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Participate in your local August Recess!

We are looking for volunteers to take a meeting with their member of Congress while they are in town this August.

Important federal advocacy goals for Congress this year include:

  • CR (Cardiac Rehab) – changing a key Medicare provision so that those who have survived a coronary event can have easier access to rehabilitation programs
  • FA (FAST Act) – helping connect more stroke patients to life-saving telemedicine services
  • CNR (Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization) – protecting strong school nutrition standards
  • NIH (National Institutes of Health) – increasing federal research funding

 This is an important opportunity for us to get heart and stroke issues in front of our federal elected officials. If you can help us out, please contact Jess Nolan (jess.nolan@heart.org or 952-278-7928) as soon as possible.

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Helping Us Fight the Silent Killer

High blood pressure is called The Silent Killer for a reason.  It has no symptoms, so you may not be aware that it's damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. When left untreated, possible health consequences can include heart disease, heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

But, the sad fact is that too many people have high blood pressure. Currently in Vermont, 31% of adults suffer from high blood pressure. That means 128,688 people! And that number is predicted to climb to more than 174,000 people by 2030 if current obesity trends continue.

That’s why we’re excited by an effort by one of our Vermont partners, the YMCA, to treat high blood pressure. The Y’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program helps adults with hypertension to lower and manage their blood pressure. With the help of a Healthy Heart Ambassador, the four month program focuses on regulated home self-monitoring of a person’s blood pressure and the participant is provided with individualized consultations and nutrition education for better blood pressure management.

The program will include nutrition education seminars each month that focus on dietary approaches to reducing hypertension, reducing sodium intake, shopping, cooking and food preparation, and eating for your heart.

A really neat bonus to the program in our area is a 30 day family membership at the Greater Burlington YMCA. Find out more and see if you're eligible by contacting Kristin Magnant at kmagnant@gbymca.org or at (802) 652-8196 .

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Advocacy Victories in the Commonwealth

We are excited that with the end of our fiscal year that we have a lot of advocacy wins to celebrate. This was a true team effort that could not be achieved without your support of our work, taking action on alerts, being part of lobby day, and you, our dedicated volunteers being tireless advocates throughout the year. 

  • We were successful in leading a campaign to secure a $500,000 appropriation for Stroke Education and awareness; including a specific earmark of $200,000 to support the state Stroke registry.  The $200,000 earmark met the Goal Guidance criteria for Stroke Registry funding.  Not only were we successful in having the appropriation included in the legislature’s budget but we also successfully led a veto override campaign. This happened in July 2015. Just yesterday we were able to secure an additional $620,00 for stroke funding in the final budget that is on its way to the Governor’s desk so we are excited that the momentum of the original funding continues!
     
  • In the early winter Boston joined almost 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts to set the minimum age at 21 and with Boston joining the movement more than ½ of the population live in cities and towns where 21 is the minimum age.  In May we were able to add to the local 21 push when the cities and Towns of Brockton, Carver, Chelsea, Essex , Falmouth, Gloucester, Hadley, Halifax, Marblehead, Norfolk, North Adams, North Attleboro, Plainville, Shelburne, Southampton, Sunderland and Tewksbury cumulatively representing 324,199 residents were confirmed to have passed T-21 policy. In June the Cities/Towns of Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoughton and Worcester passed T-21 legislation adding an additional 317,365 Massachusetts residents living in communities that now have a minimum legal age of 21 to purchase Tobacco products.  These additions mean that 121 of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have T-21 laws. We are confident that this momentum will help us pass the Statewide Tobacco 21 bill by July 31st!
     
  • For a number of years we have been working on Complete Streets to secure necessary funding and policy language so that we can create healthier communities for all of our residents. I am excited to say that the Massachusetts state Transportation Improvement plan will be dedicating a total of $110 million dollars over the next 5 years to programs and projects to improve access to safe bicycle and pedestrian programs that will help people who walk, bike, run and roll do so more safely.  This campaign involved not only working to appropriate the funds but also to influence the Capital Improvement Plan to ensure that all modes of transportation are considered in road improvement design.
     
  • Lastly we were able to secure a win for our local CPR in Schools efforts. Unlike most other states, nearly all curriculum decisions are decided at the local level which means that we have to work with local school Superintendents and School Committees to implement CPR Graduation requirements in school districts across the State.  This particular win reflects the passage of policies in the Worcester, Springfield and the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional school districts.  These three school districts represent an additional 3,169 High School Graduating Seniors who will learn the fundamentals of CPR before they graduate.  In all, we have worked with 2 additional districts that require some form of CPR training before students graduate with an overall total of 5,317 students trained each year.  We have also identified an additional 26 school districts with over 12,000 annual graduates to focus on in FY 16-17. This is a particularly satisfying win because it took a true team effort to get this down, and without our volunteer’s dedication and outreach we would not be making the progress that we are!

 Lastly as some of you know our legislative session is not over yet, we have until July 31st at midnight to get a few more policies passed. We are working towards:

  1. Statewide Tobacco 21
  2. Healthy Vending in State Buildings
  3. $6 million for Healthy Food Financing
  4. A Comprehensive Stroke System of Care
  5. Quality Physical Education
  6. AEDs in all Public Schools

 

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We Met At The Capitol

It has been a busy spring in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate!  Across the affiliate we have been hosting Lobby Days to bring advocates together to meet with their lawmakers, so join us to learn what your neighbors have been busily working on this session.

South Carolina’s inaugural Lobby Day in March was an overwhelming success!  Advocates spent the day in key meetings with lawmakers, asking for bilateral support around H 3265 - CPR in Schools as well as funding for a position to oversee the state stroke registry.  We are pleased to share that Governor Nikki Haley signed H 3265 into law on April 21, 2016 H 3265.  SC advocates can thank their lawmakers by joining us here!

North Carolina hosted You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day in May. What an experience!  Advocates gathered to educate lawmakers about the need for improving access to healthy foods and ask for support of HB 250/SB296: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act.  NC sweet potatoes accompanied by heart healthy recipes were also handed out, and a wheelbarrow filled to the brim with local produce was on display.  Since then, the House included $300,000 in their budget for the initiative and now the budget is headed to the Senate.  NC residents can take action on this issue – just click here.

Virginia held its annual Lobby Day in February, managing meetings with legislators in spite of harsh winter weather.  You're the Cure advocates educated legislators on how the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund would increase access to fresh foods across the state. Advocates followed the effort up later the same week by dropping off a grocery bag of fresh fruit with information about the need to legislators on their way into the Capitol.  Although funding was not ultimately included in the budget, the issue remains, and will be a continued advocacy focus. VA residents can further support this issue now by clicking here to take action.

The District of Columbia held its Lobby Day at City Council in April, bringing advocates together to talk about dealing with DC’s tobacco problems.  In addition to seeking funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, You're the Cure advocates asked Councilmembers to remove tobacco from sports venues, raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, and to treat e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products in its city code. Although the tobacco funding was not approved, some of the other tobacco issues are still under consideration. Those who live in DC can help push these issues forward by clicking here to take action.  

Maryland’s Lobby Day, focused on including healthy food options in state vending machines, was held in February.  You're the Cure advocates worked hard to educate legislators about providing healthy choices among the other offerings, a measure that would support a healthier population and serve as a good role model for others.  Although the bill was killed in the committee stage, advocates will continue to build support throughout the year, and try again next legislative session. MD residents can speak up for healthy foods by clicking here to take action.

We’d love for you to consider joining us next year at your Lobby Day!  Don’t forget to take action today to tell your lawmakers you support the policies of the AHA.

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Legislative Session is Over, How Did We Do?

The legislature has adjourned for the 2016 session and as you likely have heard they worked right down to the deadline. The heart-health policies we have been working on celebrated some big wins and a few disappointments. Take a minute to read our recap below. Stay tuned for possible special session to address some of the issues the legislature failed to reach agreement on—transportation, bonding, and other issues.

The Wins

STEMI System of Care – We have built a system of care for the most time sensitive type of heart attack, a STEMI. The new legislation authorizes the MN Department of Health to designate STEMI Receiving Centers and requires all EMS services in the state to have current triage and transport protocols for STEMI Patients. As a result of this success the state’s 5.4+ million residents, including those 8,000+ individuals who suffer a STEMI each year, will now be more likely to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place, regardless of where they live in the state. This legislation has been a long time in the works and is now law thanks to your support and actions!

Strengthening Physical Education – We strengthened physical education this year by requiring new/updated PE standards and grade-specific benchmarks which were adopted as part of the supplemental budget bill (HF2749). Standards and benchmarks had not been updated since 2004! Much has changed since then to focus PE on physical fitness rather than competitive sports. This is a great win for Minnesota’s kids—stronger PE=healthier, happier, academically successful kids!

Good Food Access Fund – When we launched this campaign last fall, we hoped to build awareness about healthy food access with legislators this session, but ended up striking a serious chord for policymakers and stakeholders who want to see healthy food access addressed ASAP! The Senate language establishing the program, with $250,000 in one-time funding, was included in the supplemental budget bill under the Agriculture Article (HF2749). This small infusion of funds and establishment of the program in state statute will provide significant momentum to fully fund the Good Food Access Fund in 2017 (we are seeking $10 million per year for the fund). Stay tuned for more ways you can help keep this campaign moving forward and make it top of mind for lawmakers in the coming months.

Still in the Fight

Safe Routes to School – We are seeking a $6 million investment in safe routes to infrastructure in the capital investment/bonding bill. As you may have heard, no bonding bill was passed due to a last minute breakdown in the deal. The final version of the bonding bill did include funding for SRTS—up to $6 million at the discretion of the MNDOT commissioner. Possibility of a special session to pass a bonding bill is unclear at this time, but we will keep you posted when we know more and what actions you can take on this issue.

Active Transportation – As you have heard, no transportation bill was passed this session despite very intense negotiations throughout session and strong leadership by Chairman Dibble to fight for funding dedicated to active transportation – funding for walking and biking as part of a multi-modal comprehensive transportation package. This is one of the issues that is likely to resurface if a special session is called. We will continue to work this issue and ensure that walk/bike funding is a core part of the negotiations during a potential special session and next session.

Thank you for you action this year! It is because of dedicated advocates like you that we have been so successful! Please stay tuned for ways you can continue to help during the summer and fall!

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You Can Detect a Stroke

I grew up worshipping Nancy Drew. Now, my daughter loves her as well.  My daughter has a notebook that she fills with mysteries that she is trying to solve—it is really cool.

Everyone knows that Nancy Drew is someone you want to have around in a pinch (or if you are held hostage by evil inn owners).  However, you don’t need to be Nancy Drew to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. You just have to remember F.A.S.T.  Fast stands for:

Face (does one side of their face droop?)

Arms (does one arm drift downward when you ask them to raise their arms?)

Speech (does his or her speech seem slurred or strange?)

Time (time to call 9-1-1!)

If you think someone is having a stroke, look for the clues and act FAST!  The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have worked tirelessly to make sure there are protocols and policies in place to assist stroke patients and make sure the entire system of care is structured for the best possible outcome. However, it is up to you and me to make sure someone having a stroke gets high quality care as soon as possible.

Remember F.A.S.T. and as always, if you want to be more involved in our advocacy efforts, please just shoot me an email to becky.smith@heart.org. Bess, George and I need your help.

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MA Budget Success

Last week when the Senate took up their budget we had some success and some losses. We did not get any additional funding for MA Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. We also did not secure funding for CPR in Schools Grants or the AED Trust Fund which is disappointing but we will continue to work to secure this critical funding. 

We did secure language around funding for Mass in Motion and were able to work (really) hard to get $100,000 for the MA Food Trust to help run the program. We were told early on that it was a hard no, but thanks to our many partners and grassroots efforts we turned the no into a yes of partial funding. Lastly we were able to increase the Stroke Line item from $400,000 to $620,000 and secure the language that creates a stroke system of care, ensuring that we have two vehicles for this critical policy.

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The Legislative Session is a Wrap!

New Hampshire state lawmakers have finished session and bills now move on to the Governor’s office for signing into law. Two of the American Heart Association’s priority bills have succeeded. The Reauthorization of NH’s Medicaid Expansion program, continues healthcare coverage for 47,000 for another two years. The Study Committee for Complete Streets policy will engage advocates, lawmakers and state agencies into the fall.  Work on two other issue areas of importance to the AHA mission to save lives and improve Heart Health will continue into the next session. Over the summer and fall months the AHA will be working on our new campaign for Healthy Active Kids, to improve school and community environments to support access to healthy foods and physical activity. Local advocacy continues as well for CPR training of students prior to graduation from high schools. Tobacco control efforts also continue, including the goal of raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years. Information on these opportunities for advocates to become involved will be communicated through the You’re The Cure network. 

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Take Action for Corner Stores Today

We would all like the option to make a healthy choice, right?  We need your help now to speak up for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. Legislative session is moving fast and the NC House will be debating the state budget next week. It is important that the $1 million appropriation for Healthy Corner Stores is included.

Ask your legislators to fully fund the Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

Over 1.5 million of our North Carolina neighbors live in communities where healthy foods aren’t affordable or accessible. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative can help change that by bringing healthy, local foods into small stores in neighborhoods that need them most.

We all deserve the right to make a healthy choice. Tell your lawmakers today that you want all North Carolinians to have that right and ask them to include full funding for Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

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They Want to Hear From You!

Even though Connecticut is indeed a small state, it still consists of no fewer than 169 towns and cities. Within those towns and cities are 151 state representatives and 36 state senators, all of whom are re-elected every two years. You are a constituent to one particular state representative and state senator, and their job is to represent you in Hartford. As an advocate of the American Heart Association, it is important that you know who your own legislators are, and just as important that they know who you are. 

To create this relationship requires little of your time and could start as easily as you sending them a short email introducing yourself as a constituent and letting them know about an issue that you are passionate about, such as heart disease, childhood obesity, unhealthy school marketing or tobacco use.  Once you have exchanged an email or two with your legislators, follow it up periodically with a short note, such as wishing them a fun and relaxing summer, luck in their upcoming elections in November, and a happy holidays. This way they will remember your name and when you need a word with them, their door will be open. Remember, they represent you and really do want to hear from their constituents!

To find your legislator go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp. You will be asked to pick your town and to enter your street address and will then be provided with a link to their bio’s containing contact information. You can also email me at james.williams@heart.org, and I am happy to help set up and facilitate meetings.

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