American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
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 below highlighting the award winners!

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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 to learn more about how you can get involved.




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Take Action on Important Issue Alerts

We have reached the point in our legislative session when important decisions are being made regarding Appropriations.  Several issues that, if passed, can help to improve the cardiovascular health of Nebraskans are being discussed by the Appropriations Committee.  Take a couple of minutes today to message legislators on these important issues. 

Please contact state senators on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support a $200,000 appropriation to be used for training Nebraska high school students in CPR.  Thousands of our students could be trained in this life-saving training with this appropriation. By training high school students in CPR, we have an opportunity to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend and complete stranger is trained in CPR and is prepared to save lives.  Three to five minutes is a matter of life and death for sudden cardiac arrest victims.  Bystanders must act quickly to save a life.  CPR training can teach them what to do.

Second, please ask your state senator to support a one-time appropriation of $300,000 to Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to be used for 12-Leads to help close the gap in pre-hospital treatment of STEMI. Our rescue services cannot diagnose a STEMI if they do not have the 12-Lead equipment.  In order to develop the best STEMI heart attack care system we can possibly have, it must include ambulances being equipped with 12-Lead ECGs.   

Finally, please take a moment to send a message to members of the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support Legislative Bill 98 which would fund tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.  Tobacco use takes a tremendous toll on our state and in the U.S.  Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined — and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes — such as fires caused by smoking (more than 1,000 deaths/year nationwide) and smokeless tobacco use.

Take action on these important Action Alerts today, and together we can help to improve the cardiovascular health of all Nebraskans!

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Advocates to Gather at Nation's Capitol

American Heart Association You're the Cure advocates will travel to Washington DC in May to attend 2 days of advocacy training, legislative briefings and then a walk to Capitol Hill to talk to our lawmakers about issues important for heart and stroke health.  As in the past, we have a strong delegation of advocates attending this biennial event. 

The two issues advocates will talk to lawmakers about include increased funding for NIH research, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.  Both issues can have a tremendous effect on our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Regarding the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, since 2010 when President Obama signed the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act, the USDA has updated national nutrition standards for school meals and established nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of school-age children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We know that a healthy school environment helps improve children's physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance.  However, there have been challenges to implementation of the program and that's not unexpected.  Kids are adjusting to the new meals and appropriate portion sizes, and parents are happier that their children are not receiving junk food for a meal.  While there has been some criticism about participation declining, this downward trend started in 2007, well before the school meal standards went into effect in 2012.  We anticipate that participation will likely improve over time as students and school food service fully adapt to healthier meals. 

This is not the time to roll back the progress we've made toward healthier school lunches.  We hope lawmakers will work to continue the progress we've made and take the next step toward reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.

Regarding NIH funding, the American Heart Association joins with the medical research community in working to protect, preserve and restore funding for the NIH.  Moreover, we are working to support and promote funding for NIH heart and stroke research.  This will capitalize on the investment in NIH to improve Americans' health, spur economic growth and innovation, and preserve U.S. leadership in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. 

We are excited to join with other advocates from across the nation to share our concerns and ideas with our federal lawmakers and to encourage them to consider cardiovascular health when making important legislative decisions. 

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Advocate Spotlight: Laura Sypal

As a mother of three small children, I consider it my job and privilege to help them grow up healthy and strong. I feel that one of the best and easiest ways I do this is by feeding them nutritious food and living an active lifestyle as a family. I am a firm believer that food can be either our best medicine or our most frequent and accessible form of poison, and therefore I am passionate about preparing and consuming nourishing food and keeping up on the latest nutrition research (much of which is funded by the AHA)! I can often be found in my kitchen, washing and cutting fruits and veggies for snacks or experimenting with recipes to make them healthier, whether it's sneaking quinoa and carrots into my family's meatloaf or subbing applesauce, honey and whole grains for some of the fat, refined sugar and white flour in baked goods. We try to implement exercise into our normal daily routine, often walking to school or spending a good portion of our free time each day doing active play such as riding bikes or scooters, swinging, climbing, dancing, jumping, etc! While I do not have a personal history of heart disease, I have a few close friends who do and I know how important it is to take preventative action now against such a prevalent disease.

My oldest daughter, Claire, started kindergarten this year and now spends a large percentage of her time at school, often eating hot lunch with her friends. It is so important to me that she receives healthy food from school while she is there, and that the school build on what I am teaching her at home about healthy eating and exercise habits. Looking beyond the needs of my own family, I know there are kids all over the US whose families struggle to put food on the table, and for many of those kids school lunch is the only real meal they may eat all day, as well as their only opportunity to receive fresh fruits and vegetables. I know the AHA has worked hard to help improve the quality of school lunches through government programs and I desire to help support them as they seek to continue and add upon these programs, for the health and well-being of our future generations.

This is one reason why I am so excited to be an advocate for the AHA this May in our nation's capital for You're the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day, with emphasis on protecting school meal nutrition. I look forward to learning how to be a better advocate for this cause and meeting with our representatives to personally ask for continued support of school lunch nutrition and NIH funding.


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2015 Legislative Breakfast

More than 40 advocates gathered at the Cornhusker Hotel last week for training and a review of important legislative issues being in the 2015 Legislative session.  Volunteers heard from advocates whose lives have been profoundly impacted by heart disease and stroke.  Jill Duis, survivor and long-time AHA volunteer welcomed advocates to this year's event and shared a bit of her story of survival from both a congenital heart defect and a stroke.  Her efforts in advocacy and fundraising have made a impact on heart health in our state. 

Melinda Kentfield shared her tragic story of the loss of her son, Taylor, to sudden cardiac arrest.  Taylor was out jogging when he suddenly collapsed, and was not able to receive immediate CPR.  Melinda shares her story as a way to encourage everyone to learn Hands Only CPR. Melinda doesn't want what happened to Taylor to happen to another family and is advocating for Hands Only CPR to be included as a high school graduation requirement. Pam Miller, Grassroots Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association also shared the story of her 78 year old father who was saved by bystander CPR when he had sudden cardiac arrest last year. 

These and other heart health issues are important reasons how our advocates can make a difference when it comes to legislative policy.  When lawmakers hear how congenital heart defects, Stroke, sudden cardiac arrest and CPR affect Nebraskans, it can have a lasting impact and ultimately lead to effective policy change. 

Even though our Legislative breakfast is over until next year, our advocates can participate in the discussion by reading their Advocacy Pulse newsletter every month, by taking action on Action Alerts, by contacting their Senators on issues of interest to them and by raising their voice to ensure their concerns are heard in Lincoln.  We need your voice to improve the cardiovascular health of our state! 

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What's Up with School Nutrition?

There is a lot of discussion out there about school nutrition – and we couldn’t be happier about that!  Students consume 35% - 50% of their daily caloric intake at school where they are often exposed to junk foods and sugar-sweetened beverages that have little to no nutritional value.  Parents – and students – have concerns about the nutritional value of the foods their kids are consuming at school. Schools are in a unique position to provide a healthy environment by promoting and providing nutritious meals. 

CLICK HERE for an informational video about school nutrition. 

Here is what we know:  In December 2010, the President signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to update national nutrition standards for school meals and establish nutrition standards for other foods sold in schools throughout the school day.  As a result, in school year 2013-2014, nearly 90% of schools in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) met nutritional standards, up from 14% in 2009-2010.  That means an overwhelming majority of children are receiving heart-healthy lunches while at school. 

We also know that a healthy school environment, including healthy nutrition, helps improve children’s physical well-being, enhances learning, minimizes behavior problems and increases attendance. 

The evidence is overwhelming that the new school meal standards are working.  Going into child nutrition reauthorization for 2015, the American Heart Association advocates for:

  • Continued support to schools for effective implementation of the federal nutrition standards for school meals.
  • Continued strong implementation of Smart Snacks in School standards. These standards include reducing sodium; eliminating trans fat; decreasing saturated far; minimizing fried foods; offering healthy beverage options; and increasing the offering of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and low-fat dairy. 
  • Continued robust technical assistance by the USDA to support schools in implementing nutrition standards, effective nutrition education, and nutrition promotion and model local wellness policies with effective implementation and evaluation. 
  • Investments in kitchen equipment and infrastructure that can help schools serve healthier meals. 


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Advocate Spotlight: Julie Smith

Julie Smith Nebraska

Heart disease has always been of importance to me even before I became a nurse.  My parents both had cardiovascular disease identified when they were in their 50s.  It affected their lives then and as they aged.  Being from a rural area, when my father had his first heart attack at age 52, a service from a boarding state was the closest EMS we had and they were a volunteer service.  Their answering the 911 call and driving on the dirt roads in the middle of the night made the difference for my Dad.

That is one reason I am so passionate about my work with Mission: Lifeline in Nebraska and the work toward the Statewide STEMI (ST Elevated MI) System of Care.  It allows me to help those type of services continue to be there for their rural neighbors.

Mission: Lifeline through the American Heart Association offers the opportunity to identify the continued gaps in rural areas where funding and education are needed to bring the latest equipment and quality care to our rural residents.  As a registered nurse, I continue to see the necessity for public education, improved systems of care and collaboration between EMS and healthcare, both urban and rural.  There remains a need for coordination of the many projects and initiatives that are going on throughout the state so we can maximize the use of our sometimes limited resources.

Our work with the STEMI Task Force which includes stakeholders from across the entire state is allowing Mission: Lifeline to pull together those resources and work towards a cohesive Statewide STEMI System of Care. This group is learning from other systems in a model sharing approach, and also continues to identify needs throughout the state.  Funding and possible legislation will be needed in the future to help sustain the great work of the Task Force and these stakeholders.  We are not able to fund all the EMS services in the state that respond to 911 calls in rural areas and the work of grassroots and advocacy groups will be needed to continue to move forward with this initiative.

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Medicaid Redesign Is Right for Nebraska

The American Heart Association supports efforts that improve access to quality healthcare for all Americans.  That includes Medicare redesign which would help reduce the costs of health care and save the lives of hundreds of Nebraskans.  The Medicaid Redesign Act proposes providing premium assistance for eligible individuals who earn between 100 and 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit ($11,670 to $15,521 for individuals in 2014) to purchase health insurance through the marketplace. The bill would also provide expanded Medicaid coverage for those who earn between 50 and 100 percent of the FPL ($5,835 to $11,670 for individuals).

Medicaid redesign would increase the affordability and availability of health insurance and will help curb health care costs by enabling uninsured, working adults to access timely, cost-efficient care. The Medicaid Redesign Act would substantially reduce the amount of uncompensated care, which costs the average Nebraska family an additional $1,000 a year through cost shift.

Recently, a number of editorials have appeared in newspaper sources across the state.  For an editorial by Laura J. Redoutey, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association, CLICK HERE.


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