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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 the 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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Mississippi Secures Advocacy Win!

For the past several years, the American Heart Association has worked as part of the Mississippi Healthcare Alliance to develop STEMI and Stroke Systems of Care.

During the 2015 Mississippi Legislative Session, advocates helped secure an additional $250,000 dedicated to a STEMI System of Care, and an additional $250,000 to a Stroke System of Care. These new appropriations will be used to grow and strengthen the quality of care in Mississippi, including the development of a STEMI and Stroke Registry.

Dr. Harper Stone, GSA Board President and Chair of the Mississippi Healthcare Alliance, was a driving force in acquiring these appropriations.

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William 'Bill' Daly, Mississippi

Our 2014-15 Mississippi Advocacy Committee is composed of 10 individuals from across the state with different occupations, who have a great interest in advocating for policy change for heart health issues. Throughout the year, we will introduce you to some of our members. 

Today, we'd like you to meet Mr. Bill Daly, a longtime volunteer and seasoned advocate for nearly 40 years.

Where do you reside?  Grenada, MS

What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?  Exercise and diet.

One unique thing about you?  Love playing the drums.

Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer with the AHA?  The researchers that developed the procedures that allowed me to be 'fixed' as a teen that gave me the opportunity to look forward to old age.

My survivor story:

I live a blessed life because of the research done back in the earlier days of American Heart Association.  I was born with a heart murmur that continued to worsen as I grew.  My life expectancy was 35 because my heart was working so hard.  I had surgery when I was 15.  I am now 63, have 6 grandkids that I enjoy. Plus, I am perfectly healthy - jog, play drums in a jazz band and enjoy life.

Today, this condition is not a big deal.  As a matter of fact a heart surgeon once told me, "I can fix that on my lunch hour now."  But, in 1964 it was a big deal.  I am forever thankful to those who went before us and provided the research that led to the surgical techniques that have allowed me to live a normal life.
I have tried to pay it forward.

 

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From the Bottom of our Hearts - Thank You!

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) is right around the corner and we couldn’t let it pass without saying how much we appreciate all your contributions as a You’re the Cure advocate. It’s advocates like you who give their time, energy, and passion to help create healthier communities across the country.  We are deeply grateful for your commitment and talent as an advocate.

Since staff can’t always shake your hand and say thank you in person we’ve got a brief video to share. When you watch I am sure you too will be moved by all the great work happening in your states and communities and we look forward to more success in the future. Take a moment to check out the video and then encourage other to get involved and join in the fun.

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Ridgeland Participates in National Walking Day

Every year, the American Heart Association encourages communities across the nation to get up and walk; on the first Wednesday of April.  National Walking Day is the American Heart Association’s national initiative that champions walking to increase physical activity and help the community move away from a sedentary lifestyle.  With adults spending more time at work than ever before and those jobs requiring less and less physical activity, as a nation we are becoming more physically inactive.  Physical inactivity doubles the risk of heart disease which is the number one killer of all Americans.

Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee recently proclaimed the first Wednesday in April as National Walking Day in Ridgeland and urged citizens to participate. 
  
“Studies indicate that one of the best investments we can make in our communities is to increase access to physical activity opportunities by providing families and children with safe places to walk and be physically active, said McGee in the proclamation.  “This can improve heart health and reduce obesity rates.”

The goal is for local businesses to support their employees’ health by encouraging them to step away from their desks and spend some time being active.  Some of the ways the American Heart Association suggests getting active on National Walking Day include bringing sneakers to work and taking 30 minutes at lunch to walk outside, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and taking walking meetings rather than brainstorming around a table. 

There was also a National Walking Day event held at the State Capitol, where legislators, capitol staff, and volunteers were invited to participate in walking around the Capitol Building to bring awareness to the benefits of daily walking habits. 

Way to go, Ridgeland!  We hope to include more communities in Mississippi next year in this wonderful day of walking toward a healthier state.

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Help secure funding for this life-saving AED program today!

This is a critical time in Congress. Lawmakers are deciding on their funding priorities and the next round of budget negotiations are beginning. Even in this difficult economy, there are several federally-funded programs that are vital to the heart community, and we need to let our lawmakers know they must be a priority.

One such program helps buy and place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural communities. The program also trains first responders and others in the community to use and operate these devices. The Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program ensures those who live in rural areas or small towns have access to the tools they need for the best chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, the program currently only has the resources to operate in 12 states.

Please contact your lawmaker today and ask them to prioritize funding to save lives from cardiac arrest!

People in every state should be given the best shot at surviving a cardiac arrest. Communities with aggressive AED placements have increased survival rates from about 11% to nearly 40%, which is an incredible improvement. But 38 states are still waiting for funds for this life-saving program.

Deadlines in Congress are looming, so please contact your elected officials TODAY!

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My Little Box: A Peek Into Limited Food Access

Living in my box.

I am like many in Mississippi, I go to work, take care of my children and try to accomplish the most I can each day.  I live in my own little box, living my life and getting through each day, not really thinking about how others are doing the same but under much different circumstances and surroundings. 

I have two daughters and one son, Jessica, Courtney and Garrett.  Courtney, like Jessica, played soccer and loved it!  We traveled all across the state playing soccer. 

When it came time to look into college opportunities, Courtney wanted to look at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.  We made an appointment and went for a visit.  We drove up Highway 49, a trip we were quite accustom to making on our many soccer adventures.  The change came when we turned onto Highway 49 West. 

I made it a habit when I traveled with my kids to keep an eye out for stops, in case we needed snacks, drinks or a bathroom break.  That is what made this trip different, there was nothing for miles and miles and I mean NOTHING.  In my little box, my coastal hometown, there is a convenient store on every corner.  That is not the case in the Mississippi Delta.  Until I saw with my own eyes and experienced it, I did not have an appreciation for this convenient access and option to accommodate various food needs for myself and my family.

I remember thinking, "I wonder where they go to get groceries?  They must have to thoroughly plan out a day trip to the grocery store, literally there and back; if you have a mode of transportation."  This is another thing that I know I take for granted because my car is always in my driveway.  I do not think twice about jumping in my vehicle and running to the store because I have that option. 

It is quite easy to go back to my little box and not think about those that have to go on a road trip to get to a store; if they are lucky enough to have a car.  However, people in our state should not have to do that, there are solutions and options that the American Heart Association is currently working on during this 2015 legislative session.  There are ways that we can help those in areas where healthy food is hard to access.  

Legislation introduced by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, could help entice grocers to move into neighborhoods and communities that are underserved and impoverished.  Senate Bill 2840 would provide tax breaks to grocery stores in economically distressed areas in an attempt to retain existing supermarkets, as well as attract new ones. 

Click here to read more about this proposed legislation on ClarionLedger.com.

--Article written by American Heart Association, Mississippi State Advocacy Committee Chair, Kerry Caldarelli, Long Beach

 

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Toni Wild, Mississippi

Toni Wild is a survivor.  Not just because she fought two life-threatening diseases and lived to tell the tale, but because she did it with a smile and everlasting hope, even when she lost her first love.

Though the events that occurred seem like more trials than one could endure in a lifetime, Toni doesn’t see it that way.  “I’m just an ordinary person with an extraordinary story,” she says.

 At only 29, Toni was diagnosed with cancer.  The news turned her world momentarily upside down, but she dove into treatment ready to fight back.  Little did she know, surviving chemotherapy was only the first of many battles.

Click here to read more of Toni's amazing story of perseverance on GoRedforWomen.org.

Click the video image to watch Toni's Heart Story.

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The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 Livestream

Join us for this exclusive virtual event where top designers and celebrities demonstrate their support for women's heart health during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Heart disease is not just a man's disease. Each year, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke. We can change that--80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Help break barriers against heart disease and stroke by joining us for the Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2015 live online at GoRedForWomen.org/RedDressCollection on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. Eastern. See you there!

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