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A Victory for NYC's Sodium Warning Icon Law!

The saga that surrounds New York City's Sodium Warning Label continues.  But every step has been a strong show of support of this policy which will help to empower consumers to make healthy decisions about the food they eat when dining out at chain restaurants.

On Thursday, May 26, the New York State’s Appellate Division, First Department denied a requested injunction by the National Restaurant Association which delayed the enforcement of the rule initially approved by the Board of Health in 2015.  You can learn more about the latest development here:  http://news.heart.org/new-york-city-can-now-enforce-sodium-warnings-on-menus/

Every challenge brought by the National Restaurant Association has been denied.  While the court case continues to assess the merits of the policy, the American Heart Association believes firmly that the sodium warning labels will help to address the public health urgency as American's continue to consume too much sodium.  These warning labels will highlight food items on the menu have more than the recommended daily limit for sodium, thus putting diners in danger of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

It's time that the National Restaurant Association stopped fighting this common sense law.  In the meantime, we look forward to seeing the rule enforced beginning next month!

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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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American Heart Association Heart at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Ashley Wicklund. Government Advocacy Intern – Sacramento

The AHA hosted Heart at the Capitol, formerly known as Lobby Day, on April 14th this year and it was a great success. As an integral part of the planning team, it is very fulfilling to have seen it go so well. I am a Government Advocacy Intern for the AHA, and I was tasked with setting up all the meetings with the legislators for the event. As you could imagine, sending emails to all the legislative offices and coordinating with legislators or their staff took some time. When I first heard about Heart at the Capitol and began setting up meetings, I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of the event. But after I had confirmed about 85 meetings with the offices of Senators and Assemblymembers, I began to realize just how important this event was.

 

Heart at the Capitol provides an opportunity for volunteers and constituents to come to the Capitol and talk to legislators about the important legislation that the AHA works so hard to pass. The AHA’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This is why the AHA focuses its energy toward legislation that seeks to require high school graduates to learn Hands-Only CPR (AB 1719) in order to increase the number of people who are able to save lives in the case of a heart attack; legislation that adds a distributor fee onto sugar-sweetened beverages (AB 2782) to invest in communities that are disproportionately impacted by health issues associated with over consumption of sugary drinks; and legislation that would ensure that the Medi-Cal population has access to tobacco cessation programs and resources (AB 1696) to help people quit tobacco use. The AHA commonly uses the phrase “life is why” – life is why the AHA does what it does, to create healthier lives for Californians and Americans around the country.

 

As the event began, more and more people were arriving and checking in, anticipating the exciting day ahead of meeting with their legislators and listening to motivating speakers tell their own stories about heart disease or stroke. From the eyes of an AHA intern, it was great to see the turn-out of constituents and volunteers.  We had a crowd of over 150 attendees from all across California including over 80 students coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The level of enthusiasm our advocates had to go in and speak with Senators and Assemblymembers about such important issues was thrilling! Once we got into the meetings, it was clear how much they cared about the topics at hand and how excited they were that legislators and staff shared their enthusiasm.

 

The meeting-filled morning passed by and opened the door to an afternoon of guest speakers. The afternoon kicked off with a press conference from Assemblymember Rodriguez about the CPR in schools bill, who talked about the importance of a bill like this and thanked everyone for coming out for the day. Next, was a very moving story by a man named Steve Griffiths, who survived a heart attack thanks to the actions of his young son and his knowledge of Hands-On CPR. The story was eye-opening and drove the bill home by telling a personal story of how a kid who knew hands-only CPR saved his life. Here’s part of the story.

 

The last speaker of the day was a 9-year-old girl named Savanna Karmue, who wrote her own book titled “Happy Heart.” She learned that heart disease is the number one cause of deaths in America and decided to write her book to spread the word about how to keep a happy heart. Please see her speech here.

 

Reflecting back on Heart at the Capitol, it is easy to see the success it had. The attendees were overjoyed to participate, the legislators had genuine conversations about the AHA’s heart healthy priorities, and the speakers all had personal and inspirational stories that promoted the goals of the AHA and bills. I only hope the participants enjoyed it as much as I did, and that future Heart at the Capitol events will be this successful!

 

To see a glimpse of the experience, please see the photos here.  I’m the one pictured on the left!

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Let's Get Mobile!

We’re keeping up with the times, and now you can advocate by text, in addition to the emails you might be used to. 

You can get on our mobile list and lend your voice to a policy issue at the same time – just be sure you reply to the ‘auto-response’ after you send your first text, and complete the action step!

  • DC:  Text XTOBACCO to 52886 to urge DC Council to fund tobacco cessation
  • MD:  Text CHOICES to 52886 to tell legislators we still want healthy items in state vending machines
  • VA:  Text FRESH to 52886 to bang the drum about the need for better grocery access
  • NC: Text NCYTC to 52886 to urge lawmakers to support healthy food access across the state
  • SC: Text CPRSC to 52886 to thank state leaders for requiring CPR skills to be taught in high schools   

When you text the keyword, we’ll respond right away with your activation link – just click on the link and fill in the fields (you won’t have to do that every time), then tap the SEND EMAIL button. 

It’s an easy way right at your fingertips to make a difference.

Welcome to the new world, us! 

 

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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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You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day: Issues At A Glance

State Lobby Day is almost here!  These are the issues that we will be discussing with our lawmakers. 

We will have two asks this year, and have included talking points for each issue below.  We know that State Lobby Day this year will be as successful as all of our other years, and we cannot wait for our advocates to join us!

Ask One: Support HB 250/SB 296: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act with full funding

  • North Carolina has at least 349 food deserts across 80 counties, impacting over 1.5 million North Carolina residents in both rural and urban areas.
  • Communities without access to healthy foods are disproportionately impacted by diet-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
  • Without easy access to healthy ingredients, families have a harder time meeting dietary guidelines for good health, such as eating fruits and vegetables and lowering fat intake.
  • North Carolinians across the state overwhelmingly support this effort: A recent poll found over 70% of registered voters support a state-funded Healthy Corner Store Initiative. After learning more information, support rose to 76%.
  • A healthy corner store initiative would: help make healthier food options more accessible, provide small business owners with marketing and technical assistance to stock and sell healthy foods, and create new markets for farmers and fisherman. 

Ask Two: Support increasing access to health care

  • Heart disease is the second and stroke the fourth leading cause of death in North Carolina.
  • Of adults (aged 18-64) who report having heart disease, hypertension or stroke, approximately 15% are uninsured.
  • Nearly half of the uninsured with cardiovascular disease cite cost as the reason they lack coverage; 36% cite a lost job or new employer.
  • The uninsured also report being unable to afford prescription drugs nearly four times more often than those who are insured (43% versus 11%).
  • Providing health insurance coverage will help people gain access to the care they need, which improves health outcomes.

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#PE4All Victory in NYC!

It's almost too good to be true!  After years of advocacy, more emails than you probably want to remember and countless hours of work with our community partners in the Phys Ed 4 All coalition, New York City is poised to make significant progress in our goal to improve physical education for every student!

In his executive budget proposal, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to dedicate $9 million to help improve PE in city schools.  He specifically referenced the goal to help get every school in compliance with state law.  (It's good to note that the state laws currently require just 120 minutes per week of PE for elementary students and 90 minutes per week in secondary school.  These requirements don't yet meet national benchmarks which would make sure elementary kids get 150 minutes per week of PE and 225 minutes for the older kids.  But before we can even think about that, we have to make sure NYC schools are able to meet the basic requirements.  Unfortunately, AHA research in 2012 showed that a majority of schools do not comply with state laws and there were several other red flags related to the quality of PE that was being offered to students.)

Mayor de Blasio hopes this is just the beginning.  Building on the success of last year's PE Works initiative, he's asked for $9 million to be provided for PE this year, and potentially $44 million in the next year.  And if he has his way, that won't be the end of it.  He'd like to see $100 million in city funds dedicated for physical education by the year 2020.

This funding will go a long way to hire more certified PE teachers, provide support and resources to improve PE curriculum and perhaps most needed, restore gym spaces to a safe, adequate size for PE classes.  We're not done yet.  The obstacles in the way for quality PE are complicated and vast and we expect many more to come to light with the first issuance of the PE Reporting Law this August.  Even the $9 million isn't locked in yet. City Council will determine the final version of the state budget before July 1.  But with the Mayor's announcement to support quality PE, we are finally gaining momentum!

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Will You Raise Your Voice to Help Prevent Obesity in Massachusetts?

Join us for our Heart on the Hill on May 23rd from 11-2 and use your voice to advocate for our key priorities because we believe our residents deserve healthy food and safe places to play.  

  • Advocate for healthy food and beverage options in vending machines in all State Buildings.
  • Advocate for critical public funding to create the Massachusetts Food Trust, a Healthy Food Financing initiative, to increase the number of healthy food retail outlets (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, mobile markets) in underserved communities
  • Advocate for increased accountability reporting of schools to provide quality physical education in our schools
  • Advocate for funding so that road construction and reconstruction create complete streets that are safe and convenient for all users and all modes of transportation
  • Advocate for appropriations for state level reporting and implementation of shared use programs as well as incentives to schools to promote shared use

 We will provide an advocacy training that day and you will have scheduled visits with your Representative and Senator (or their staff) to talk about our legislative priorities.

 Please register today at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HZFWGGJ.  If you have any questions please contact Allyson Perron at allyson.perron@heart.org or (781) 373-4522 .

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Little Tikes with a Big Message

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to get the message across. Sawyer Daniels and Jack Towle stole the show at our April legislative reception.

Sawyer is here today because his heart defect was able to be detected early thanks to a pulse oximetry test given shortly after birth – a defect that likely would have been fatal had he gone home without it being discovered.

Jack’s defect was not discovered right away as he did not receive a pulse oximetry test as a newborn and suffered the health consequences for months.

You can hear more about their story here. http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/parents-push-for-mandatory-pulse-oximetry-testing-on-vermont-newborns

Sawyer and Jack’s parents – Tessa and Elijah Daniels and Katie and Michael Towle -- also spoke and met with legislators at the legislative reception to encourage them to pass legislation requiring this test be given to al newborns. It made a difference.

That very week, the House Health Care Committee passed legislation instructing the Commissioner of Health to undertake a rulemaking to ensure all infants are screened for critical congenital heart defects. The House followed suit shortly thereafter and the Senate passed the legislation this week! This means the Vermont Department of Health will soon take steps to ensure all newborns are screened for heart defects.

Stay tuned as we will need your help once the rulemaking process is underway to stress the importance of pulse oximetry as the standard. Thanks!

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Thanks to You, Vermont Will Be a Leader in Setting State Nutrition Standards!

The House this week just gave its final approval to legislation that will require all Vermont state agencies to follow nutrition standards for the food they sell or serve. Now its off to the Governor for his signature! 

Thanks to you for getting us there!

Legislation we’ve been promoting this session to require state agencies in Vermont to follow nationally recognized nutrition standards for the food they sell in food service, vending and institutions had stalled in the House after passing the Senate. However, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee amended a House-passed bill, H.812, to include our nutrition standards legislation. The Senate gave its approval to the measure early in the week and the House followed suit giving its blessing to the Senate changes yesterday.

This is great news in our effort to bend the curve on obesity and address diet-related diseases in Vermont! Once the governor signs it, we'll have a great new law that sets state government as a role model to other businesses in making the healthy choice the easy choice.

We couldn't have done it without you!

 

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