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Good for Jobs, Good for Communities, Good for Health in the Commonwealth

Going to the grocery store is something most of us take for granted, but for millions of Americans who live in areas where it is difficult to buy fresh food, that trip is anything but easy. Access to fresh produce, dairy and other staples is very tough at best, and simply not an option for far too many. That results in higher rates of obesity and preventable health complications and diseases. We have a solution in the Commonwealth, funding the MA Food Trust Program.

The funding would increase access to nutritious and affordable food by establishing a flexible financing program to provide grants, loans and technical assistance to support the development, renovation, and expansion of retailers selling healthy foods in underserved communities. Lack of access to healthy, affordable foods in too many Massachusetts communities undermines the health and well-being of children and families across the commonwealth. Assistance is needed in our communities and across the state to tackle this problem. Providing direct funding to the MA Food Trust will play a major role in addressing the need for better access to healthy food, and will promote better public health and increased economic vitality.

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Together We Can End Stroke in Massachusetts

When someone has a stroke, time and type of care are the two most important factors to their survival and quality of life. A person experiencing a stroke needs to be sent to a hospital that is properly equipped to handle their particular type and severity of stroke. And the sooner, the better, as time literally equals brain. The American Stroke Association wants to make sure all Massachusetts residents will receive the highest quality of stroke care, from prevention, to treatment and rehabilitation. We can use your help to move this critical legislation quickly. Click here to send a message to your legislator in support of a coordinated, statewide system of stroke care.

There are three key components we are asking the State to pass into law in order to provide the best possible stroke care in Massachusetts.

1. Stroke center designation:
2. EMS protocols
3. State stroke registry

Your outreach to your legislators on this critical issue can help us promote efforts to create a coordinated statewide systems of care to improve the treatment of all stroke patients.  By supporting this critical legislation, your legislators have the opportunity to make sure that stroke patients are receiving the highest quality of care.





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Healthier Vending in the Commonwealth

On the one hand, states fund obesity and chronic disease prevention. On the other, they serve and sell soda, chips, candy, and other foods that promote obesity and disease. Food service guidelines help to address this contradiction. States across the country are realizing that serving and selling unhealthy food contradicts their obesity and chronic disease prevention efforts. States can walk-the-walk by ensuring healthier options are available to visitors, participants, those who work for the state. We have the solution the state can provide healthier options in vending machines! Legislation that would require healthier vending on state property is on the move! It is time to ensure access to healthier options and help to create more supportive food environments for government employees, visitors to public property, participants in government‐sponsored programs, and people in government institutional environments.

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Meaghan O'Brien, Massachusetts

Meaghan O’Brien is 25 years old young working professional with a full-time job, she is a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend, She is a world traveler,  a thrill-seeker and A STROKE SURVIVOR.

She  grew up in a small town on the South Shore with her parents and two younger brothers. Meaghan was always active and driven growing up, playing sports and staying at the top of her class. In 2012, she graduated from Bentley University and got her first “big girl” job that fall, full of hope and dreams for what the future would hold for here. She had the best friends and the best family, She felt on top of the world and then the unthinkable happened.

Just over three years ago on a Monday night in January, Meaghan  walked into the gym feeling completely normal. She sat down on a stationary bike in a small room and tried to mentally prepare myself for the hour-long cycling class. She had no idea what She would face and ultimately survive in the minutes to come.

The lights in the room were dimmed down, the music was turned on very loud, and the class began right on schedule. A few minutes into the workout, she sat back to take a sip of water. She put the water bottle back down and went to return to position, but there was a problem – she couldn’t move her left arm. Almost immediately she started to feel pins and needles throughout her whole body and thought that she was about to faint.  It was obvious that something wasn’t right and she knew she had to get out of that room and get help immediately. She managed to collect her belongings and start walking towards the front desk to get help from one of the employees, a close friend of hers. She started to get very dizzy and the hallway to the front desk seemed to be growing longer and longer; she never made it to the front desk and she quickly realized that she wasn’t going to faint, she was having a stroke.

She could feel the left side of her body slipping out of her control in what was a matter of seconds but felt like a slow-motion nightmare. All she could think about was a poster she had seen probably in doctor’s offices or at work for the warning signs of a stroke. That poster reads “FAST”: F for face drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty, T for time to call 911.  Even though she knew the signs of stroke, she never knew they could apply to someone her age. With a sense of disbelief she kept repeating the FAST acronym in her head, and the more she repeated it the more she realized that even the impossible was possible.

When the ambulance arrived she repeatedly said to the EMTs “I’m only 22 this isn’t supposed to happen to me.” They asked her what symptoms she was experiencing and she confidently said, “I’m having a stroke.” At first the EMTs and later the doctor at the emergency room thought it might be a migraine, because she didn’t fit the profile of someone at risk of stroke as a 22 year old, healthy and active female. She knew my body and she knew that she wasn’t having a migraine. She is so thankful that she was able to advocate for herself in order to convince the team she needed the proper medicine to stop the effects of the stroke and save her  life. Thankfully the medicine returned the blood flow and oxygen to her brain to keep her alive but too much damage was already done and the left side of her body was paralyzed.

She was transported by med-flight to Boston where she spent a week in the intensive care unit and her family was told she would likely be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life and never do anything normally again. She then spent a month in a rehabilitation hospital where she learned how to walk again, adapted to doing everyday tasks with one hand, and created her new normal life. The hospital stay validated her initial thought of “I’m only 22 this isn’t supposed to happen to me”, as she was the youngest stroke patient on the floor by at least 30 years. She worked tirelessly at an outpatient clinic for 9 months, her recovery will be a lifelong process and she is dedicated to giving it as much effort as she can because she is stronger than stroke. 

 

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Massachusetts State House Goes Red For Women

Over 100 legislators supported the American Heart Association Go Red for Women State House event on February 24th. Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. The event featured remarks by Senator Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Fox (D-Boston), co-chairs of the Caucus of Women Legislators, Speaker Pro-Temp Haddad (D-Somerset) and American Heart Association volunteer and stroke survivor, Meaghan O’Brien (Worcester).

 

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Springfield to Train Students in Life Saving CPR

All sophomores in Springfield High Schools will be trained with the lifesaving skills of CPR after a policy was passed successfully by the School Committee on Thursday February 4, 2016.  More than 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, and about 90 percent of those victims die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start CPR or are afraid they’ll do something wrong. CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

Springfield Public Schools is the largest school district in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be recognized as a CPR SMART School. CPR training will be provided as a part of the school’s Health Education curriculum, which all students take as part of their core graduation requirements. As the second largest school district in the Commonwealth, over 1900 students will receive hands-only CPR training, which conforms to the core teaching objectives for lay provider training as outlined in AHA Guidelines for CPR and will include:

  • Instruction and an opportunity to practice the psychomotor skills related to CPR (hands on compression practice)
  • Awareness of the purpose of an AED, its ease and safety of use, and location in the school.

The American Heart Association would like to recognize many key school officials, Michelle Heim, Director of Wellness and Development for the Springfield Public Schools and Dr. Kate Fenton, Curriculum Director for Springfield Public Schools. The American Heart Association would like to also recognize Susan Canning, advocate and founder of Kev’s Foundation and Rhonda Hall, a Springfield teacher and an American Heart Association advocate who were both was instrumental in bringing the concept of CPR training to the school leaders.

“Sudden cardiac arrest could happen at any time, anywhere and to anyone. It could happen in school,” remarked Rhonda. “We know that thanks to Springfield School’s commitment to teaching their students the lifesaving skill of CPR before they graduate, they will put thousands of qualified lifesavers in our community, year after year.”

Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick credited teacher Rhonda Hall, Chief Instructional Officer Dr. Kate Fenton, the School Committee and the American Heart Association for their work with this project. He said the initiative is one that holds positive implications for not only students but also the community.  “This is a wonderful opportunity and I am thrilled we are able to provide it to our students,” said Warwick. “You simply cannot put a price on the inherent value of arming students with potentially life-saving skills. It will enrich each one them and strengthen us as a community.”

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When it Comes to Tobacco, Age is More than a Number

On December 17th, Boston raised the minimum sales age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products (including e-cigarettes) in the city to 21, joining 86+ other local communities who have also raised the age to 21. In 2005 Needham was the first local community to take on this policy, the data collected showed results and helped other cities to pass their own policies. With Boston passing this initiative, nearly half of the state's population is protected by a raised minimum age. This is an opportunity for a statewide bill to pass.

Tobacco use persists as the number one cause of premature death and preventable chronic disease across the state and country. More than 9,000 Massachusetts residents die annually from tobacco-related disease. Most adult smokers (95%) start smoking before the age of 21. Without prevention policies, 103,000 Massachusetts kids alive today will die from smoking. Policies to reduce availability of tobacco products to youth have tremendous public health benefit and reduce nicotine addiction and tobacco use in adults over time.

A statewide bill would address the rate of youth smoking by redefining the legal age to purchase these products. Public health policies aimed at reducing tobacco use have had tremendous positive impact on the health of our residents over the past several decades. We look forward to working with you on this issue.

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A New Year in Massachusetts

As we start 2016, we have a busy legislative session ahead of us. We are making progress on many of our issues, quality physical education, stroke systems of care, healthy food financing, healthy vending, shared use, tobacco, and our local CPR in schools efforts. I look forward to working together with you to make sure that we see some of these pass the goal line this legislative session. I know you have advocated for many of these issues for many years and just like me you are ready for some success! I hope you are ready for a productive and busy 2016!

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Its Time for Our Kids to Get Physically Active!

We have an opportunity to increase accountability of schools to provide quality physical education. The Senate took action on a quality physical education bill which is a huge first step in ensuring that we are providing opportunities for our kids to be active, your advocacy helped them prioritize the issue but now we need your Representative to take action quickly in the New Year! This is a great first step in ensuring that we are requiring our schools to report what the opportunities our students are getting to be physical active. We know that we have a lot more work to do to ensure that our kids are getting the recommended levels of physical education but we are excited for this incremental step. With your help we can make significant progress towards our goal of daily physical education. We look forward to working together to make sure that our kids are getting quality physical education.

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Get Social With Your Members of Congress

Will you be on Facebook or Twitter today? Your Members of Congress and their staff will be, and it's a good place to reach them according to a report released in October by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).

The CMF report, #SocialCongress, says Congressional offices are listening to social media chatter and it takes relatively few posts or comments to get their attention. That's good news for us!

So, how can you use the Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline to get the attention of lawmakers and help pass heart healthy policies?

  • Follow your members of Congress, as well as state and local elected officials on Twitter. ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ their pages on Facebook.
  • Tweet about our health policy issues, tagging the appropriate legislators by using the @ sign and their Twitter handle. For example: I’m from Pennsylvania, so I’d tag my U.S. Senators by including @SenBobCasey & @SenToomey in my tweet.
  • If they allow it, you can post about our issues directly on the Facebook pages of elected officials. Frequently, that feature is disabled but you are able to comment on their posts. According to #SocialCongress, Congressional offices typically monitor those comments for a limited period of time. Your best bet is to comment within the first 24 hours after a post.
  • Rally your friends and family members to tweet, post or comment about an issue on a single ‘day of action’. CMF’s survey data shows just 30 or fewer comments can be enough to make a legislative office pay attention.
  • Be sure to use the campaign hashtag if one has been created by your advocacy staff partners. The #hashtag allows all the relevant posts to be woven together to tell our story, and makes your post searchable by others interested in the issue.    

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