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Healthy Food, Local Jobs, Strong Communities

The American Heart and American Stroke Association was excited to partner with MA Public Health Association as part of the Voices for Healthy Kids Healthy Food Financing Campaign for the “Healthy Food, Local Jobs, Strong Communities” which took place on Tuesday March 31st. The briefing helped provide some education on how our state could benefit from the successful implementation of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, which was established by the legislature as part of the 2014 Environmental Bond Bill. The briefing featured leaders from across the country who have established similar successful programs and have benefitted from these program, including Sajan Philip of the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund and Dwayne Boudreax of Circle Food Store in New Orleans.


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Kick Butts Day

The 84 Movement took to the State House on March 18th as a part of the 20th annual Kick Butts Day. This national day of youth activism mobilized the highest number of Massachusetts youth groups in The 84 Movement’s history.

The day began with an opening session in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House, where youth rallied together and generated excitement about the day ahead. Geared up and ready to go, the youth marched across the Boston Common with bright signs and loud voices chanting “We are The 84, Big Tobacco out the door!” and “Youth youth youth, shout out the truth!”. They sent the message to Boston passersby know that they were headed back into the Massachusetts State House to tell their legislators that Big Tobacco targets youth.

The messages Chapters delivered to their legislators centered around tobacco industry’s marketing tactics: making their products cheap, sweet, and easy to get. Youth explained that the FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes and a significant portion of the state lacks regulations to create a minimum purchase age for e-cigarettes. They also educated their legislators as to the lack of regulation around e-cigarettes in the workplace, wide-ranging flavors of e-cigarettes, and the sale of cigars and cigarillos for under a dollar. Statewide Leaders shared personal stories, legislators shared powerful testimony and commitment to the issue, and we all walked away with a sense of excitement and purpose.

This year’s Kick Butts Day was rich with unparalleled energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for fighting the tobacco industry and for educating MA legislators on their role in that fight. Numerous legislators and public health leaders spoke of their personal connections to this issue and publicly recognized the tremendous work of The 84’s youth. Also present to acknowledge The 84’s accomplishments and hard work was CVS, who removed all tobacco products from their shelves last year in hopes of holding true to their mission of being a wellness retailer.

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New Legislative Leadership in Massachusetts

We have new Committee Chairs named and now hundreds of bills can be assigned to their committees. We will have a lot of our issues in Public Health, Education, Health Care Finance and Judiciary Committee. If you have any personal relationships with these newly named chairs, please let us know. Your voice and relationship can help us move our priorities forward!

Public Health Committee

Jason M. Lewis

Senate Chair

Jennifer L. Flanagan

Senate Vice Chair

Kate Hogan

House Chair

Ruth B. Balser

House Vice Chair


Education Committee

Sonia Chang-Diaz

Senate Chair

Patricia D. Jehlen

Senate Vice Chair

Alice Hanlon Peisch

House Chair

Danielle W. Gregoire

House Vice Chair


Health Care Financing Committee

James T. Welch

Senate Chair

Mark C. Montigny

Senate Vice Chair

Jeffrey Sánchez

House Chair

Lori A. Ehrlich

House Vice Chair


Judiciary Committee

William N. Brownsberger

Senate Chair

John F. Keenan

Senate Vice Chair

John V. Fernandes

House Chair

Claire D. Cronin

House Vice Chair


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Be a CPR SMART champion! Be Heroic in the Commonwealth!

Help build the next generation of lifesavers through working with your local high school to include CPR training into a currently required course that reaches all students. You can help by signing up with AHA as a champion for working with an area school(s). Others champions may want to work with you.  Allyson Perron will help coordinate our champion teams.

To be a champion you just need to:

  • Reach out to school administration leadership or a local school board member.  Note that you are an AHA CPR SMART champion and would like to work with them to have the school achieve recognition as a CPR SMART school.
  • Work with the school to determine:
    • Have they already included CPR in a course required for graduation (non-elective course)
    • If they are not already training their students, would they consider passing a policy to require hands-only CPR as a graduation requirement
    • To decide a CPR training structure that best meets their needs, schools are encouraged to work with local ambulance, fire, hospitals, CPR training sites or Regional Education Associations for a solution that works best.  AHA staff available to assist with questions –
    • Working with your school contact, ask the school to pursue CPR SMART recognition through board discussion and recognition of the inclusion of the training in an established course that will reach every student moving forward – such as freshman PE or other required course/grade level.
    • Support school submission for recognition as a CPR SMART school

 Your work could be the difference for someone in need of by-stander CPR and in building our next generation of lifesavers in your community!

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Rhonda Hall, Massachusetts

Eight years ago, Rhonda Hall was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and soon after that, she was diagnosed with diabetes. In just one day, she became a four shot-a-day diabetic and had high cholesterol and hypertension as well. Rhonda explained that it was an extremely tough time, but despite the challenges she eventually started working out every day and joined an organization to help her get her eating habits back on the right track. Rhonda has now lost 100 pounds over the past year and because of her lifestyle change, she is no longer an insulin-dependent or medicine-dependent diabetic. She has cut her hypertension and high cholesterol medicine in half and is doing everything that she can to let people know that they can do it too. “Many people in my family are diabetic and when we talk about our family history, we think that that’s the end of the story, and it doesn’t have to be,” explained Hall. "I don’t care what my history says, because my history says I should still be on 4 shots a day, but my determination says no more.” Rhonda was named a 2014-2015 National Go Red Real Woman. Rhonda continues to share her story and helps let all women know that through simple changes, everybody has an opportunity to get healthy.

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Jessica Diaz, Massachusetts

Jessica Diaz is a slim 5’5” fitness instructor who appears to be the poster child of healthy. She is a young, active mom of two who teaches multiple Barre classes at yoga and sports clubs throughout Boston. She devotes hours every day to taking care of her health while helping others take care of theirs through high-energy cardio, strengthening and stretching.

Thankfully, Jessica’s devotion to health and fitness means she knows her body well – and she listens to it. In June 2013, Jessica had just finished up a Barre class and noticed her arm go weak while in the shower. It was followed by a shooting pain across her face and down the whole left side of her body. Concerned, she got out of the shower to tell her husband. Knowing how healthy his wife was, he dismissed the symptoms and suggested she take a nap to see if they would go away. But Jessica’s left leg then became very heavy and numb and she was overcome with a severe headache. Knowing something was off, she called her primary care doctor who advised her to go immediately to the ER.

Although physicians at the ER initially thought Jessica’s symptoms could be as simple as dehydration, they decided to be safe and ordered a CT scan which revealed Jessica had suffered a minor stroke. She was admitted to the neurology unit at Mass General Hospital where physicians would run more tests and determine whether or not she would need rehab to help retrain her left leg again.

Fortunately for Jessica, she woke up the next day with feeling in her left leg and few other symptoms than a little grogginess and fatigue. While she had no previously known medical issues, doctors discovered what they believed caused Jessica’s stroke as a PFO, or patent foramen ovale, a small hole in heart that had been undetected all her life and a blood condition called Factor 5 Ledion, making her more prone to clotting.  Jessica’s team of physicians, have recommended she undergo surgery to close the hole in heart, which she will proceed with this spring and she is taking an aspirin a day to regulate blood clotting.

While Jessica’s experience was considered to be a minor stroke, she knows her decision to get help that day played a major role in possibly saving her life. “Had I ignored my symptoms or tried to sleep them off with a nap, I may have never gone to the hospital,” said Jessica. “I may have never discovered that I suffered a minor stroke that day or that I was at risk of possibly suffering a more serious stroke due to a preexisting heart and blood condition. I know that listening to my body helped save my life.” 

Jessica explained that while she initially kept her experience to herself, she soon realized how important it was to share her story to let others to know that heart disease and stroke can happen to anyone, even young, otherwise healthy individuals. She stressed how important it is not only for people to recognize the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke but also to do something about it.

"If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” said Jessica. “Listen to your body, no matter how minor the symptoms may feel, speak up and get help. It could save your life.”


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Massachusetts Legislators Go Red

The Caucus of Women Legislators supported the 12th Annual Go Red for Women on February 4th at the Massachusetts State House. The event featured remarks by Senator and Representative, co-chairs of the Caucus of Women Legislators, Senator Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Fox (D-Boston), Speaker DeLeo (D-Winthrop), Senate Majority Leader Chandler (D-Worcester) and American Heart Association volunteer and stroke survivor, Jessica Diaz (Charlestown).


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Making the Commonwealth Heart Healthy and Stroke Free in 2015!

We have a number of legislative priorities this year that will help us work towards building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.  We are excited about the number of opportunities we have and we appreciate your ongoing support to outreach to your elected officials. Here are what we will be working on over the next two years!

  • Support policy that would develop a Coordinated Stroke System of Care to improve the treatment of the stroke patient SD#785 and HD#1029 sponsored by Senator Montigny and Representative Cusack.
  • Support policy that require 150 minutes per week in elementary school and 225 minutes per week of physical education in middle school SD#332 sponsored by Senator McGee.
  • Support Policy that would provide healthy vending options in all state and municipal owned buildings HD#2021 sponsored by Representative Kulik.
  • Support policy that clarifies liability rules for the use of school owned recreational facilities for the purpose of physical activity HD#677 sponsored by Representative Michlewitz. 
  • Support policy that that would development and implement a reimbursable telemedicine program SD#803 sponsored by Senator Montigny.
  • Support policy that would require all public schools to have AED’s SD#841 sponsored by Senator Montigny.
  • Support policy that addresses e-cigarettes by modernizing tobacco control and protecting the health of minors HD#2015 and SD#1200 sponsored by Representative Sanchez and Senator Chandler
  • Support policy that would keep people healthy by removing barrier to cost-effect care HD#1690 sponsored by Representative Farley-Bouvier. 
  • Support policy that require expansion of comprehensive cessation coverage HD#272 and SD#1460 sponsored by Representative Linskey and Senator Donoghue
  • Support policy that would fund state tobacco cessation and prevention programs HD#913 sponsored by Representative Gregoire.

 We look forward to working with you this year on these important lifesaving issues.





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Meet the New Surgeon General

Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December to serve as the next surgeon general of the United States. The surgeon general is America’s top public health official, and his responsibilities range from managing disease to promoting prevention and a healthy start for our kids.

At 37, Vivek Murthy is the youngest person and the first Indian-American to hold the post of Surgeon General.

Since this position was created in 1871, just 18 people have held the job. Dr. Murthy, the 19th, replaces an Acting Surgeon General who has filled the role since 2013. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation was delayed for nearly a year due to political issues, but in that time he received the endorsement of more than 100 public health groups, including the American Heart Association.

Dr. Murthy has both business and medical degrees from his studies at Harvard and Yale. He completed his residency at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he most recently served as an attending physician. He has created and led organizations to support comprehensive healthcare reform, to improve clinical trials so new drugs can be made available more quickly and safely, and to combat HIV/AIDS.

His resume is remarkable, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Murthy to improve the health of all Americans.

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A Healthier Commonwealth for 2015!

Happy 2015, we are already hitting the ground running to help build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke in 2015.  

We are working to support a policy that would require specific minutes per week of physical education in elementary and middle school; to require that we serve healthy options in state owned buildings; to secure public funding to expand our MA Food Trust initiative helping to increase the amount of healthy food being offered in low and moderate income communities; and to clarify liability rules for the use of school owned recreational facilities for the purpose of physical activity. We are also continuing our work to secure Statewide Funding for local School districts to implement CPR as a Graduation Policy and to develop a Coordinated Stroke System of Care to improve the treatment of the stroke patient.

I look forward to working together this year to continue to engage your elected officials on these critical lifesaving policies.

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