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Thank You for Everything You Do!

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week this week (April 12 – 16) – and with that thought on our minds, we wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you, and all that you do for You’re the Cure initiatives all across the East Coast.

We appreciate every single alert response, every call, every visit you have made to your lawmakers and elected officials. We appreciate you joining us in conference rooms across our division as we train you on different state policies and how to be an engaged advocate. We appreciate those who serve on our Advocacy Committees, putting in long hours in meetings and on calls as you help us shape our grassroots plans.

We appreciate you, and we appreciate your time and all you do as a partner of the American Heart Association. In case you ever forget, every little thing – both large and small – makes a difference!

Every Little Thing you do

as a You’re the Cure advocate helps,

and we appreciate you!

 THANK YOU for all you do.

Just a note: If you haven't joined our advocacy network yet, it's never too late! Just visit us at www.yourethecure.org and become a You're the Cure member. It only takes a few moments to sign up, but you'll help make a difference that will last through the years!

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Marilyn Boyd, Tennessee

Marilyn Boyd was 46-years-old, one day and 90-years-old the next.

She couldn’t move her right side and speaking had become difficult — at least that’s what she was told. “I thought that something must’ve been wrong with their ears because in my head, I sounded fine,” Marilyn said. “That’s one of the things of a stroke that’s really strange.” Although she was still 46, Marilyn’s abilities had become so hindered due to her stroke, she felt she was much older.

Marilyn’s survivor story began when she was outside her Jackson, Tennessee home wrangling the family’s cats one July night in 2002. While reaching for a cat under a metal chair, something went wrong. “I had a cat-tatrophe,” said Marilyn. That wrong move caused Marilyn to collapse and she hit her head on a terra cotta flower pot. Her husband Howard heard the clash and called for an ambulance when he saw her unconscious. Doctors now describe her incident as a “traumatic cerebral accident leading to a stroke.” 

“I didn’t have any risk factors for stroke,” said Marilyn. “This is something that can truly hit anyone at any time.”

After her treatment in the hospital, Marilyn began learning elementary skills again, like speaking, brushing her teeth and tying her shoes. The main focus of her rehabilitation was speech therapy, and after months of work and continued concentration, Marilyn could communicate again.

Now, Marilyn is speaking out in a big way. Using her experiences for reference, she has spent many hours in the offices of her local, state and federal lawmakers to help increase funding on stroke research, care and education.

“If you talk enough to enough people, somebody’s gonna do something,” she said.

Marilyn’s hoping that not only lawmakers, but also stroke survivors will get involved. She believes - by sharing her story other stroke survivors would benefit.

“I don’t view myself as significant,” Marilyn said. “But the issue is significant, so anything that’s done to help it is so important.” 

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It’s Not too Late – RSVP for Lobby Day, April 22nd

Can you believe it, our annual California AHA/ASA Lobby Day in Sacramento is just a few weeks away?  

California AHA/ASA Lobby Day

Wednesday, April 22nd

West Steps of the Capitol

10am - 3pm (Registration starts at 9am) 

It’s not too late! Register here if you’d like to attend! 

 

A few highlights of the event will include: an opportunity to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, an advocacy training to ensure you’re prepared for the day, motivational speakers and survivors connected to the AHA/ASA mission, the opportunity to directly communicate with your state legislators, and two complimentary heart-healthy meals. 

 

If you haven’t done so already and are planning to join us in Sacramento, please register here. Registration is required so we can schedule face-to-face meetings with your legislators’ offices!

Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any questions via email at Josh.Brown@heart.org or via phone at (916) 431-2364. 

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American Heart Association Celebrates National Walking Day

By Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association celebrated National Walking Day on Wednesday, April 1st! National Walking Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in April and is meant to help Americans actualize ideal cardiovascular health. Even though National Walking Day is over – take time to tie up your sneakers, take a walk and celebrate your health every day!

On National Walking Day, Americans are encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. Statistics show people stick to walking plans more than any other form of physical activity and walking is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke – the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers.

The other amazing thing about walking is that you don't have to wait until next year to get moving again. National Walking Day celebrations will come and go, but walking should be part of your daily exercise routine. Regular physical, such as walking, gardening, cycling, and climbing stairs can help you:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce or control blood pressure.
  • Raise HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
  • Sleep better.
  • Have more energy to do the things you love.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any other physical activity. If you can't carve 30 minutes out of your day to walk, just taking a few more steps in your day is a simple and effective place to start. It's really that easy. Or be creative and break up your activity into 10- or 15-minute increments. For example:

  • In the morning, park or get off the bus/train 10 minutes away from your job and walk briskly to work.
  • At lunch, walk for 10 minutes around where you work, indoors or outdoors.
  • At the end of the day, walk briskly for 10 minutes back to your car or station.

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If You Build It, They Will Come: Relationships with Lawmakers

There’s a saying often used when referencing the act of sales which can also be applied to advocacy: It all comes down to relationships.

As an advocate, building relationships with elected officials is the number one way you can ensure that lawmakers across your state are educated on the issues most important to you. You’re the Cure advocates are given opportunities to strengthen their skills at building relationships with decision makers through the various advocacy activities offered while promoting AHA’s policy goals.

One key to building relationships with legislators is to understand their preferred method of receiving information. What are the best ways to reach out to them, communicate with them, and follow up with them? Sometimes, the timing of communication can be one of the more important variables. VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent] suggests that getting in touch with him at his local office is best: "Usually, setting a meeting in my Mechanicsville District Office prior to session sets a more relaxed environment in which a citizen advocate may express to me their thoughts on issues of importance to them and about legislative matters that may arise during the impending session."

Not sure what your legislator prefers? Make a call to their legislative assistant—not only will they be able to direct you, but developing a relationship with this "gatekeeper" can also help you form a better relationship with your lawmaker!

Additionally, sometimes your elected officials will be the ones to reach out to you directly.  NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] said that in her opinion, the best way to communicate with her constituents is for them to "set up a meeting to talk about the issues that people have, or their concerns.  I prefer talking with people – communicating with me through email is a great way, [including] phone numbers so that I can call them back. Personal dialogue is sometimes better than written dialogue."

Your legislators know that advocates are vital for them to keep a finger on the pulse of their communities back home.

Councilmember-At-Large David Grosso [I-District of Columbia] shared his perspective: "Advocates are a major driving force in the legislative process. They are boots on the ground and know intricately those issues that impact different populations and communities. I want to know what their specific concerns are. As a member of the legislative body, sometimes we have a 30,000 ft. view of issues, but the advocates help us to focus on the nuance and intricacies of various matters. Having that perspective is invaluable because it enables us to tailor laws and regulations to the specific needs of the communities that we serve. Through our relationship with advocates, we are able to identify the areas where we can have the greatest impact, ensuring that we are serving a wide demographic in the most effective and efficient ways possible."

Through the voice of their constituents, elected officials are in a much better position to stay updated with a focused view of what's happening in their communities.

From DC, Maryland, Virginia, and into the Carolinas, our legislative bodies may look different; however, at the end of the day we are all people, one and the same. Our elected officials have important jobs where they represent us by making decisions that ultimately affect our daily life – but their main focus is their constituents.

If you’re up to it today, we would like to challenge you to use this information and take action. Send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a time to meet with your legislator today! Your elected officials are ready and willing to get to know you and what is important to you and your community!

A special thanks to Councilmember-At-Large Grosso [I-District of Columbia], VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent], and NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] for their contributions to this piece.

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Dr. Barb Frankowski tells lawmakers that a sugary drink tax could make the healthy choice the easy choice!

Warning that sippy cups were one of the worst inventions ever created, Vermont pediatrician Dr. Barb Frankowski recently urged House Ways and Means Committee members to take action to tax sugary drinks to fight obesity and improve dental health.

A portion of her testimony is excerpted below:

What do I see in my office?  Children drinking sugary beverages almost all the time.  I see it in the baby’s bottles and in the toddlers’ sippy cups.  Children and adolescents come in toting 20 ounce containers of everything from colas to sweetened iced teas to Gatorade.  How have we become such a thirsty nation?

Of course, the obesity epidemic is extremely complicated, and we can’t blame it all on sugary beverages.  BUT – sugary beverages do play an extremely significant role. 

Here are some facts:

  • Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has increased 500% in the past 50 years, and is not the single largest category of caloric intake in children, surpassing milk in the late 1990s
  • A person who drinks one can (only 12 oz) of soda a day would gain 15 lbs in a year
  • Pure liquid sugar also does not “fill us up” or induce satiety, the same way that fast food (that also contains fat and protein) does. These empty calories do not make us feel full.  Therefore, there is inadequate calorie compensation - people are more likely to drink these extra calories in addition to other foods they are eating, rather than instead of these foods.

What is the burden of obesity from the medical point of view?  Well, we all know about diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  I do see some diabetes and hypertension in my pediatric practice.  But what do I see even more? I see kids who are depressed, I see kids who are bullied at school, I see kids who are truant from school because of the bullying and - they don’t want to participate in PE!

What does the research show?

  • Children who become overweight as preschoolers tend to stay overweight throughout childhood and into adolescents.  Overweight and obese adolescents tend to remain obese as adults.  Preventing obesity can be difficult, but it is MUCH easier than treating it!
  • Studies suggest that a 10% price increase for beverages through taxation would decrease consumption by about 8-10%

Why not just educate people?

  • There is NOTHING in soda that is good for you.  Do people think there is?
  • Smoking is bad for you – are there people who think it is good for them?
  • Health education and behavior change is complex – it works much better to make the healthier choice the easier (and more economical) choice.

 

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Urge Senators to Lift the Cap on Charitable Donations!

Please tell Senate Finance Committee members that limiting the amount of funds non-profit organizations can raise in Vermont to fund their missions is the wrong way to raise revenue.

The Vermont House has passed legislation that would cap itemized deductions at 2.5 percent of the state standard deduction ($15,500/individual; $31,000/couple). The bill, which reportedly raises $33.2 million, is now before the Senate Finance Committee. Please contact members of the Senate finance Committee at http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/25 and tell them that such a cap could have an adverse effect on the good work the AHA is doing in Vermont.

In a response to Vermont’s non-profit community recently Senate Finance Committee Chair Tim Ashe stated the following, “…one thing is clear – Vermont’s tax system is in need of change. We currently tax the things that are not growing, and we do not tax the things that are growing. I am in no jag whatsoever to merely raise new taxes to “get us through this year.” We really do need a long-term approach so that both government and our non-profit partners have stable funding for planning and operational purposes.”

We agree. Please tell committee members that implementing excise taxes on tobacco and sugary drinks could raise significant revenue for the state but more importantly, deter unhealthy behaviors that lead to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer that are costing the state millions.

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Urge Lawmakers to Support Health Care Bill and Advance Legislation to Address Tobacco and Obesity!

As legislators currently weigh options to fund health care priorities in Vermont, it makes sense to look at funding sources that target health care problems. The Vermont House will be voting on legislation this week to increase the tobacco tax and implement an excise tax on sugary drinks. Urge them to support the measure by clicking the following link! https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

While the tax levels in the bill aren't as high as we'd like to improve public health, they are a start, and the bill needs to move ahead so we can improve it in the Senate or conference committee.

Vermont is spending a half a billion dollars each year treating chronic diseases caused by obesity and tobacco – half a billion! While legislative money committees are charged with raising revenue to meet state fiscal needs, they are also charged with doing what’s in the best interest of Vermonters, and that means doing what’s most helpful for the long-term as well.

Science shows a 10% increase in the price of tobacco and sugary drinks would have a public health benefit, decreasing adult smoking by 3-5%, youth smoking by 7% and sugary drink consumption by 8%.

No other revenue option on the table would have as substantial a health impact. The closer we can get to a $1.25 tax on tobacco and a penny an ounce on sugary drinks, the bigger the health impact for Vermonters.

Let your legislators know financial decisions should not be based solely on balancing the budget but also on making wise decisions that will serve the public best now, and our children for years to come.

Contact your legislator at http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016 or call them at 1-800-322-5616 and urge them to support significant cigarette and sugary drink excise taxes to help reduce the burden of chronic disease in Vermont.

The House Health Care Bill that will be voted on this week includes a $0.25 tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and a half cent excise tax on sugary drinks. Click on the following link to urge representatives to vote in favor of this bill.  https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

Then work with us once the bill moves to the Senate to let lawmakers know higher tobacco and sugary drink taxes can provide a one-two punch to smoking an obesity in Vermont.

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Just around the Corner

Over the past several years, there have been local efforts in communities throughout the state to improve access to healthy food in communities where supermarkets and grocery stores are scarce. The American Heart Association is working with our partners at The Food Trust, Partnership for Healthy Kids and other organizations to create a statewide network of healthy corner stores in communities where it is sometimes difficult to find healthy food options.

In March, The Food Trust hosted a training for partners that are working to bring healthy corner stores to their communities. The training provided helpful resources and tips for working with corner stores and shared best practices.

The American Heart Association has been advocating for funding for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative to make healthy food accessible in every area of the Garden State. I am looking forward to continuing to work with you, our advocates, to continue these efforts in the coming months.

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New York City Leaders Support Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund

On a cold, drizzly spring afternoon, city leaders joined advocates on the steps of City Hall to rally for the state to replenish the fund that helps to address food deserts in New York.  The weather wasn't going to stop us!  Thanks to Council Members Crowley and Levin, and advocates from The Food Trust, Make the Road New York, City Harvest and of course the American Heart Association, the elected leaders in Albany heard us loud and clear!  The state must invest wisely and support healthy food access.

The Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund was established 3 years ago with a $10 million investment by the state.  Those dollars were immediately leveraged to create an approximately $30 million pot of funding for prospective business owners to build new markets in the neighborhoods that need it most.  Thanks to this fund, more than 15 projects have been approved, bringing healthier food to all New Yorkers.  To learn more about our rally in NYC in support of the Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund, click here:  https://animoto.com/play/SnvmF1wNVQYCDHIw9Gt3OQ

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