this is the direction I wanted to take my career. I was given the opportunity to share my story with my legislators and share my passion for this organization and that was all I needed to be hooked on Advocacy.

I always knew I wanted a job that meant something, where I could help make a difference. I really feel that is what the opportunity to work with the Advocacy department has given me. With the help of all of our amazing YTC Advocates, volunteers, board members and my fellow staff members, we are helping make the United States a healthier place to live, one city, county, and state at a time! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about our organization, the grassroots advocacy department and of course the You’re The Cure site! Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! I cannot wait to work with you on our future advocacy adventures!

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Governor Inslee Sets the State on a Path to Healthy Eating

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director, Washington

For many people the New Year brings resolutions to live a healthier life by eating better and moving more. Just before the holidays Governor Inslee signed an Executive Order that will help give state employees and those in the state’s care access to healthier foods and beverages. This is an exciting win and is the culmination of years of work by our advocates, our partner the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, and the original bill sponsor Representative Laurie Jinkins.

The Executive Order sets nutritional standards for vending machines and cafeterias in state-run buildings, as well as for meals served to custodial populations. The American Heart Association applauds this bold step. It is exciting to see state government model good nutrition as a key element of prevention.  

Did you know less than 1 percent of U.S. adults meet the American Heart Association’s definition for “Ideal Healthy Diet?” You can take steps to improve your diet and prevent heart disease by adopting healthy eating habits too. Take the My Life Check to see how you’re doing, then visit the Nutrition Center for tips on how to improve your nutrition.

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Happy Holidays from Your Advocacy Team!

Thank you for partnering with us to promote heart and brain health in 2013.  Because of you we’re increasing opportunities for our children to be physically active, improving nutrition standards, creating stroke systems of care, and finding better outcomes for heart patients.  We’re excited to continue the momentum in 2014 and wish you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season!  

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Now is the Time to Fund Tobacco Prevention in Washington

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Government Relations Director, Washington

Washington was once a national leader in tobacco prevention with a fully funded, comprehensive tobacco prevention program. Today, Washington has no state program AND tobacco use remains Washington’s number one cause of preventable death.

How did we get here? Washington once had a proven-effective tobacco prevention program shown to save $5 in healthcare costs for every $1 invested in the program. Yet during the economic downturn the program’s funding was diverted to the general fund. Since then it has been an uphill battled to restore funding; in 2012 the state received $732 million from the Master Settlement Agreement and tobacco taxes, yet not one penny went to fund tobacco prevention.

A grim picture, but we have a special opportunity in the 2014 legislative session to turn this around. As a result of a recent Master Settlement Agreement arbitration ruling, Washington will receive $10.5 million. By encouraging the Legislature to direct these funds to the state tobacco prevention and control account, we could re-establish and fund proven-effective tobacco prevention in Washington.

Nearly nine out of 10 smokers start by age 18. We must keep our youth from ever using tobacco and help tobacco users fight their deadly addiction. There is always a new group of kids vulnerable to the dangerous influence of tobacco companies. A strong tobacco prevention and education program is critical to counter those misleading claims and keep kids off tobacco.

Join us during the 2014 legislative session as we urge legislators to fund the life-saving tobacco prevention and control program.

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Last Chance to RSVP for Washington State Lobby Day - January 28th

There is stil time to RSVP for Washington State Lobby Day! On Tuesday, January 28th American Heart Association advocates will descend on Olympia to meet with state legislators about the important issues of childhood obesity prevention and tobacco prevention funding.

Advocates will meet with state legislators to encourage them to adopt these policies that will help make Washington a healthier place to live. If you have any questions please feel free to email Lindsay Hovind at lindsay.hovind@heart.org

We hope you will join us for this exciting and important day. Don't wait, register today.

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