American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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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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A Victory for Improving PE!

Before the beginning of the next school year, New York City parents will know whether or not their child receives adequate physical education. Thanks to you all - our You're the Cure network - the PE Reporting Bill is now law in New York City after nearly 5 years of effort!

Thanks to your advocacy, on October 29th, the City Council voted unanimously in support of the bill.  And fast forward just a few days later... on November 4th, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the PE Reporting bill into law!

Our campaign is not over yet.  We had hoped that the report would include some details related to other quality criteria, such as the description of the curriculum used by each school for their PE programs.  We think parents deserve to know what their kids are being taught, and if the school uses current, evidence-based curriculum. Additionally, when we see the first report due in August (and every August thereafter), we expect there will be additional work ahead to help schools further improve their PE programs.  So rest up because our fight continues!

But for now, let's celebrate our new PE Reporting Law!  Thanks to you, our Council champions, Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio...our city is taking strong steps in the right direction to help us achieve our mission - quality physical education for every student in New York City!


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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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When New Yorkers Can't Eat Healthy Foods...

The first Wednesday in November is National Eating Healthy Day!  It's a great opportunity to take stock of our eating habits, and perhaps do a bit more to feed ourselves and our families healthier foods.  For about 1.7 million New Yorkers, however, that is easier said than done.  More than half of New York's counties are home to neighborhoods without access to healthy foods.  You read that right - 1.7 million New Yorkers, in 32 counties, are burdened with a lack of food markets or corner stores offering fresh, healthy foods.  In honor of the event, help us send a strong message to Governor Cuomo that he should invest in the health and economy of New York.  Click here to take action and send your email to the Governor now!

Help the AHA improve access to healthy foods so every New Yorker has the opportunity to celebrate National Eating Healthy Day!

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New Hampshire seeks to raise the tobacco sale age to 21

The American Heart Association has long supported evidence-based policies to reduce the rate of tobacco use among adults and youth. Eliminating the public’s exposure to second-hand smoke, with smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars has proven very successful and a policy that has been embraced by the public and lawmakers alike in New Hampshire. Increasing the price of tobacco by raising state excise tax has met limited success in NH, but also accompanies a drop in tobacco use by young people. However, NH still has the highest youth smoking rate in the Northeast. We know 95% of adult smokers began before the age of 21. The Institute of Medicine released a report in March which found raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 would reduce youth access to tobacco. The rationale, much like it was for reducing alcohol use, is to create more social distance between those under age 18 and those legally able to purchase tobacco. Raising the legal age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth, save lives and reduce healthcare costs attributed to tobacco related illness. To learn more, find the IOM report online:

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Should New York Pursue a Tax on Sugary Drinks?

Hi, everyone!

My name is Pam Bonney and I'm a member of the American Heart Association's Advocacy Committee in New York. I wanted to share my thoughts about a recent editorial from the New York Times (What a Big Tax on Soft Drinks Can Do- 10/19/15).  

Overconsumption of sugary beverages is a global problem and the overdose of sugar consumption in the American diet is a major contributing cause of this country’s alarming rate of obesity. Unfortunately, we exist in a time in which we are drinking most of our calories.

Consuming large quantities of sugary drinks can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. One significant intervention that must be considered is to increase the retail price of sugary drinks. As the Times editors described, Mexico levied a peso per liter tax in 2013, and sales of sugary beverages were reduced by 12 percent when compared with the previous year. 

New York leaders could certainly improve public health by following Mexico’s lead and implement an excise tax on sugary drinks. Such a tax is a necessary tool to motivate healthier beverage selection. Imagine the impact to our health and our economy!

What do you think?  Should New York state implement an excise tax on sugary drinks?

- Pam

Pamela Bonney, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition and Health Consultant, Co-founder, Tried and True Nutrition, Inc.

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What If You Couldn't Reach Your Grocer?

How close is your grocer?

For some of us the answer may be a 5 minute drive or a quick walk up the block.  But for 1.7 million Virginians (including 480,000 children), grocery stores and supermarkets are out of reach.  Too many Virginians live in low income communities with limited or no access to healthy and affordable foods found at supermarkets.  We need your help to get all Virginians closer to their grocer.  

Access to nutritious food is unevenly distributed in Virginia: In urban and rural areas of all sizes, from Richmond, to Lynchburg, through Martinsville and large swaths of southern and southwestern Virginia, residents must travel excessive distances to purchase the foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet.

Learn more: Read about the Closer to My Grocer Campaign here.  #CloserToMyGrocer

Healthy Food Financing will bring healthy foods to Virginia communities that need them most. Through grants and loans, healthy food financing will allow grocery stores to open in communities across Virginia, bringing everyone Closer to Your Grocer.

Support the #ClosertoMyGrocer Campaign and ask the Governor and your Legislators to add ‘Healthy Food Financing’ to the state budget. Together we can create jobs, spur economic revitalization, and increase health in Virginia communities through Healthy Food Financing.

For more information visit or email  

Your voice is needed.  “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”  ~Betty Reese

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Roy Varghese, M.D., Kentucky

Roy Varghese, M.D. Kentucky

After more than thirty years of caring for patients in his Eastern Kentucky community, Dr. Roy Varghese unexpectedly became a patient himself. Dr. Varghese had been suffering indigestion-like symptoms throughout a long day of caring for patients, when he made the decision to go to his local emergency room, ARH Mary Breckinridge Hospital in Hyden. That decision saved his life, as he was suffering from an acute inferior myocardial infarction, or heart attack.

Shortly after his arrival in the ER, Dr. Varghese's condition worsened and he required an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythm. He was transferred to Hazard ARH for additional cardiac care, and eventually on to UK Chandler Medical Center and the Gill Heart Institute, where he arrived on a ventilator and remained unconscious for more than a week. Thankfully, his family elected not to have life support withdrawn and with determination and the support of his loved ones, Dr. Varghese recovered. He continues his cardiac rehabilitation by walking three miles daily in his Hyden community where he returned to his practice.

Dr. Varghese recently put his passion for advocacy for heart disease research and prevention to work, traveling to Capitol Hill to share his story with lawmakers during the Rally for Medical Research. Since returning from DC, Dr. Varghese, has met again with staff from Senator McConnell's and Congressman Rogers' local offices to speak with them about his own research. Dr. Varghese is piloting a study examining how 2-3 cups daily of homemade yogurt containing the probiotic lactobacillus can help reduce or prevent the intestinal bacteria the leads to trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). TMAO in the blood allows fat and cholesterol to enter blood vessel walls and start the process of atherosclerosis. It is thought that by suppressing the production of TMAO, much of the entry of cholesterol into blood vessels could be prevented. 

We thank Dr. Varghese for his dedication to cardiovascular research and look forward to continuing to work with him to advocate for research funding.

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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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