On May 11 and 12, Dr. Carol Barnes of Brandon, joined nearly 400 You’re the Cure advocates from across the country who traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge their lawmakers to step up to the plate for heart health. Advocates included: survivors who shared their personal experiences dealing with cardiovascular disease and stroke, youth advocates uniquely able to convey the importance of strong school nutrition standards; and scientific volunteers, including those from the medical community, to make the case for increased funding to support more heart and stroke research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In addition, advocates sent more than 7,700 messages as part of “virtual” lobby day, delivering the association’s key advocacy messages through phone calls, emails and social media. Members of Congress were urged to protect the healthy school meals standards put in place by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and to increase investment in NIH research, following years of flat funding and cuts.
Prior to their in-person meetings on Capitol Hill, advocates received issue briefings and training to prepare them for their visits, and attended a luncheon recognizing outstanding scientific, volunteer, youth, and survivor advocates of the year.
After Dr. Barnes returned to Mississippi, we asked her a few questions about her once in a lifetime experience.
How long have you been a volunteer with the American Heart Association and in what capacity? Five years as a Volunteer Advocate
Why was this You’re the Cure on the Hill experience meaningful to you? As a college professor, I work closely with students on a daily basis and help them to realize the importance of preventive medicine and funding research in order to improve the quality of lives for families and individuals. Having the opportunity to advocate for policies and funding that will have a direct impact on our quality of life is very exciting to me, and if we all do our part, we can dramatically decrease the incidence of lifestyle disease in our society.
How did/does Lobby Day fit into your job and personal life. Also, which issue resonated with you more – strong school meal nutrition standards or increased NIH funding for heart disease and stroke – and why? Not only do I have an opportunity to influence my college students, but I believe very strongly in teaching our citizens how to practice healthy lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on their health for years to come. The legislators were very positive about both issues. I spoke with them about the nutrition standards, while Dr. Ryan, also from Mississippi, covered the need for the NIH funding.
What were your big take away items from your visit to D.C.?
- The advocacy trainings on Monday were very important to learn and discuss the statistics and why we need to advocate for these issues. This time was beneficial in helping us to understand how to cover the issues and what to say to the legislators.
- The Hero’s Luncheon on Monday that largely focused on school nutrition was enlightening. It focused on the impact of improved nutrition on the health and academic status of our students.
- Hill Visits on Tuesday were of course very important sessions that enabled us to talk with the legislators to hopefully urge continued efforts to improve the quality of lives of our citizens.
Were you inspired to advocate back home in Mississippi? Why is it important for others to get on board and join the advocacy efforts for heart health and stroke issues in our state? Advocacy is a very important method of reaching policymakers who have the power to impact the lives of our citizens by passing new legislation. Research is such an important piece of the puzzle and a means of providing new methods in technology, new medications, new forms of treatment, etc. that may wipe out lifestyle disease or treat the disease in early stages. If professionals in health-related occupations are not advocating for improved health, we will continue to see rising health-care cost, increase mortality rates, and a decrease in life-expectancy.
Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the American Heart Association? My family members, my friends, and my students who may be negatively impacted by these lifestyle diseases.
Dr. Carol Barnes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Mississippi College. We appreciate Dr. Barnes taking the time to represent Mississippi at our national You're the Cure Lobby Day on the Hill. To follow the American Heart Association's efforts nationwide, visit and LIKE us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yourethecure, as well as, on the state level at: https://www.facebook.com/yourethecureMS.