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Libby Char, Hawaii

Despite her extremely busy work schedule as an emergency physician, as the Medical Director for the Honolulu Fire Department and for American Medical Response in Hawaii, and serving on the American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board, Libby Char, M.D. still finds time to support American Heart Association policy efforts to make Hawaii healthier.

She sees the value of using policy change as a way to more quickly and efficiently change public norms that will result in improved public health.  Dr. Char has supported our efforts this year to require all newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects, requiring all high school students to receive CPR training prior to graduation, and development of policy aimed at improving Hawaii’s stroke system of care. 

As an example of her commitment, Dr. Char serves as the AHA’s volunteer representative on the Hawaii State Stroke Coalition which worked on successfully passing state legislation that will result in the creation of a state stroke data registry. Requiring that all of Hawaii’s acute stroke care hospitals collect stroke patient data and submit that data to the state Department of Health (DOH), the DOH will then create data reports that the Coalition will use to identify areas of weakness in the state’s stroke system of care and work together to improve them. The ongoing effort is expected to reduce geographic disparities in levels of care and improve stroke patients’ health outcomes.

Stroke remains the third leading cause of death in Hawaii, while nationally it has fallen to the fifth leading killer. It is also Hawaii’s leading cause of major disability. Efforts in other states, similar to those underway in Hawaii, to improve stroke systems of care have been credited with the reduction in stroke deaths nationally.  Coupled with the implementation of new stroke treatment guidelines released by the AHA in June, and the AHA’s ongoing efforts to boost stroke prevention through lifestyle changes, the long-term outlook for stroke patients and their families in Hawaii are looking brighter.

As the old adage says, “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Advocacy helps us to speak up and out about issues that are important to us.  The more we do, the more our message spreads. As volunteer Peter Evans found out during our sugary drink campaign, speaking up, even on paper, can have an impact.

Evans wrote a letter to his local paper the Brattleboro Reformer emphasizing the importance of passing an excise tax on sugary drinks that would reduce consumption of these drinks and help fight the obesity crisis.

"We have only a few real options," Evans wrote. "Continue on our current course and let the cost of obesity continue to spiral, or take tangible, evidence-based steps towards improving healthcare through policy and prevention."

The paper agreed and wrote an editorial supporting the effort, “Sugary Drinks: Tax the heck out of them.” You can read it here. http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_27585726/our-opinion-sugary-drinks-tax-heck-out-them  And Peter’s message spread to hundreds of Vermonters.

You too can be a catalyst for change. Though the sugary drink excise tax did not pass this year, obesity is still a crisis and sugary drink consumption is far too high. Help us continue to spread the word by writing a letter to your own newspaper. 

Tell them a new study by the University of North Carolina reported this month that sugary drink sales dropped 6% on average after a sugary drink excise tax was implemented in Mexico. We should give it a chance here. Click here for a list of Vermont newspapers and the emails where you can submit your letter.

The American Heart Association and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island hosted the 2015 GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest Award Ceremony at the Rhode Island State House on May 20th.  The award ceremony recognized eleven outstanding students in grades K-8.  Winning students demonstrated how physical activity and healthy eating helps build healthy hearts, healthy families and healthy communities. Several hundred posters from all over Rhode Island were submitted for consideration this year.

Congratulations to our award recipients!

Grades K-1:
1st place – Averi Senecal from Winsor Hill School in Johnston

2nd place – Mackenzie Barrette from Wawaloam School in Exeter
3rd place – Kamaiina Jackman from Tiogue School in Coventry

Grades 2-4:
1st place – Mia Clancy from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Caroline Pesenecker & Casey Khuon from Winsor Hill in Johnston
3rd place – Michael Psilopoulas & Dante Iafrate from Winsor Hill in Johnston

Grades 5-8:
1st place – Isabella Luchka from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Isabelle Besser from North Scituate Elementary
3rd place – Sienna Fusaro from Westerly Middle School

The American Heart Association is committed to helping kids and families live heart healthy lives!  As we educate and lobby lawmakers to support policies that promote access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active in Rhode Island, we wanted to take the extra step to get students involved.

Many thanks to our generous sponsor: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island!