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State Advocacy Committee News Update

On November 21, the North Carolina American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee met to celebrate achievements, bestow advocacy honors and discuss policy priorities. The committee had much to celebrate this year including the passage of stroke center designation rules, advancement of the healthy corner store initiative legislation, and significant progress in local communities for healthy vending and tobacco control policies.

During the meeting, the committee recognized three individuals for their advocacy efforts that help advance the AHA mission.


  • The 2015 NC AHA Heart of a Friend Award was presented to Senator Don Davis for his leadership to advance HB 250/SB 296 Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act.
  • The 2015 NC AHA Heart of a Champion Award was presented to Drexdal Pratt, Director of Health Service Regulation for his work for more than a decade to promote high impact policies that save lives including the Good Samaritan laws, stroke and STEMI transport protocols, stroke center designation, and pulse oximetry screening.
  • The 2015 Dr. Robert Blackburn Award for Advocacy Excellence was presented to Valerie King for her strong leadership in You’re the Cure.

This meeting also provided time to recognize the 2014-2016 Committee for their service and install the 2016-2018 NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Juddson Rupp and Yolanda Dickerson will co-chair the committee for the next term. The committee works closely with AHA staff partners to provide strategic leadership for the NC AHA advocacy program and coordinates You’re the Cure activities including state lobby day.

Committee members spent time discussing the top priorities for 2016. Efforts will continue to advance HB 250/SB 296 with full funding to create a statewide healthy corner store initiative. In addition, You’re the Cure will be working to expand affordable health insurance to those caught in the coverage gap with no other options available to them. Locally efforts will continue to promote healthy vending policies local governments to ensure employees have access to healthy food choices while at work.

If you are interested in learning more about the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee, please contact Betsy Vetter.

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Nutrition On the Go Can Be Easy!

On November 4th, we celebrated National Eating Healthy Day to encourage everyone to resolve to eat healthy. We know eating healthy meals in an on-the-go lifestyle can be quite the challenge.  So how can we make sure we are making smart choices? 

With holiday parties around the corner and all of the other great things that come between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, is it possible to keep the resolve to eat healthy? Did you know the American Heart Association has heart healthy recipes on our website that you can enjoy? For instance check out this tailgate chili recipe for the next time you are planning that ballgame viewing party!  What a way to make your next gathering more nutritiously delicious.

This is just one example, and you can find more in our heart healthy guide to seasonal eating here!

Finally, we have an idea for you!

We often say that you should be building the relationship with your lawmaker. Consider inviting your lawmaker to join you in the journey to overall better health. Simply take a moment to send them your favorite AHA recipe, and add a few sentences about your why you are making healthy eating a priority. Maybe your lawmaker will feature that recipe in an upcoming newsletter!

If you need help to find your lawmakers, contact your Grassroots Director and she will be happy to share that information with you! If you are in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, contact Keltcie Delamar, and if you are in the Carolinas, email Kim Chidester!

We wish everyone happy, heart-healthy eating!

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Kristin Salvi, New York

My name is Kristin Salvi and I am the newest member of the Government Relations team in New York! I look forward to the opportunity to champion our policy goals related to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.  Coming from doing advocacy work for the New York State Nurses Association, and most recently working for the state of New York, my background includes advocating for public health issues such as the CPR in Schools law, sugary sweetened beverage (SSB) tax bills, childhood obesity prevention programs, and many other important campaigns. I am excited to join with all of you here at the American Heart Association because I value the great work the organization has achieved on tobacco control, the healthy food and active living initiatives, access to care, and many other important public health topics.


As a new staff member of the American Heart Association, I've been learning about our platform, "Life is Why." (To learn more, click here.)  Being a relatively new mom of almost three year old twins, they are my 'why.' I want my kids to grow up in a world where receiving quality physical education in schools in the norm, healthy food is accessible to all regardless of where you live,  everyone has access to quality health care regardless of income, and everyone can live and breathe in a smoke-free environment. Although I may be aiming high, my reason for being so passionate on these issues is to make the world a better place for them. I look forward to working with all of you on all of the good stuff we are planning to do in the future!

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A New Test Could Soon be Required to Ensure VT newborns Go Home Heart Healthy

Before a baby leaves a hospital, pulse oximetry screening – a simple clip on the toe – helps identify congenital heart defects.  The American Heart Association has been working to ensure that babies in every state have this screening before they go home from any birthing facility.

Currently, this screening isn’t required in Vermont. But, the Vermont Department of Health will begin a rulemaking this month to enact new regulations that could require this screening at hospitals in Vermont.

Please let the health department know this is something you strongly support so parents don’t take a baby home with an undetected heart defect. The proposed regulation will be available here once posted for public comment. Speak up to ensure Vermont babies get a heart healthy start on life.

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It Does Not Take a Super Sleuth...

We don’t need Nancy Drew to solve this crime.

My daughter was Nancy Drew for Halloween. She loves using her notebook and magnifying glass to solve mysteries that a 1st grader understands (Who left their soccer medal at our house? What shelf at Hannaford is missing its unit price label?).

However, even without her magnifying glass, she is smart enough to figure out that Maine stands to gain if we accept the federal dollars set aside to provide health coverage to the almost 70,000 Maine people, the majority of whom work, who fall into the coverage gap.

These folks work in low paying jobs (that we all benefit from) and make less than $16,150/year for a single person or $27,311 for a family of three. The Affordable Care Act was designed to cover these folks with Medicaid, or in Maine, MaineCare. Unfortunately, our state has opted not to extend coverage to those least able to afford it. They, unlike many of us, are not able to qualify for subsidized insurance—they are just too poor.

In this, we are sitting alone in the Northeast. All of our neighbors have accepted this federal money. They understand that since the Feds are paying 100% of the cost for this year (through 12/31/2016) and then an adjusted rate that never goes below 90% (by 2020) it is too good to pass up.

So, the only reason to deny 70,000 Mainers the health care is: politics. People will die, heart disease will go undiagnosed and Maine will lose money.

It seems completely illogical because it is.

Nancy Drew would not approve.

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Come & Get it: "Hands on Heart" CPR Training for DC Residents

Along with AHA and other partners, Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the “Hands on Hearts” initiative on October 27, which aims to train 5,000 District residents in hands-only CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED) by September 2016.  

“With the right training, anyone can save a life,” said Mayor Bowser. “That is why the District is committed to training residents in life-saving, hands-only CPR.  A 20 minute training could make the difference between life and death for a friend, family member or stranger who needs care before emergency medical services are able to respond.”

DC Department of Fire & EMS Sgt. Mike Forrest, a You’re the Cure advocate and FEMS CPR Training Coordinator, expressed at the launch event that he is “so excited” about hands-only CPR. “I love this stuff, I just love teaching CPR.” For Forrest, CPR is very personal. Last year, his grandfather went into cardiac arrest, and the person that was with his grandfather didn’t know CPR. Forest wants DC to be the safest place. He envisions a community where “any citizen, passer-by, [visitor] or [traveler] will stop, call 911, and do hands-only CPR.” Forrest emphasized to the mayor and DC Council that “if you don’t get anything else out of the day, just remember that doing good compressions is what’s [going to] save someone’s life.”

Hands-only CPR is a technique promoted by AHA that involves chest compressions without artificial respiration. Studies indicate that hands-only CPR performed immediately can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. Following the launch presentation, Sgt. Forrest and his FEMS colleagues provided hands-only CPR training to Mayor Bowser, all 13 members of the DC Council, and other governmental leaders.

In addition to this event, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and his staff recently received CPR training. At the Hands on Hearts launch, he encouraged his fellow Councilmembers to do the same. CM McDuffie chairs the Council’s Judiciary committee, which is considering a bill that would require every school in Washington, DC to have at least 1 AED on site, along with CPR/AED training for certain staff. (View the bill, which AHA recommends be amended to require CPR training for all high school students).

Equipping citizens to save a life makes sense.  As McDuffie said, “…every second matters” during a cardiac arrest.

CPR is an essential life skill, and it saves lives!  Send a quick message to your legislators and tell them to join more than half the country by teaching CPR in DC Schools.
















Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Council and advocates discuss the need for CPR training

<Special thanks to our DC YTC intern Sydney Nelson for developing this blog post> 

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I'd Do It in a Heartbeat

What would you do in a heartbeat? Travel? Shop?

How about save a life?

The American Heart Association is committed to saving countless heartbeats through CPR training in schools and communities. Teaching all of our students CPR could save hundreds of lives each year by filling the DC community with more lifesavers – young people trained to give cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive. Hands only CPR training can be taught in less than 30 minutes—that’s less time than it takes to watch the evening news!

On October 1, 2015 the DC Council Committees on Education and Judiciary held a hearing on legislation that would require every school in Washington, DC to have at least 1 AED on site, along with CPR/AED training for certain staff. (View the bill here). Advocates representing AHA and other organizations rallied to testify that while it is an admirable goal to place AEDs in schools, without CPR training for all students, the bill’s intent may not be achieved. They recommended that CPR should be a requirement for high school graduation, as is the case in 27 states, including Maryland and Virginia. Teaching students CPR could be the difference between life and death.

Jennifer Griffin, a passionate advocate for CPR in schools, told the emotional story of her daughter’s tragic death. On June 8, 2012 Gwyneth Griffin went to school like any other day. But around 10 AM, Gwyneth collapsed on the outdoor track. Her friends and fellow students ran to get help, yet no bystanders knew what to do – nobody gave Gwyneth immediate CPR. As a result, Gwyneth’s brain was dying due to lack of oxygen that CPR could have provided. She was transported to the hospital in a coma. Tragically, Gwyneth passed away on July 30, 2012. 

Before the hearing Jennifer said, “had CPR or an AED been available faster, her life might have been saved.” She then called on the DC Council to act by amending bill B21-243 to include CPR as a high school graduation requirement in Washington, DC. By joining Maryland and Virginia, this will create 145,000 lifesavers across the national capital region.

So what would you do in a heartbeat? How about urging that at least 5,000 new lifesavers are trained in our nation’s capital each year by supporting CPR in schools?

Send a quick message to your legislators and tell them to join more than half the country by teaching CPR in DC Schools.



<Special thanks to You’re the Cure intern Sydney Nelson for development of this blog post>

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A lot is happening at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director

While the weather is finally beginning to cool down the political season is just starting to warm up! While most of the attention is on the run-up to the presidential election taking place just over a year from now, here in Utah the legislature is already in the throes of crafting (and potentially voting on) important policies that will have a profound impact on you and me.

I wanted to give everyone a glimpse into the advocacy efforts we have been engaged in, what issues we are working on now, what to expect in the future, and, of course, how you can help lead the way in our life-saving efforts!

This summer we have worked hand-in-hand with the Utah Department of Health (DOH) on creating new Administrative Rules regarding the recognition of Stroke Facilities in Utah. Utahn’s across the state have benefited from the work of the DOH and hospitals in their efforts to improve the treatment of stroke patients. A few months ago we had a chance to hear the story of Timothy Gamble (link) who served as an excellent example how the treatment of stroke in Utah saves lives. The DOH, Utah Stroke Task Force, and many others are to be commended for their commitment to putting the patient first and always looking for ways to improve.

In March of this year the legislature and the governor agreed to work together to find a sustainable solution to healthcare access. Commonly referred to as “Medicaid Expansion” elected officials have been working with the federal government, providers, and patient advocacy groups to hammer out the details of a plan that would maximize the funds available from the federal government (taxes that we already pay from the state) while ensuring the state is able to meet its financial obligations of the plan. As you know heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America. Critical to combating this disease and preventing death and disability caused by heart disease and stroke is early screening and treatment. This legislation has the potential of saving thousands of lives here in Utah!

We are also continuing to work on Safe Routes to Schools for children across the state. All children, regardless of what school they attend or city they live in deserve to have a safe route to and from school. Whether it is putting in sidewalks, repairing broken crosswalks, or teaching children pedestrian safety skills, more funding is needed from the state to address this critical problem. Right now, schools and cities send in application to the Department of Transportation each year for funds to improve the routes children travel to and from school. Due to a lack of funding, nearly 2/3 of these applications are denied – needlessly putting our children in harm’s way! We can and must do better! Click here to learn how.

While this is not a complete list of issues that we are working on they help make up our policy priorities for this and next year. To learn more about how you can get involved with these issues please feel free to reach out to me.

For heart disease and stroke, You’re the Cure!


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Think Big!

Written by Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director, Nevada

Over the past year I have had the privilege of watching the “impossible” happen in Nevada.  Nevada prevention leaders went from not believing we could have even have a 5-cent increase in the tobacco tax to having an increase of a full $1. We went from no support for a Statewide Stroke Registry to almost universal support and the passage of a law that we setup and maintain one. We went from having a School Wellness Policy that was widely ignored and did not address many of the key issues related to student wellness and achievement to a new stronger policy that promotes student health and achievement.  

So how does this happen? How do we go from impossible to possible?  In the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” David Schwartz gives us a primer when he asks this question “Assuming we can, how could we begin?” When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work to prove why. When you believe something can be done your mind goes to work to find the ways to do it.  I believe we can create a healthier Nevada!

The mission of the American Heart Association is to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

I ask you, if you could put together your own plan, how would you begin? 

My email is my phone number is (702) 789-4379, together we can make the impossible possible. If you believe we can, email me and let’s think big together and save lives! 

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Francee Levin

Francee Levin, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

The last thing I remember of my poetry residency at Colleton County Middle School was getting an elevator key.  The next thing was seeing a strange ceiling, which turned out to be in an intensive care unit, over a week later.  I was told I was talking to a teacher when I flat-lined.   The diagnosis:  idiopathic asymptomatic sudden cardiac death. 

In fact, I died twice, but I’m still here.  Two incredible school nurses and a resource officer used CPR and an AED to somehow keep me alive.  I was air-lifted to a major medical center, where I was unconscious and on life support for over a week, given no chance for survival. I made the medical journals, because against all odds, I had a miraculous recovery.  

My heart failed and left me with a low ejection fraction.  I now have an implanted defibrillator, and I’m continuing cardiac rehabilitation.  I did not have a heart attack; in fact, my heart cath showed my arteries are perfect.  And I had no risk factors of any kind.  Without the AED and CPR, I wouldn’t be here. 

I was an American Heart Association (AHA) red dress volunteer before, and I’ve been a crusader and You’re the Cure advocate ever since.   Through AHA’s You’re the Cure, I’ve been able to serve as a survivor/spokesperson to provide testimony about the pending CPR bill that will assure every student gets trained before graduating, and had an Op-Ed I wrote ("A School Saved My Life”) published to help educate the public on the issue.  I'm in close contact with my legislators, who have been wonderful, and I've also contacted my county council, as well as the school board in Richland 2, my home district. I try to respond to all the You’re the Cure alerts and customize the legislator letters with my story. 

Colleton County (where I collapsed) School Board and County Council voted to put defibrillators in every school in the county (including some small rural schools) in my honor.

I'm on a mission now. My cardiac event happened on February 1, 2012, on AHA’s National Wear Red Day.  In 2013, my cousins had a party for me on my “heart-iversary.”  A few days later, I learned that on 2/2/13, the school principal, who’s now in another district, was having a robotics tournament on the athletic field when a woman collapsed and was revived with an AED.  

Every school should have an AED and trained people teaching CPR.  The cost is minimal, and the rewards are priceless.  It’s called LIFE.

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