American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Can A Sugar Tax Increase Help Obesity?

What would you do to avoid paying more taxes? Legally, that is.

That question is facing soft drink manufacturers the world over -- most recently in the UK -- and will eventually become a subject for many food producers and providers as governments realize the potential to use taxes to regulate what companies put in their products.

Today, nations' introduction of taxes and levies are forcing companies producing sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks to reconsider their formulas or the quantity of their servings, all with a focus on one particular poison: sugar.

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Meet Our Alabama Advocacy Committee

The American Heart Association is working toward improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, all by the year 2020. Policy change is essential for us to meet this bold goal – and our volunteers are at the heart of our efforts.

Each year, the American Heart Association invites a diverse group of volunteers to serve on the Alabama Advocacy Committee, which is the advisory board to volunteers and staff on state public advocacy issues. With the leadership of our subcommittee, we create a state public policy agenda that impacts heart disease and stroke risk factors and protects heart disease and stroke patients. We also conduct grassroots and lobbying activities to educate the public and policymakers about the need for policy change.

This year, we are proud to announce our 2016-17 Alabama Advocacy Subcommittee:

  • Jessica James: Chairwoman, McKemie Place, Mobile
  • Jay Dill: Vice-Chair, Retired, Jacksonville
  • Mim Gaines: Samford University, Birmingham
  • Torria Samples: Stroke Survivor and Mom, Birmingham
  • Mia Cowan: MiBella Wellness Center, Birmingham
  • Bo Williams: Consultant, Birmingham
  • Connie Dacus: Alabama State University, Montgomery
  • Vickie Fuller: Stead Fuller Insurance, Birmingham
  • Heather Vaclav: Starnes Media, Birmingham

Stay tuned as we release our 2016-17 public policy agenda for Alabama and let you know how you can help advocate in your community!

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Our Team is Growing

Over the past month, our Greater Southeast Affiliate Advocacy team has announced the addition of two Regional Vice Presidents and a Grassroots Specialist to assist with our lobbying and grassroots efforts across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Nathan Mick

On July 18, 2016, Nathan Mick joined the American Heart Association as Regional Vice President of Advocacy for the Greater Southeast Affiliate. He is responsible for managing our Government Relations Directors in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Nathan has a tremendous amount of experience in and around the policy and political arenas. He has been the Vice-President of Government Affairs and Business Development at StateBook International the past few years, where he was responsible for stakeholder relationships, government relations, brand, memberships, and strategic partnerships. He also served as the chief liaison to embassies, international companies, local, state and federal government officials. In late 2015, Nathan served as an advisor to the Kentucky Governor’s transition team on Economic Development and provided advice and recommendation directly to the governor and key staff to establish their team and system following the election. Nathan also served as the Carlisle and Nicholas County Industrial Development Authority, Government Relations and Economic Development Advisor and prior to that was the Garrard County Economic Development Director for several years. Nathan was the Deputy Campaign Manager and Political Director for the Pete Rickets for United States Senate Campaign in Nebraska, who is currently the Governor of Nebraska, and he was Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Chuck Hagel.

Nathan graduated from Centre College in Kentucky, has a Master’s degree from the Naval War College, and has Economic Development and Community Development Certifications from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Kentucky.  Nathan worked for a regional arts center during college, where he managed the staff and was the marketing manager for the Atlanta Olympic Games for the Celebration of the Century.

He is active in the American Council of Young Political Leaders and has been on numerous trips with them and was also selected to represent the United States as an official delegation representative at Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Human Dimension Implementation Meetings in 2007, 2008 and 2013.

Todd Rosenbaum

On July 18, 2016, Todd joined the American Heart Association as the Regional Vice President of Government Relations for the Greater Southeast Affiliate. He manages our community government relations, grant management and grassroots functions.

Todd served as the Executive Director of the Florida State Alliance of YMCAs for the past five years, where he was responsible for coordinating advocacy activities, board development, working with committees, staff supervision, fiscal management, grant oversight, securing resources and event management. During his tenure he secured and managed over $370,000 in private grants and over $2 million in state government funding for both the YReads and Youth in Government Program.

Prior to his role as Executive Director of the Florida State Alliance of YMCA’s, Todd was the Northwest Florida Executive Director and ultimately the State Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Florida. His role at MADD required him to serve as the administrative (state agency) and legislative lead, leverage the grassroots network and increase the number of MADD signature events. In addition he managed a team of six throughout the state and a $2.8 million budget. 

Before joining MADD, Todd spent the 12 years at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, where he began as a Program Manager and was promoted several times until he became the Executive Director. He was responsible for opening a new $4.5 million, $40,000 square foot branch, managing a downtown YMCA with a $2.79 million budget and increasing revenue at that location. He also led a management team of six, more than 100 other staff and was responsible for a multi-million dollar budget for several years in a row.   

Laura Bracci, MPH

On August 1, 2016, Laura Bracci joined the Greater Southeast Affiliate advocacy team as a Grassroots Specialist. In this role, Laura provides grassroots support for local campaigns led by Advocacy and Community Health, as well as assists with managing the You’re the Cure network at the affiliate level.

Laura is a huge public health advocate and is very familiar with the American Heart Association. In fact, she worked for our organization for nine years, first as a Health Initiatives Manager and then the Georgia State Health Alliance Director until the department sunset in 2010.

After working for the American Heart Association, Laura remained actively engaged in public health. She worked as a consultant for a Farm to Preschool Summit in Georgia in 2013 – the first in the nation! She also worked with the Strong4Life Research and Development team to initiate the planning of research projects relevant to childhood obesity prevention and treatment.

For the past five years, Laura has worked as a project manager for Georgia State University’s School of Public Health. She has managed and cultivated state-level Leadership Council focused on improving policies to decrease childhood obesity prevalence.

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How Alabama Medicaid Cuts Will Affect You

Medicaid cuts in Alabama will soon begin to show the effects it will have on your doctor. The American Heart Association, along with many coalition partners, will begin touring the state letting Alabamians know the cuts on Medicaid will affect every Alabamian, not just those on Medicaid. We must let the legislature know this is unacceptable and that Alabamians deserve better. Alabama health care must be their priority. Learn more about doctors and their pay on

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Find the Heart Walk Near You

The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s premier community event, helping to save lives from heart disease and stroke. More than 300 walks across America raise funds to support valuable health research, education and advocacy programs of the American Heart Association in every state. Our You’re the Cure advocacy movement – and our public policy successes along the way – are all made possible by the funds raised by the Heart Walk. Whether it’s CPR laws passed to train the next generation of lifesavers or policy to regulate tobacco products and prevent youth smoking,  together we are building a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Heart Walk is truly a community event, celebrating survivors, living healthy, and being physically active. We hope you’ll join us and visit the site today. If there is not a walk listed in your area soon,  it may be coming in the spring season or you can join a virtual event. And don’t forget to connect with your local advocacy staff and ask about your local Heart Walk day-of You’re the Cure plans - they may need your help spreading the word. Thanks for all you do, and happy Heart Walk season.

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Help Keep Alabama Healthy with Small Sugary Drink Tax

With Alabama still in a budget crisis and Medicaid cuts underway, we continue to urge lawmakers to pass a small sugary drink tax that will ensure Medicaid will be fully funded. This will protect services for over one million residents.

To raise awareness of our solution, we hosted a media roundtable on June 14 with Voices for Healthy Kids for media partners across Alabama to learn and inquire about our proposed sugary drink tax.

In case you’re wondering, here is what the proposed tax would do:

  • Be charged to whole sellers who sell drinks with five or more grams of added sugars; they will pay one penny per liquid ounce in taxes. Examples of sugary drinks include sports drinks, energy drinks and sweetened coffee. (Diet sodas would not be taxed.)
  • Raise $200 million for Alabama. That’s enough money to protect Medicaid, and the remaining funds would be able to go towards chronic disease prevention programs.
  • Happen with just one vote from the Alabama legislature! After the favorable vote, the funds would be raised immediately for the state. 
  • Encourage Alabamians to choose healthier drinks and ultimately improve their health.


A special thank you to our moderator and panelists: Heather VacLav, Director of Digital Media at Starnes Publishing; Christy Cain, Executive Director of Alabama Children First; Jim Carnes, Alabama Arise Policy Director; Jessica James, founder of Politika, Inc., Executive Director of McKemie Place and Chair-Elect of the American Heart Association Alabama Advocacy Committee; Megan Lindsey-Taheri, Clinical Coordinator and Instructor at Samford University and Dr. Andre McShan, Occupational Health Expert at St. Vincent’s at Honda Manufacturing Inc. and President-Elect of the American Heart Association Birmingham Board of Directors.

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Help Protect PE for Kids Like Me!

Guest post from Reagan Spomer, 6th grader Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board Member & You’re the Cure Advocate

I have two words for you… scooter hockey.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  Scooter hockey, along with cage ball and 3-way soccer are some of my favorite activities in gym class, which I have a few times a week.

I’m glad I have physical education for a number of reasons.  It keeps me active and teaches me to try new things.  It helps me focus on my school work.  It relieves my stress.  And most of all, it makes me feel great! 

But I know a lot of schools don’t have regular PE like my schools does.  That means a lot of kids are missing out on the benefits of being active during the school day.  I think this needs to change.   

Will you help?  As part of the nationwide campaign to protect PE in schools, Voices for Healthy Kids has created a photo petition map to show how many people across the country love PE like I do.  As people share their pictures, the map will change colors.  I’ve added my “I heart PE” photo for South Dakota.  Will you do the same for your state?  It’s really easy:

  1. Print an “I heart PE” sign (or make your own!)
  2. Take a picture of yourself holding the sign.
  3. Click on your state to share your photo.

Thanks for helping to protect PE for kids like me!

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State Lawmakers Prepare for Medicare Cuts

Since regular legislative session adjourned on May 4, legislators have held Medicaid hearings in preparation for budget cuts to the program on July 1.

While trying to find $85 million in spending cuts, legislators have proposed to cut Medicaid drug coverage. In a recent op-ed, Dr. Joe Dean, former dean of the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University, says, “Eliminating drug coverage would indeed save money upfront. But it would ultimately cost much, much more.”

Read the full article at

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Alabama's #IAmMedicaid Campaign

The American Heart Association has joined forces with Children’s First and Alabama Arise to kick off a campaign known as #IamMedicaid. The campaign seeks to put a human face to the issue of Medicaid. For years, Medicaid has been the biggest line item in the general fund budget. But who exactly does it serve?

The #IamMedicaid campaign seeks to let legislators as well as Alabamians know what and who is served by Medicaid. Advocates from around the state gathered in Montgomery to share their concerns over the Medicaid issue. You can learn more at

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West Jasper Elementary Health Day

The American Heart Association along with Samford University dietician students helped educated students at a mock Farmer’s Market at West Jasper Elementary. Children were asked to go through stations where they learned which fruits and veggies were currently in season, about sugary sweet beverages, enjoying tasting fruit and veggie smoothies, and also participated in physical activities.

Read more about West Jasper Elementary Health Day from Daily Mountain Eagle.

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