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Making Schools Nutritional Safe Zones

The Committee on Children recently voted in support of legislation ensuring the food marketing that is shown in schools is aligned with the National School Lunch Program. The American Heart Association believes if schools cannot serve a particular unhealthy food item in school the food industry should not be allowed to market the unhealthy food item to students in school. This legislation is building upon the achievements the State of Connecticut has made in making sure our school children are offered healthy foods in schools and that students are learning lifelong lessons on the importance of eating healthy. School aged children are already being bombarded by the food industry to consume unhealthy foods in aggressive marketing campaigns. This legislation will reinforce the efforts by the American Heart Association to make the schools nutritional safe zones.

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Public Health Passes CPR in Schools

The Public Health Committee recently voted out a bill requiring high school students learn Hands-Only CPR and AED awareness before graduating. There was overwhelming support for the legislation and committee members spoke glowingly about the bill during the comment period before the vote. This was a great victory for the American Heart Association volunteers who testified at the Public Hearing. The Bill has picked number of cosponsors since the public hearing, currently the number stands at thirteen, including newly elected State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. The next step for the bill is a vote in the Education Committee. American Heart Association volunteers have been reaching out to to the members on the Education Committee to ensure the CPR in Schools Bill successfully moves out of the committee. There are currently 21 states that require high school students learn CPR before graduating, and Connecticut is on track to become the 22nd state to have students learn the lifesaving skill.

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Sugary Drink Tax Passes Legislative First Hurdle

The General Assembly’s Committee on Children voted on a bill that would place a 1 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks and use the dollars raised to fund childhood obesity prevention initiatives.

Sugary drinks are staples of today’s American diet.  These beverages are inexpensive, abundant, high in calories, and deliver little or no nutrition. They are heavily marketed, especially to children.  

More than any other food category, scientific studies have shown that consumption of sugary drinks contributes to poor diet, and risk for obesity, diabetes and a number of other serious health problems.

A sugary drink excise tax coupled with childhood obesity prevention funding are critical strategies that could reduce childhood obesity rates and improve the health of not only children, but the health of Connecticut’s residents who are overweight or obese.

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AHA Advocates Testify At CPR in Schools Public Hearing.

American Heart Association (AHA) volunteers from around the state traveled to Hartford to testify at the Connecticut Public Health Committee hearing to support a bill requiring Connecticut high school students learn hands-only CPR prior to graduation.

Seven volunteers attended, including Leigh Pechillo, a mother from Southington; Valerie Cassidy, registered nurse and paramedic from Norwich; and Norwalk High School senior Mahika Jhangiani.

Pechillo told the Public Health Committee members how she survived a massive heart attack only because of the fast actions of her husband who performed CPR on her after her daughter found her on the bathroom floor. 

Cassidy, who teaches Hands-Only CPR to freshman students at Hartford Public High School’s Nursing Academy, told the committee members that her goal is to train 150 students and she hoped the committee would support Senate Bill 684 requiring all high school students receive CPR training.

“I was glad to take a day to testify in Hartford for this life-saving legislation. We are all part of the Chain of Survival when it comes to cardiac arrest. Connecticut will be a safer place to live when we pass this bill,” said Cassidy.

Norwalk High School senior Mahika Jhangiani also testified at the hearing. Jhangiani has been giving CPR trainings at several Norwalk schools as part of her high school independent study project.

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Kelly Trenholm, Connecticut

The American Heart Association holds a special place in my heart. Like so many others, I have experienced firsthand the effects of heart disease in my family. Watching my beloved grandmother live with the symptoms of congestive heart failure on a day to day basis was extremely difficult for me & my family. This experience ultimately lead me to become involved with the work of the American Heart Association and conducting fund raising events in my grandmother’s memory to help educate the public and be part of the solution.

Having worked with children from a young age, I chose a path to become a health and physical education teacher. I try to lead by example and am a strong advocate of leading a healthy lifestyle.  When I was presented with the opportunity to implement and spearhead the American Heart Association’s Hoops for Heart program in my school, I enthusiastically accepted the challenge of being a champion of the important works of the American Heart Association.

Over the years it has brought me great joy to watch first hand hundreds of my students support the mission to make a difference in the lives of others by raising thousands of dollars. Not only have the students enjoyed accepting and making a difference for Heart Health by raising funds, but more importantly one of their favorite lessons in our Health Curriculum is when they learn how to administer CPR and use an AED machine to aid a person who may be in distress. They know this is a valuable lesson, as they may be the first responder in a cardiovascular situation at any given time. This responsibility is important to them and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to teach this critical life-saving lesson.

It is extremely gratifying to know that the members of our community are more likely to survive a cardiovascular emergency because of the experience these students have received in my classroom. I am honored to have been offered a position on our local Board of Directors to continue to advocate for such important legislation and to make the state of Connecticut a heart healthy and safe community. One of the best ways that I feel that I can personally contribute to that mission is to continue to educate my students, my colleagues, my friends & family to raise their own voice and spread the importance of living a heart healthy life and I believe it all begins with education.

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CT AHA Board engaged in a letter writing campaign to State Legislators Promoting CPR in Schools

At the most recent Connecticut American Heart Association boarding meeting, hosted by Griffin Hospital in Derby, board members reported on the progress of their letter writing campaign to state legislators. Board members wrote to their local state representatives and state senators asking for support to pass legislation requiring High School students learn hands only CPR and the use of automated external defibrillator (AED). Initial results of the campaign saw the recruitment of four additional co-sponsors for a CPR in Schools bill working its way through the legislative session. More legislators are expected to voice their support for this lifesaving initiative as board members continue to advocate for lifesaving policy.

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Healthy Food Marketing in Schools is in Play this Legislative Session

The Children’s Committee of the General Assembly took the first step in ensuring schools are nutritional safe zones and students are not targeted by the food industry in unhealthy food marketing campaigns based in the school environment.  Parents know from experience that food ads and marketing affect not only which foods their children ask them to purchase, but also which foods their kids are willing to eat. This session AHA is working with a broad coalition to pass legislation making certain that only foods that kids can eat in schools, can be marketed in schools. The food industry targets schools to market products that cannot be sold in schools. This practice undermines the new USDA Smart Snack nutrition standards. The legislation proposed in the Children’s Committee will address this unhealthy practice. 

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Spreading the Wellness Word at The Big Connect.

The American Heart Association participated in the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s The Big Connect. American Heart Association’s Connecticut board member, Lori Temple, was also at the event representing Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Lori and Harvard Pilgrim are strong believers in promoting health and wellness programs to their clients and employees. Lori also assisted Advocacy Director John Bailey in collecting signatures for CPR Training in Schools petitions.  

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Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, M.D., MPH Rallies the Troops

The American Heart Association, along with the American Cancer Society and Tobacco Free Kids, recently hosted the 2015 National Tobacco Control Conference in Washington D.C. Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak gave a captivating talk on the progress and the need to continue to work on the issue of tobacco control. His comments highlighted the first U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking and health, which was published in 1964. Rear Admiral Lushniak stressed to attendees that  although progress has been made in a half century there is more work to do because tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.

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NEHA AGGARWAL

One day while he was walking through the park, Neha Aggarwal’s maternal grandfather suddenly fell to the ground—he had unexpectedly suffered a stroke. Before the stroke, her grandfather had been very active mentally, physically, socially, and professionally. Although the stroke dramatically changed every aspect of his life, he continued to step up to the challenges of life and showed great strength and positivity.  He passed away 20 months later, and Neha feels she was blessed to have had the chance to know and love him.

But her family’s history of stroke and heart disease doesn’t end there.

  • Her paternal grandfather also passed away from a stroke, before she was even born.
  • Her father’s older brother passed away from a heart attack.
  • Her father, a cardiologist, has diabetes and takes medication to control high blood pressure and cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Neha’s family history and life experiences have prompted her to aim for a heart healthy lifestyle.  She strives to make exercise and a heart healthy diet a part of her daily life.

Involvement in You’re the Cure:

Neha first became interested in volunteering with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) grassroots network, You’re the Cure, in 2012 when she heard about AHA’s Lawyers Have Heart run in Washington, DC. This event really called out to her, as she is not only a lawyer but one who specializes in health policy. Lawyers Have Heart seemed as if it were created for her, aligning with both her passion for law and for health. Volunteering at this event in 2012 kicked off her involvement with You’re the Cure and she has been an active advocate ever since.  

What She Does:

Since Neha became a You’re the Cure advocate in 2012, she has volunteered at a number of events in Washington, DC, including Heart Walk, Lawyers Have Heart, and Hearts Delight. She actively recruits others for You’re the Cure. Her passion for the mission of AHA is contagious and inspires others to join in this important work. As Neha became more deeply involved with AHA events, she wanted to do more.

She was energized when she discovered the opportunity to work more proactively with You’re the Cure, advocating directly to her lawmakers for policy change. This exciting world of policy change opened the door for her to more fully utilize her education, passion, and training in volunteer advocacy work.  Neha initiated regular communication with AHA staff to coordinate her efforts, and her work on You’re the Cure’s advocacy campaigns has been packed with meaningful action. She has had frequent contact with DC Councilmembers, via phone calls and emails, urging them to support important legislation. Recently, she also submitted a letter to the editor to encourage readers to follow her call to action and appeal to DC Council.

What she finds most satisfying about working with You’re the Cure is the strong impact that she can have at the macro level. “Getting legislation passed can have such far-reaching effects! It is exciting to do things that have a large-scale impact. I feel like I am making a difference.”

 Why does Neha do this?  She says, “Improving Lives is Why”

Have you volunteered for the AHA like Neha? Send us photos of yourself in action to advocacydc@heart.org. We will use as many as we can to create a new Facebook cover photo!

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