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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.

 

  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang: Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo: Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.
  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff: Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.
  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins: Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out a video highlighting our award winners below!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.


Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:

 

  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeMonth to learn more about how you can get involved.

 

 

 

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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).  allyson.perron@heart.org. 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 – allyson.perron@heart.org
    • 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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