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AEDs in Schools is on the Move

Thanks to a small but mighty group of advocates, a bill requiring all public schools to have AEDs has passed the Senate. We are working with the House to quickly take it up by this fall.

A group of dedicated volunteers have shared their heartbreaking stories of losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest and it has truly made a difference. Families from across the State have come to the State House to knock on doors, have meetings, talk to the press and share their stories with countless legislators to help put a face to this lifesaving piece of legislation.

This bill has been around for over 15 years and I truly believe that thanks to our advocates this is its year! If you have not already joined the efforts and reached out to your State Representative their is still time, email me at Allyson.perron@heart.org and I will give you all the details.

With all of us together we can work to turn the tragic loss of children into a triumph to save hundreds more.  

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MA Legislature Ends Session with Some Success

The Massachusetts Legislature finished their formal session at midnight on July 31st before taking a break. We were happy that $6 million was allocated for the MA Food Trust Program, providing necessary funding for our healthy food financing initiatives in the Economic Development Bond Bill. We will  be working with the Governor to make sure that he quickly appropriates the money so that much needed funding is accessible throughout the Commonwealth.

We did not see success on a few of our key issues and will have to start again in the new session in January, raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and creating  stroke system of care. We believe that thanks to a lot of momentum and hard work by our advocates we feel like they are in a good place to start the new year.

We still have a few things that we are hopeful will get across the finish line, requiring AEDs in Schools, Healthy Vending options and Quality Physical Education data collection. We look forward to continuing to work on these critical issues.

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Mock Vending is Causing a Buzz!

We have been working on a healthy vending bill to requiring State Buildings to have healthier options in their vending machines. We put on display “mock vending machines” and it created a buzz. I have included the State House News Article below

Examining the contents of a mock vending machine displayed in his office last week, Rep. Stephen Kulik found a surprise. "Whole-grain Goldfish -- I didn't even know those existed," Kulik said, peering at a banner depicting a life-size vending machine stocked with snacks like crackers, pumpkin seeds, seltzer and hummus

The banners are traveling through the State House, making stops in or outside lawmakers' offices in an attempt to drum up awareness and support for a bill that would require any food or drinks sold in vending machines on state property "be limited to food and beverage items that comply with the nutritional standards" to be set by the Department of Public Health commissioner.

Backed by the American Heart Association, the bill (H 3988) was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in May after earning an endorsement from the Health Care Financing Committee. The bill is a Public Health Committee redraft of legislation originally filed by Kulik (H 2005) in January 2015.  "This is a bill that I have cosponsored for I think two sessions, and the support has been growing as people are more interested in healthy foods," Kulik said.

The bill lays out three different sets of nutrition and food procurement standards that the state regulations would have to meet or exceed, ranging from a requirement that all food options be healthy to 30 percent healthy on the low end. The American Heart Association advocates for the middle set of standards, which calls for 50 percent healthy contents.

Outside Rep. Louis Kafka's first-floor office earlier this week, the banners -- which display the words, "Food for thought...Wish you could grab a healthy snack? Support Healthy Vending" -- were within the line of sight of two actual vending machines stocked with soda, potato chips and candy bars.

Kulik said his current go-to snack at the State House vending machines is one that wouldn't earn a designation of health food: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Gesturing at the snacks displayed on the healthy vending banner, he said he thinks that choice could change with other options available.

"You know, if there was some dried fruit for example, that would be a great opportunity," the Worthington Democrat said. "I see some granola bars and things in here that I would reach for, some packages of nuts. It would be great. I would be happy to buy those."

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AED Advocates Stormed the State House

A group of dedicated advocates came to the State House to lobby for a bill that would require automated external defibrillators in Schools. The advocates are so passionate because they unfortunately lost a child because when they suffered sudden cardiac arrest a defibrillator was not available. You could not have asked for better advocates to storm the State House and share the message.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart’s electrical system abruptly malfunctions and the heart suddenly stops beating normally. SCA is often confused with a heart attack, which typically happens when blocked arteries prevent blood from reaching the heart’s muscles. There is hope for SCA victims, but time is the enemy. To survive SCA, they must receive immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to increase the blood flow to the heart and brain, along with an electrical shock from a defibrillator to stop the abnormal heart rhythm. For every minute without life-saving CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10%. Only an estimated 8% of victims who suffer a SCA outside of a hospital setting survive.

The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a simple-to-use device about the size of a laptop computer that is used to shock the heart of a person suffering a SCA to return the heart to a normal rhythm. Treatment of SCA is a race against the clock. The combination of early, immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double a victim’s chance of survival.

 

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Advocacy Victories in the Commonwealth

We are excited that with the end of our fiscal year that we have a lot of advocacy wins to celebrate. This was a true team effort that could not be achieved without your support of our work, taking action on alerts, being part of lobby day, and you, our dedicated volunteers being tireless advocates throughout the year. 

  • We were successful in leading a campaign to secure a $500,000 appropriation for Stroke Education and awareness; including a specific earmark of $200,000 to support the state Stroke registry.  The $200,000 earmark met the Goal Guidance criteria for Stroke Registry funding.  Not only were we successful in having the appropriation included in the legislature’s budget but we also successfully led a veto override campaign. This happened in July 2015. Just yesterday we were able to secure an additional $620,00 for stroke funding in the final budget that is on its way to the Governor’s desk so we are excited that the momentum of the original funding continues!
     
  • In the early winter Boston joined almost 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts to set the minimum age at 21 and with Boston joining the movement more than ½ of the population live in cities and towns where 21 is the minimum age.  In May we were able to add to the local 21 push when the cities and Towns of Brockton, Carver, Chelsea, Essex , Falmouth, Gloucester, Hadley, Halifax, Marblehead, Norfolk, North Adams, North Attleboro, Plainville, Shelburne, Southampton, Sunderland and Tewksbury cumulatively representing 324,199 residents were confirmed to have passed T-21 policy. In June the Cities/Towns of Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoughton and Worcester passed T-21 legislation adding an additional 317,365 Massachusetts residents living in communities that now have a minimum legal age of 21 to purchase Tobacco products.  These additions mean that 121 of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have T-21 laws. We are confident that this momentum will help us pass the Statewide Tobacco 21 bill by July 31st!
     
  • For a number of years we have been working on Complete Streets to secure necessary funding and policy language so that we can create healthier communities for all of our residents. I am excited to say that the Massachusetts state Transportation Improvement plan will be dedicating a total of $110 million dollars over the next 5 years to programs and projects to improve access to safe bicycle and pedestrian programs that will help people who walk, bike, run and roll do so more safely.  This campaign involved not only working to appropriate the funds but also to influence the Capital Improvement Plan to ensure that all modes of transportation are considered in road improvement design.
     
  • Lastly we were able to secure a win for our local CPR in Schools efforts. Unlike most other states, nearly all curriculum decisions are decided at the local level which means that we have to work with local school Superintendents and School Committees to implement CPR Graduation requirements in school districts across the State.  This particular win reflects the passage of policies in the Worcester, Springfield and the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional school districts.  These three school districts represent an additional 3,169 High School Graduating Seniors who will learn the fundamentals of CPR before they graduate.  In all, we have worked with 2 additional districts that require some form of CPR training before students graduate with an overall total of 5,317 students trained each year.  We have also identified an additional 26 school districts with over 12,000 annual graduates to focus on in FY 16-17. This is a particularly satisfying win because it took a true team effort to get this down, and without our volunteer’s dedication and outreach we would not be making the progress that we are!

 Lastly as some of you know our legislative session is not over yet, we have until July 31st at midnight to get a few more policies passed. We are working towards:

  1. Statewide Tobacco 21
  2. Healthy Vending in State Buildings
  3. $6 million for Healthy Food Financing
  4. A Comprehensive Stroke System of Care
  5. Quality Physical Education
  6. AEDs in all Public Schools

 

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LeanBox: Making Heart-Healthy Food Available in the Workplace

The following blog post was submitted by LeanBox, a company providing a collection of services that improve workplaces through food and beverage culture. LeanBox has been a partner in our advocacy efforts to pass the “healthy vending” bill, which would require healthy options to be added to vending machines on state-owned property.

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We believe everyone should have access to nutrition-dense meals at work. Not as just something that’s nice to have, but as a fundamental part of the workplace. At the minimum, you work to provide for yourself and to care for your wellbeing. Not the other way around.

There’s a direct link between what we feed our bodies and our output. Athletes don’t feed themselves junk food because they need to perform at their best. The workplace isn’t any different. For instance, consuming fruit is directly linked to increased levels of dopamine.  And dopamine directly impacts our levels of productivity--it’s the neurotransmitter responsible for spurts of creativity and motivation. By golly, it should be raining fruit everywhere!

The thing is, junk food (stuff high in refined sugars, Trans fat, saturated fat, and salt) is an easy grab--even at work. And the evidence is out in the open. Just walk through a typical workplace break room and scan the space. No signs of yogurt, fruit, or nutrition-dense meals. So LeanBox set out to change that.

Eating heart-healthy food must costly, right? The goal at LeanBox is to make fresh, heart-healthy, grab and go food accessible within steps of your desk.  Whether it’s yogurt, fruit, a vegetable juice, or kale salad, LeanBox follows the American Heart Association’s guidelines on healthy food in the workplace.

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The American Heart Association is working with many partners on the Statewide Healthy Vending Bill, we are fortunate to have LeanBox and other healthy vending companies providing options in the Commonwealth.

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MA Budget Success

Last week when the Senate took up their budget we had some success and some losses. We did not get any additional funding for MA Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. We also did not secure funding for CPR in Schools Grants or the AED Trust Fund which is disappointing but we will continue to work to secure this critical funding. 

We did secure language around funding for Mass in Motion and were able to work (really) hard to get $100,000 for the MA Food Trust to help run the program. We were told early on that it was a hard no, but thanks to our many partners and grassroots efforts we turned the no into a yes of partial funding. Lastly we were able to increase the Stroke Line item from $400,000 to $620,000 and secure the language that creates a stroke system of care, ensuring that we have two vehicles for this critical policy.

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MA Heart on the Hill

We had a successful Heart on the Hill Event on May 23rd with other 30 advocates having over 40 legislative meetings! Our volunteers advocated for healthy eating and active living policies and were given positive feedback and support of the issues.

We are very pleased to report that the Senate adopted a budget amendment to direct $100,000 for the operating costs of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program!   An incredible amount of momentum from our partners and champions and you our advocates who your legislators heard from on Monday that this was important. We had a total of 20 Senators – a full half of the Senate – co-sponsored the amendment. The budget will now go to a 6 member conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. Since no money was included for the Food Trust on the House side, we have a lot of work to do to ensure it is included in the final budget. We will be in touch soon about next steps on the budget.

Also on the legislative front, the Economic Development Committee is continuing to work on an economic development bond bill. We have requested an authorization of $10 million over 5 years in this bill. We expect the bill will be released from committee in the first two weeks of June. We have heard positive feedback from the committee chairs and we are cautiously optimistic about the funding authorization being included.

We also had a lot of success on our healthy vending bill, we received a lot of press around the bill and initiative and it started a lot of buzz in the Building, which is great. It finally moved to House Ways and Means on Tuesday so that was because so many of you were talking about it, it helped move it out. We also feel good that the Chairman of that Committee has shown some initial support.

I am excited that thanks to your advocacy this could be our year!  I wanted to take a moment to celebrate and reflect upon all of the immense support we have gained and the success we have in a few short days, truly showing the power of grassroots! Let’s use this momentum to get us over the finish line!

 

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One Step Closer to Protecting Our Youth from Big Tobacco!

We’re almost half way there! Last week the Senate passed legislation to protect kids from the dangers of tobacco! This critical legislation would strengthen our tobacco laws and once again make Massachusetts a nationwide leader in tobacco prevention and control.  The bill, if passed, will:

- Increase the statewide age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21, including electronic cigarettes

- Include e-cigarettes in the smoke-free workplace law

- Prohibit the sale of tobacco products from any location which provides health care services, such as pharmacies

- Require child-resistant packaging for e-cigarettes

99% of all adult smokers report that they started smoking before the age of 25. Because most tobacco use starts in the high school years, 80% of youth smokers will become adult smokers and one-half of adult smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Most teens who smoke and use tobacco report getting cigarettes and other products from their friends. We can help stop our kids from being exposed to tobacco by increasing the sales age from 18 to 21, which will limit high school and middle school youths’ access to addictive products from older teens. This bill has an opportunity to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth, which will improve health, save lives, and reduce health care costs. 

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Will You Raise Your Voice to Help Prevent Obesity in Massachusetts?

Join us for our Heart on the Hill on May 23rd from 11-2 and use your voice to advocate for our key priorities because we believe our residents deserve healthy food and safe places to play.  

  • Advocate for healthy food and beverage options in vending machines in all State Buildings.
  • Advocate for critical public funding to create the Massachusetts Food Trust, a Healthy Food Financing initiative, to increase the number of healthy food retail outlets (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, mobile markets) in underserved communities
  • Advocate for increased accountability reporting of schools to provide quality physical education in our schools
  • Advocate for funding so that road construction and reconstruction create complete streets that are safe and convenient for all users and all modes of transportation
  • Advocate for appropriations for state level reporting and implementation of shared use programs as well as incentives to schools to promote shared use

 We will provide an advocacy training that day and you will have scheduled visits with your Representative and Senator (or their staff) to talk about our legislative priorities.

 Please register today at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HZFWGGJ.  If you have any questions please contact Allyson Perron at allyson.perron@heart.org or (781) 373-4522 .

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