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Psst ... We Want To Tell You Something Big!

Throughout the year, we reach out with a "THANK YOU!" message to our advocates because we want you to know that your efforts are making a difference and saving lives.

We appreciate you every moment of every day.  We value those times when you rush through dinner with your family to make to make a council meeting in your community, and when you stand up and share your reasons for supporting an AHA policy. 

It means so much to us when you dedicate your time to State Lobby Day, meeting with legislators to reinforce support for active legislation.  And we can’t forget to thank you for driving to in-district Congressional offices to thank lawmakers for their support on AHA’s federal issues.  When you click to send a letter online it is incredibly valuable to our efforts and we genuinely appreciate your efforts. 

We know you have a choice about how you spend your time.  The fact that you invest in You're the Cure honors us - so this week, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we honor you. Because YOU are our "why."

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Jennifer & Joel Griffin

Jennifer & Joel Griffin, Virginia

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and at least 500 people have become certified in CPR since.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  Now they are actively working to make it happen in DC schools, including a series of legislator visits, a television interview, and providing testimony before committees They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

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AHA President Says: The Science is Clear on Sodium Reduction

Check this out! In a new video, the President of the AHA, Dr. Mark Creager, explains that the science behind sodium reduction is clear. He says that robust evidence has linked excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. And, he points out that you can do something about it: join AHA’s efforts to demand change in the amounts of sodium in our food supply.

“Nearly 80 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods” says AHA president Dr. Mark Creager. The video shows the 6 foods that contribute the most salt to the American diet: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches."

To see the video, head over to our Sodium Breakup blog!

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Shared Use Still a Challenge

District Sports, a DC non-profit soccer league that started in 2004 and has since grown to more than 5,000 participants, attributes its growth and success to its ability to rely on DC public schools for recreational space.  But they still face challenges in sharing space, as do many sports organizations. 

“Virtually 100 percent of our livelihood depends on our ability to use school spaces,” said Alex Bearman, Executive Director of District Sports. “We’d be able to serve less than half the amount of people we serve now if using DC public schools was not an option.”

Bearman has made a great investment of time working with schools in order to reserve their space. Through an involved process of diligent follow up, relationship building, knowing people at the schools, working with other nonprofits, and developing a reputation, he has made inroads. 

There remains immense room for improvement. District Sports believes maintenance is a critically important aspect of the process that needs to be changed. In the permitting process, community organizations must pay additional fees to cover costs to the schools for security and custodial services after hours, however currently there is no funding for schools to recoup costs for normal wear and tear due to use by a community group.  Requests from organizations may be denied for this reason.  “It’s very difficult to approach a school for a request when my group would degrade the field,” Bearman said.

Some smaller organizations also struggle with the high cost of permit fees and with carrying the required amount of insurance. As a larger, more established organization, Bearman acknowledges that District Sports is in a better position than many to form partnerships that allow them to give back to the schools where they play.  District Sports has even partnered with a smaller volleyball group to help them get a shared use agreement, because this group was struggling to reserve the space on their own. 

A potential policy solution would be to create a fund to help offset these expenses for schools and groups, in addition to the cost of additional security and custodial services.

Without access to ‘playing space’ for many community-based organizations and sports teams, the opportunity for physical activity evaporates. Physical activity has been proven a critical component for a healthy life, especially in controlling obesity.  And the District has uniquely urgent demographics that impact this need, particularly the most underserved Wards.

A District-wide Shared Use policy provides answers. Schools are an ideal place for individuals, organizations, and the community to gather for recreation, either organized or informal. But in many cases, schools do not allow their recreation facilities to be used during non-school hours.  Easing the process of establishing “shared use” or “facility use” agreements would provide much needed access to school recreational facilities. 

Anyone who agrees with this effort can support the cause by sending a constituent’s letter to the DC Council.

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The healthy difference a month can make

March is Nutrition Month, and a perfect time to get more involved with the AHA’s ongoing efforts to promote science-based food and nutrition programs that help reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Every day, we’re seeing new initiatives: to make fruits and vegetables more affordable; to reduce the number of sugar-sweetened beverages that our kids are drinking; and of course, to ensure students are getting the healthiest school meals possible, all with the same goal: to help families across the country lead the healthiest lives they possibly can.

It’s also a great opportunity to lower your sodium intake. The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day – more than twice the AHA-recommended amount. Excessive sodium consumption has been shown to lead to elevated blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Visit www.heart.org/sodium for tips on to lower your intake and to get heart-healthy recipes.

However you choose to celebrate, Nutrition Month gives us all the chance to take control of our diets; to recommit to eating fresh, healthy foods; and to remember all month long that you’re the cure.

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Larry Calhoun

Larry Calhoun, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

Several years ago, I completed a 75 mile charity bike ride--a proud achievement and testimony to my level of fitness to complete the ride.  About a week later, I went to bed early not feeling well. I awoke at 3:00 a.m. with a pain in my chest that felt like someone tightening a strap around it and had a VERY rapid heartbeat. I drove myself to the local ER and called Karen, my fiancée, on the way. The ER Doctor determined that I had “atrial fibrillation” (or a-fib). Thus began my journey from a fit man in his 50s to a heart patient overnight. Karen began this journey with me, but also resumed a journey she had previously traveled. Her father had a-fib and had died in 1991 from a stroke caused by this heart disease.

After six months of not being able to control my a-fib, I was referred to a specialist at the Medical University of SC in Charleston to have an ablation preformed.  I intently studied the ablation process, and with my background in computers and engineering, understood the high tech nature of this procedure. My ablation was performed in Charleston in February, 2007.  This eight hour procedure cured me of my a-fib. I have returned to a normal, healthy lifestyle riding my bike and easily walking 18 holes of golf.  My life is back!!

I know that my procedure would not have been possible without intense research into atrial fibrillation, and the work of organizations involved in heart health.  We are especially concerned that future generations do not have to suffer with heart disease, especially atrial fibrillation. 

(Larry, his wife Karen, and their grandchildren - Carmen, Miles, and Isaac - are pictured.) 

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If You Build It, They Will Become

How do you get your lawmakers to become allies for our mission and policy efforts?  In truth some may never, but many will if you take the time to employ a few basic strategies to build your relationship with them, and thereby strengthen the power of your constituent voice. 

  • Connect.  Write, call, or visit to introduce yourself and share what’s important to you.  It’s helpful to check their webpage first to see what their platforms and issues are so you can acknowledge overlap.
  • Build your credibility. Prepare to talk about You’re the Cure’s policy issues.  Read our issues alerts and talking points closely and look for where you can draw a personal connection.  Be ready to state why you care.
  • Meet.  Book an appointment specifically to address a policy issue important to you, and share why you have a personal interest.  Be clear about what you want from them in terms of support. Meet their staff as well, be gracious and appreciative of the opportunity to meet with them if your representative is not available, learn their names and titles.
  • Create photo opps.  Take advantage of face-to-face time to get a quick pic with your legislator or their staff and post to social media with our and their hashtags.  They love the exposure - you’ll make a real fan of them.
  • Thank. Always write a quick thank you note after a visit, including meetings with staff.  It seems like a little thing but it helps get you noticed. (Be sure to spell names correctly!)
  • Reconnect.  Check back periodically, and remind them of past interactions.  Repeating your message IS effective – never assume once is enough, even if they have pledged support for the issue.  Look for excuses to connect back with them: 
    • Take a neighbor from the same district to meet them
    • Bring a new data-point on a key issue to the table, or provide an update on the status of a bill
    • Call or write to ask if they have any new concerns about the issue that we may be able to address
    • Call or write to thank them for their yes vote on our issue
    • Share new issues expected on our agenda

Try to connect at least every 4-6 months, and much more frequently when there is an active policy during session that we need action on. 

Be the nicest squeaky wheel they have ever met, and they just may become our ally!  That’s the way to make your personal power as an advocate really count.

We are your partner in this endeavor!  We can help you shape your message, provide the most current fact sheets or updates on policy status, and help craft answers to questions or concerns that are raised. 

By all means, do let us know about the contacts you make specific to our policy issues, and any outcomes from the interaction.  We appreciate your efforts and love to hear from you.

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Council Goes Red for a Healthier DC

The DC Council chamber was brimming with excitement on February 2, as You’re the Cure advocates filed in to celebrate the beginning of American Heart Month. Wearing red as a symbol of awareness, AHA supporters gathered around Councilmember Yvette Alexander and other members of the Council as she presented a ceremonial resolution that declared February 5th as “National Wear Red Day” in the District of Columbia. 

Councilmember Alexander detailed startling statistics: 44 million women in the US are affected by heart disease; more women than men die of heart disease in the District; and heart disease and stroke kill one out of three women in the U.S.. Despite these stark facts, the message of the day was one of hope—80% of deaths due to heart disease and stroke are preventable.

A  You’re the Cure advocate and stroke survivor, Deb Wells accepted the resolution on behalf of the American Heart Association. She told her story of suffering an unexpected stroke at age 42 in the middle of her career, resulting in 2 years of recovery. A few years later, her heart stopped for 19 seconds. Wells jokingly commented, “For someone like me, Wear Red Day is very…pardon the pun…near and dear to my heart.”

Both Alexander and Wells encouraged women to talk to their doctors, to become aware of their health status, and to “know their numbers.” If trends continue, 1,300 women will die of heart disease this year in Washington, DC, but Wells reminded the audience and Councilmembers that 80% of those deaths can be prevented.


“Wear Red Day is about awareness…it’s about knowing you can make a difference, not only for yourselves and your families, but for all of those around you that are watching you make better choices. “We’re going to wear red Friday, but that doesn’t mean that the awareness has to stop.”

Show your support by going red every day! Sign up at GoRedForWomen.org/WearRedDay to check out helpful resources, tools, and tips. Help us stop the number 1 killer of women by going red!

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Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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You're the Cure Advocates Go Red!

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s campaign to raise awareness about women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and empower them to take control of their heart health.  It is a year-long campaign that culminates in February for Heart Month.  All of the markets within the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate celebrate with events throughout February and into the spring.

Advocacy work goes hand in hand with the Go Red For Women movement in many ways.  One way is our advocates work with their local government officials on proclamations that declare the first Friday in February as Wear Red Day.  In North Carolina, the town of Matthews, Huntersville, Cary, and Winston-Salem passed proclamations.  As did Spartanburg and Columbia in South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. 

The District of Columbia took their support of Wear Red Day to the next level with several local councilmembers taking to social media to express their office-wide support.   Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1, Jack Evans of Ward 2, and Charles Allen in Ward 6 sent out tweets to their followers of their offices dressed to the gills in their finest red. Councilmember Yvette M. Alexander emailed her constituents to urge them to be diligent in keeping their lives free of cardiovascular disease with helpful tips and facts. 

Another great example happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, when advocate Dr. Sandra Burke presented to the Mecklenburg County Board of Directors about heart health and continuing collaborative efforts to improve the health of the local community.  And here, the women of the Virginia General Assembly went red on 2/9 to bring awareness to heart disease.  

Go Red is a nationwide movement that unifies communities in prevention and education about the risk factors and warning signs of cardiovascular disease.  We are proud of the policies and changes you are influencing to make strides toward a world where we are free of heart disease and stroke.

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