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Vermont Heart Walk to Highlight the Team Effort that Saved a Local Coach!

Vermont advocates pushed for passage of legislation in 2012 that required schools to teach students Hands-only CPR and the importance of an AED (automated external defibrillator). Its efforts like these that have raised awareness to the need for public access to defibrillation and a strong chain of survival. Many schools now have AEDs on hand, including at sporting events.

It’s a good thing. The American Heart Association’s Vermont Heart Walk on September 26th will highlight the successful effort that saved the life of Rice High School Girls’ Basketball Coach Tim Rice from a cardiac arrest during a game against CVU this winter. The CVU team had the foresight to bring their AED to the game with them. That AED, along with many quick actions from bystanders and EMS enabled the coach to give a thumbs up as he left the game instead of much worse outcome.

We’ll honor Cardiologist Ed Terrien, who performed CPR on Coach Rice that day. Join Dr. Terrien and hundreds of others walking at the Vermont Heart Walk at Oakledge Park in Burlington on September 26th to raise funds for life-saving research.

There will also be Heart Walks on September 12th in Swanton and September 19th in Berlin. You can register for any of the walks at www.vermontheartwalk.org. Do it today and make a commitment to save lives. Get your friends and family together for a great day and a great cause!

You can also ensure that your community and school have a strong chain of survival by contacting your local high school and asking if the school has an AED and making sure students are CPR-trained.

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The Fight for the NH Health Protection Program Continues into 2016

Providing low income residents access to affordable health insurance is a key to prevention of heart disease and stroke. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program which went into effect in 2015 has enabled 40,000 previously uninsured Granite Staters to gain access to preventive healthcare and has reduced uncompensated care in our hospitals’ emergency rooms. The NHHPP needs to be reauthorized by NH lawmakers prior to December 31, 2016, when the program funded by federal Medicaid dollars is due to sunset. While this was not accomplished during the recent state budget process, lawmakers have heard our calls for support and have vowed to bring forth legislation this coming January to address continuation of the program. The American Heart Association will continue the fight for reauthorization of this successful and critically needed insurance program this coming fall. Thanks to You’re The Cure advocates who have contacted their legislators in support of the NH Health Protection Program!

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2015 Minnesota Legislative Session Wrap Up

The 2015 Legislative Session has come to an end and we’ve had another great year working hard to push for heart-health policies in Minnesota. We have many reasons to celebrate the work in fighting for a healthier Minnesota!

The Wins
As the dust settles, we are excited to share the big policy wins the state saw in heart-health this year. Thank you for your passion and work in making these happen:
    

   • Minnesota Stroke System: Minnesota is now home to one of the country’s most comprehensive stroke systems with the passage of the EMS Stroke Protocols bill. This bill makes it a requirement for all EMS systems in the state to have updated protocols to treat and transfer stroke victims so they receive the best possible care available in the fastest amount of time to reduce the chances of death or disability from stroke. The system also became stronger this year, when the legislature dedicated $350,000 in the budget of dedicated funding to run the stroke program. Previously, the system was funded by a federal grant from the CDC that the state had to continually re-apply for and that has always changing parameters. This new dedicated funding will allow the basics of the system to be run into the future and shows that the state is dedicated to ensuring Minnesota has a successful system to treat stroke ensuring the best possible outcome for its residents. 
   • Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) Funding: We did it! Because of advocates like you, we were able to keep the $35 million/biennium in the base budget and keep SHIP fully funded this year. More importantly, we will be able to continue to see the great outcomes of the program as it works to combat obesity and reduce tobacco use in almost every corner of our state!
   • Health Equity Data Analysis: We were able to advocate for $250,000 per year to implement better data reporting on race, ethnicity and language in an effort to better identify responses to Health Disparities in Minnesota. With better data reporting focusing on disparities, more attention can be made to the population in the most need of intervention, programs and resources.
   • MNCare: Thousands of Minnesotans will be able to continue to benefit from MNCare thanks to your loud voices! After an earlier proposal to eliminate MNCare all together, the session ends with MNCare intact! While, portions of the bill changed in negotiations and some participants will see increases to their premiums and co-pays, the program will remain, which is much better than the elimination of these services.

Still Fighting
While it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying or involvement by advocates like you, we are still in the fight for a few of the policy areas we started at the beginning of session. Some of these could be revived during a special session, others we will attack again next year, as we know heart disease and stroke don’t stop, and so we can’t stop fighting against it!     

   • Active Transportation: After many emails, phone calls, meetings, rallies, postcards, petitions, etc., the legislature only passed a "lights-on" transportation bill which means there is no new funding for biking and walking programs or other transportation priorities this year. Even though we didn’t get a comprehensive multi-modal transportation bill this session, it is because of the hard work of many advocates like you that we have laid unprecedented groundwork and mobilization of bike/walk advocates from across the state. We will continue to build statewide momentum for active transportation for 2016-17.
   • Physical Education: Despite our best efforts and great hearings in the House and Senate, the PE bill, which would improve PE for all Minnesota students, did not make it into the final K-12 Education omnibus bill. However, Gov. Dayton has vetoed the K-12 Education bill for other reasons so the next step is a special session on education. During this special session, we will have an opportunity to urge that the PE bill be included in the revived K-12 bill. And if we aren’t heard during special session, we will certainly be back next session fighting for better PE in Minnesota!
   • EMS/Pre-hospital Data Collection and Reporting: This bill would have shifted pre-hospital data that is already being collected from the EMS Regulatory Board to the Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health to allow for the data to be better utilized and shared with partners form across the state looking to do quality and program improvement in pre-hospital aspects of acute care. This bill had a rough start this year and also a sizable fiscal note. We will continue to work with our EMS partners on this bill next session.

Thanks for another GREAT year! YOU ARE THE CURE!

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Join us as we rev up F. A. S. T!

With strokes affecting thousands of Americans every day, we’d like to invite you to join us as we rev up awareness about this medical condition. To help with that, today we’d like to share some startling statistics with you:

· 2,150 Americans die each day from Stroke and Heart disease.
· About one person dies from stroke every 40 seconds
· Stroke is the No. 5 killer of all Americans
· Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability among Americans

We’d also like to invite you to watch an exciting video about F.A.S.T. - and ask you to also win the gold by sharing the link with at least 10 of your friends. Whether through Twitter or Facebook, emails or instant messages – this video has some great information about the campaign, and we hope you’ll race our other advocates in spreading the word.

We’d like to spread the word about F.A.S.T. with at least 2,150 Americans across the country, and we sincerely appreciate your help in getting us to the finish line!

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It's a Wrap! A Summary of the 2015 Vermont Legislative Session

This legislative session proved to be one of the most exciting and frustrating. I am incredibly proud of the hard work of AHA volunteers in trying to pass the first in the nation excess tax on sugary drinks to reduce obesity. We made great progress.

Preventing Obesity: Though our effort to pass a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks didn’t become a reality this year, this was the best campaign I have ever been a part of and our volunteer effort was simply amazing. There is no doubt this tax will become a reality in the near future. Until then, we need to keep up the chant to fight obesity and the impact of sugary drinks.

Sugary drink tax: We made history by becoming the first state to pass a sugary drink excise tax through two legislative committees.  Recognizing the importance of addressing obesity in Vermont, the House Health Care Committee passed a two cent per ounce excise tax early in the session as a way to fund important health care priorities.  The House Ways and Means Committee later passed a scaled down excise tax of ½ a cent per ounce. Though it was much less than what we hoped for, it is a real testament to the work of our Alliance and volunteers that the committee did, in fact, pass any SSB excise tax. We had hoped to move the issue through the House and bump up the tax amount in the Senate or a committee of conference so it would have a real impact on obesity in Vermont. However, with fatigue in the House setting in following battles over two other revenue bills, and a somewhat uncertain Senate, no vote was ever held in the House on the sugary drink excise tax. Lawmakers instead, chose to substitute the sugary drink excise tax with a small increase in the tobacco tax as a way to fund health care priorities. Volunteers should be very proud, though, that we kept the issue alive and constantly in the media and legislative discussions up through April. That’s pretty amazing. Thank you all for your help!

Vermont Public Radio also recently published a short summary of the SSB tax effort that you can access here. http://digital.vpr.net/post/issue-issue-2015-legislative-wrap#beverage  

Sales tax on soft drinks: The legislature this year extended the sales tax to soft drinks as part of its revenue bill. This will mean beverages that are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, including beverages with less than 50% real fruit juice, but not milk, will be taxed.

This is not the sugary drink tax we championed.Since it is a minimal tax that is only seen on the receipt after the sale (versus a significant tax per ounce of beverage where the price is seen on the shelf) it won’t change behavior. AHA board member Dr. Mary Cushman recently published an opinion piece in VT Digger discussed this importance difference and the fact that the legislature has now put Big Beverage before Vermonters twice. See below.

Big Beverage 2, Vermonters – 0 http://vtdigger.org/2015/05/20/mary-cushman-beverage-industry-2-vermonters-0/?utm_source=VTDigger+Subscribers+and+Donors&utm_campaign=3f382fa80a-Weekly+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc3c5486db-3f382fa80a-405514605

No tax on bottled water: Though a sales tax on bottled water was originally included as part of a revenue package proposed by the Senate Finance Committee, we testified against the tax stating Vermont should not allow any barrier whether it be real or perceived to make water more costly, and the tax was removed.

Obesity prevention spending:  As noted in Dr. Cushman’s piece above, lawmakers this year actually took a step backwards in the fight against obesity by failing to restore the Governor’s $300,000 cut to CHAMPPS obesity prevention grants to communities.

Positive obesity steps: The House did pass an amendment that would have required the Health Care Reform Oversight Committee to study the impact of obesity in Vermont, especially on health care expenditures, and policy efforts the legislature could take to address obesity. Though the study requirement passed the House as part of the health care funding bill, the language was removed in the Senate.  House Health Care Committee members tried to get the study reinserted in the bill during the conference committee, but without success. 

During the debate, however, Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Claire Ayer said she would make obesity the first priority of her committee next session.   

Tobacco Prevention: We were successful in saving tobacco control program funding but the increase in the tobacco tax fell short.

Tobacco program funding: Though the Governor had recommended cutting $199,000 from Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program including funding for the independent Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, its administrator and evaluation efforts, we, along with our partners in the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont worked to get legislators to restore $175,000 to keep the board independent, retain its administrator and fund evaluation efforts.

Tobacco tax: Though a significant increase in Vermont’s tobacco tax was raised a few times this session, even going as high as a $2 increase at one point in the House and Senate champions working to get a $1 increase in the Senate, the final tax that was passed fell below the 10% increase in the total pack price that is needed to have a public health impact.

Lawmakers passed a $0.33 tobacco tax as the sole revenue source to raise the $3.2 million for the health care funding bill.  With a pack of cigarettes currently selling on average for $8.10 a pack, the tax would have needed to be around $0.81 to have a positive health impact – urging smokers to quit and to prevent youth from ever starting.

E-cigarettes: During the debate on S.139, the health care bill, that House passed language that would have instituted a tax on e-cigarettes the equivalent to half of that currently imposed on cigarettes, and included a ban on the use of e-cigs in workplaces, public places and cars, the Senate removed the language. This is an issue of increased interest to lawmakers since the use of these products by middle school students has tripled.

Health Care Reform/Health Access: Though the health care bill ultimately passed by the legislature was significantly whittled down it did include positive provisions: 

  • The continuation of $760,000 in cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Vermonters.
  • $940,000 to help stabilize Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers
  • $1 million earmarked for the state's Blueprint for Health managed care system.
  • $300,000 in educational loan repayments for physicians, the cost of which is split between state and federal sources.
  • The bill also added three new positions to the Green Mountain Care Board to start setting rates for health care providers and pursuing an all-payer model. 

Charitable donations: Though a cap on charitable contributions was included in an earlier version of the revenue bill, the cap ultimately was removed.  The final bill limited limited the amount filers can deduct when filing their income taxes to $15,000 for an individual and $31,500 for a household and charitable contributions and health care expenses are exempt from the cap.

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Will you advocate for stroke victims?

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will be holding our first ever Stroke Awareness Advocacy Day in Albany on May 27th to raise awareness of stroke.  ASA will set-up meetings and provide a training for all.  Participants will then meet with lawmakers and staff to discuss:

  • Stroke Incidence and Mortality
  • Stroke Disparities
  • Stroke Warning Signs and Treatment                   

If you would like to attend, register here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T6GGPZX

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New Leadership in Albany

This week we saw a major shift in leadership at the state's Capitol. Senator Dean Skelos stepped down as New York State Senate Majority Leader amidst rising pressure from lawmakers and good government groups.

New York State Senator John Flanagan was selected by his colleagues as the new Senate Majority Leader.  Senator Flanagan was first elected to represent part of Suffolk County in 2002.  Prior to serving in the Senate, he served for 16 years in the New York State Assembly.  The American Heart Association worked closely with Senator Flanagan in our efforts to get students trained in CPR prior to graduation.  And we look forward to working with him to combat heart disease and stroke, the state's No. 1 and No. 5 killer of New Yorkers.

Please join us in welcoming Senator Flanagan to his new position and ask him to help in the fight against heart disease and stroke by clicking below:

http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=36732

 

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#StepUp4HeartHealth

Hundreds of You’re the Cure advocates are in Washington, D.C. today!   And we have a great group of NYers making the trip!  So what's everyone talking about?

Advocates will be telling lawmakers to support healthy school meals - Kids don't need junk food in schools. 

And we'll also be fighting for funding for medical research - it has the power to save lives.

You can help our advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. today in delivering a strong message to Congress – we can’t afford cuts to National Institutes of Health research. Take action here: http://p2a.co/9aEU5aY

Lets all #StepUp4HeartHealth

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A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

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Pulse Oximetry is Two Years Old!

While to some, May 8 may just seem like any other day – to North Carolina advocates, this is a day to celebrate an anniversary. On May 8, 2013, the Pulse Oximetry bill was signed into law by Governor McCrory.

Even though the policy journey is never easy, knowing that lives will be saved make it all worthwhile.

Valerie King, NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee member, YTC advocate – and most importantly, mom to 7 year old Greta who, shown here, was born with a congenital heart defect, shared her thoughts on this two year anniversary: "The Pulse Ox bill was not the easiest to convince our legislators to work for but we have some persuasive stories. These little heroes go through so much in their small lives how can we not fight for them?  Two years ago today, 2 dear friends and parents of CHD warriors got to stand with Gov. McCrory and watch him sign this bill into law. I have spoken to a number of families that are thankful for the work that was put forth by a wonderful team. I am simply proud to have been a part of it, and have the opportunity to know that these babies will have a better chance of survival by these defects being detected sooner!"

Kathryn Rose, another NC resident and parent, wants others to know how much of a difference this law has made in her life and to her family: "Even after having great prenatal care, high-tech ultrasounds, an uneventful delivery and perfect newborn assessment, our son had absolutely no sign of health concerns. He was a healthy baby boy ready to go home after twenty-four hours, but the pulse oximetry test results sent him to the NICU. … This simple pulse oximetry check bought him time to grow a little stronger and gave the doctors two days to observe all of his little parts. Thanks to this legislation, more North Carolina newborns with heart defects will be identified early and interventions started under the care of great medical staff. Our son has had a chance to grow up into a strong and courageous toddler!"

While at times the policy process can seem long and drawn out, as we celebrate May 8th all across North Carolina, we want to take this opportunity to thank our advocates for helping us save lives. Your advocacy is making a difference. Thank you for being a lifesaver.

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