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Recapping My Last 2 Years

By Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director in Nevada

It has been an incredible 2 years working as the Gov. Relations Director in Nevada for the American Heart Association. I have worked with great people on issues that impact heart disease and stroke for adults and children. Some of those issues include the Statewide Wellness Policy (Passed Summer 2014), Statewide Stroke Registry (Passed Spring 2015) and the $1 increase to the Nevada Tobacco Tax. (Spring 2015)

 

Each of the public health victories listed above represents countless hours of thoughtful work from survivors, volunteers, staff, coalition members, elected officials and many more.  So why do we work so hard? Why do we have such challenging goals?  Life is Why!

 

Yes. Life is WHY!! Last week I was presenting CPR Kits to a school district in Rural Nevada and the Superintendent of the district said to me “you know those AED’s you all worked to get into our schools and buildings, last month one of my Vice Principals used one to save a life.”  The individual’s life that was saved represents more than just a person that was saved.  They are a living proof that the work we engage in has a Why. Every time they give a hug , help a friend or say I’m sorry is one time more than they would have been able had it not been for the work we have the privilege to be part of. 

 

As I celebrate my 2 year Anniversary as the Nevada Government Relations Director and 7th year working with American Heart Association I am grateful for the living proof that the work we do makes a difference. 

 

The accompanying picture is with Superintendent Dale Norton, Assemblyman James Oscarson and myself minutes after Superintendent Norton told me the story of the AED Save. The CPR kits in front of us represent the resources needed to train over 6,000 kids in hands only CPR in NYE County Nevada. 

 

This training will lead to lives being saved!

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ICYMI: CPR in Schools Introduced

In case you missed it, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1719 which will ensure high school students learn CPR before they graduate high school. AB 1719 holds the power to create a generation of lifesavers.

 

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the most lethal public health threats in the United States. Nearly 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, and sadly, only 10 percent survive. Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

 

“CPR is one of the most important life skills a person can have. I have been an Emergency Medical Technician for over 30 years and I have seen too many cases that could have turned out differently if a bystander had known how to administer CPR,” said Rodriguez. “By teaching CPR in high school, we are sending students into the world with an essential, life-saving skill. We have the ability to dramatically impact the rates of survival for sudden cardiac arrest and save countless lives.”

 

Under AB 1719, school districts would have the flexibility to teach Hands-Only CPR in any required class, such as P.E. or Health.

 

27 states and over 50% of public schools nationwide currently train over 1.5 million Students in Hands-on CPR skills during high school, but California is not one of them.  Knowing the skills needed to save a life should not depend on what state you live in or what school district you attend. 

If you’re interested in getting involved to support AB 1719, please contact Kula Koenig for more details. For more information on AB 1719, please visit here.

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New York State Lobby Day on the State Budget was a great success!

American Heart Month was kicked off on February 1st by our advocates descending on the New York State Capitol to lobby state legislators in support of funding to make New York more heart-healthy. This year, we are supporting funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and funding to implement the CPR in Schools requirement.

The morning began with a training session facilitated by Government Relations Directors Kristin Salvi and Martha Auster, recapping the budget issues and sharing tips on a successful lobby day visit. Participants then broke into regional teams to rehearse their pitch, and then everyone hit the Capitol. By the end of the day, we met with over 20 state legislators and staffers!  

The Upstate New York Team met with Assemblymembers Fahy, Steck, and Hunter as well as Senators Breslin, DeFrancisco and Funke.  The team from Westchester/Hudson Valley  met with Assemblymembers Otis and Lalor and Senators Lattimer and Serino.  The New York City team met with Assemblymembers Seawright and Rosenthal, and Senators Klein and Serrano.  Our leadership team met with Senator Kemp Hannon and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried who Chair the Health Committees as well as Chairmen of the Economic Development Committees Sen. Phil Boyle and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. The day was rounded out by meetings with staff from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

These meetings are where the magic can happen when a legislator or staff becomes a champion for our issues. This is when a well-prepared advocate can answer specific questions about how funding for a program will help constituents in a legislative district. In fact, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright reiterated for the New York City team how important it is for groups like the American Heart Association to bring their message to Albany ~ it really does make a difference!

Two Final Thoughts:

  • Please look for advocacy alerts and make your voice heard in support of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and funding for CPR in Schools. Every letter, phone call and visit truly makes a significant impact on our campaign efforts! 
  • Initially we thought the favorite moment of the day was when the New York City Team was invited to the Assembly Rostrum, a position usually occupied by the Speaker!  But it ended up being at the very end of the day during a meeting with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, when his chief of staff said an AED in a school gym saved her friend’s life when he collapsed during a workout. Our mission at work!

You all are LIFE SAVERS!!

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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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Your Advocacy Team is Hitting the Road in 2016!

Mark your calendars to join us in 2016!  The North Carolina AHA Government Relations Team: Betsy Vetter, Sarah Jacobson and Kim Chidester will be traveling across the state (from Asheville to Wilmington!) to offer 5 in-person Advocacy Training Sessions.

In these workshops, we will offer education on our 2016 policy issues, an advocacy coaching session with a fun twist, and training on how to interact with your lawmakers.

Choose the workshop(s) you’d like to attend:

[Triangle] February 9th, 2016 from 11:30am – 1:30pm at AHA Offices [3131 RDU Center Drive, Morrisville]
[Charlotte] February 10th, 2016 from 5pm – 7pm at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church [517 Baldwin Avenue, Charlotte]
[Asheville] March 24, 2016 from 5pm – 7pm at Mission Health, Biltmore Park [First floor Community Room, 310 Long Shoals Rd, Arden, 28704]
[Wilmington] April 13, 2016 from 11:30 to 1:30p: Location to be finalized

In these workshops, we will be offering an issues-training around the following policy initiatives:

  • Healthy Corner Store Initiative
  • Closing the Coverage Gap
  • Tobacco use prevention and cessation programs
  • Issue in the pipeline: Active Transportation

We hope that you will save the date that works the best for you to join us in person, and be sure to watch your email over the next few weeks for reminders about these trainings. If you would like to join, please RSVP to Kim Chidester.

Also, we will be offering another opportunity to engage alongside us as we meet directly with your lawmakers!  Please mark your calendar to join us on May 10 as we prepare for our 2016 NC Lobby Day!

See you soon, North Carolina!

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We Are Making Things Happen in South Carolina!

We are excited to kick off 2016 in South Carolina!  This year, session is expected to be eventful and productive.  Please check out our legislative priorities below.  We hope you will join us as we continue our exciting and life-saving work in the Palmetto State!

CPR Training in Schools
Require Hands-Only CPR training as part of the already required health education class for high school students.  Right now, less than 11% of people suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, and training a new class of young citizens in CPR every year can change this frightening statistic. 

We’ll also be working to: 

  • Require schools to implement the beverage and snack guidelines in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Interim Final Rule Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in Schools.
  • Fully fund the Stroke Systems of Care Act of 2011 setting up a statewide stroke registry. Data analysis from the registry will ensure stroke patients receive the best available care for their condition.
  • Require Medicaid to cover cessation services for current tobacco users including both counseling and pharmacotherapy with no or minimal cost sharing.

Also, please be sure to watch your email for upcoming opportunities to join us in 2016!  Kim Chidester, your Grassroots Director, will be traveling across the state (from Columbia to Charleston!) to offer 3 in-person Advocacy Training Sessions.  As these dates and locations are set, we will be sure to let you know so you can mark your calendars.

Thanks for being by our side!  We couldn’t do this without you. You’re the Cure advocates work to support and advocate for public policies that will help improve the cardiovascular health of Americans and reduce deaths by coronary heart disease and stroke.   If our voice is loud enough this session, we can impact the lives of South Carolinians for many years to come! 

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Support Heart Healthy Policies in New Hampshire this New Year

January kicks off the 2016 legislative session in New Hampshire.  Hearings will begin soon on hundreds of bills including the American Heart Association’s policy priorities.  Each year the AHA presents a robust policy agenda for our lawmakers to support that will focus on building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke in our state.  As a You’re The Cure Advocate, please keep a watch on Action Alerts and updates you will receive in the coming weeks and months on policy issues to help make our communities healthier and safer, including:

  • Encouraging schools to ensure healthy nutrition environments by protecting our children from unhealthy food and beverage marketing on school property;
  • Putting thousands of trained lifesavers in NH communities every year by seeing that all students receive hands-on training in CPR prior to their graduation from high school;
  • Creating a Complete Streets policy for NH communities that provide safe and convenient roadways for all modes of transportation including bicyclists and pedestrians; and,
  • Protecting kids from Tobacco by raising the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21.

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Christi Nelson, Ohio

Christi Nelson Ohio

I was 29 years old and completely healthy. October 18, 2006, was just like any other day at Akron Children’s Hospital where I was completing my internship to be a Child Life Specialist.

I went out to a bridge that connects the hospital to a parking garage to make a phone call, and that is when my life changed. I collapsed and my heart stopped - I died on that bridge. Security caught my collapse on camera and called a code blue. I went five minutes before my first responder arrived and began administering CPR and AED shocks. Staff from the E.R. at Akron Children’s arrived at the scene and took over my treatment and after approximately 20 minutes of working on me, they decided to transport me to Akron General Medical Center.

I was without a heartbeat for 62 minutes and received 13 shocks with an AED before doctors at Akron General were able to revive my heart but I was not out of the woods yet. I was put in a hypothermic coma in an attempt preserve any possible remaining brain function and my family was given a less than 5 percent chance that I would ever wake from my coma. However, after almost a week, I did wake up. I spent a month recovering in the hospital where I had to relearn to how walk, talk, and eat. I received a defibrillator/pacemaker and underwent dialysis as I also experienced kidney failure. 

I have since been diagnosed with Primary Electrical System Disease which means I have a severe arrhythmia in my heart that tends to put me in Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib), which is the most serious type of cardiac rhythm disturbance. My defibrillator will save my life.  I have also received two heart ablations since my cardiac arrest. 

Seventeen months after my cardiac arrest I gave birth to an amazing little girl who is the light of my life and I thank God each and every day for my second chance at life and the chance to fulfill my dream of being a mom.

There is something important to note about my story. In the security footage, you can observe individuals who passed me on the bridge and left me laying there, not attempting to help me before my first responder came on the scene. Once she did arrive and started CPR, nobody attempted to help her either. It is evident that people do not always know what to do in an emergency situation; therefore, they do nothing. This is why passing CPR in Schools legislation in every state is so important. The more individuals we can train with bystander CPR, the more lives we can save. While I am a story of survival, there are too many stories that are not.  Let’s work together to make a difference.

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Investing in Good Health

Now that we have a full team in place to help lead the AHA's advocacy in Albany, we are full steam ahead!  This past week, Kristin, Martha and Robin met with key staff members from Governor Cuomo's office who are helping to craft his focus for the upcoming state budget.  With so many important initiatives to consider by the administration, the AHA is working hard to elevate the need to invest public dollars in areas where there is the best possible opportunity to improve New Yorkers' health.

As you no doubt have seen, our topmost priority this year is to reinstate New York's focus on healthy food retail.  In the past, the state's support has resulted in 20 new food markets, all built in neighborhoods that needed them the most.  Our work is not yet done - 32 of New York's 62 counties still have significant burdens regarding access to healthy foods.  To learn more about our proposed solution, and to send a message to Governor Cuomo and other state leaders, please visit the Action Center and make sure you respond to the posted alert!

Our meeting with the Governor's office also covered top priorities addressing chronic disease in the state budget such as diabetes prevention, controlling hypertension, and improving tobacco control.  A new request for the AHA this year is to ask for devoted funds to support schools who would like to implement a more robust CPR training program for students.  Making sure that the CPR in Schools law is fully implemented, and encouraging schools to go beyond the basic training, is something we can all get behind!

As the Governor's executive budget proposal is due in just a few weeks, please continue to respond to any action alerts you find in your inbox!  It's important that our state leaders hear from us often in order to keep our requests top of mind.  Stay tuned for updates as budget discussion continues!

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Minnesota You're the Cure Advocacy Summit - 2015

Last month we held the 2nd Annual You're the Cure Advocacy Summit in Minnesota for our insider advocates!

Our insiders started the day introducing themselves and painting their favorite fruit or vegetable.

 

 

 

The theme of the summit this year was "INSPIRED." Throughout the day advocates told us how they are inspired through the training and projects provided.

One of the new things brough to this year's summit was THE LEGISLATIVE GAMES, where advocates split into two teams and set up how the legislative process is run on game boards. At the end of the game, Annie threw in a wild card at them, one was what happens if your bill doesn't get signed by the Governor? Adovcates then had to show more ways that they reach the Governor and get them to sign, run a social media campaign, get petition cards signed, etc.

See more pictures from this year's summit HERE

Want to be a YTC Insider and be at next year’s summit? Start taking action at www.yourethecure.org and move up in ranks!

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