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UPDATE: Tobacco 21 Moves Through Committees in Albany County, Goes to Full Vote!

On Wednesday, April 27, the Albany County Health Committee and the Audit & Finance Committee voted to move Local Law "C"  through to a vote with the full legislature on May 9. Local Law "C" would raise the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. In addition to moving the bill through the committees, three new legislators also signed on in support of the bill which brings the number of legislative sponsors to 18.

Thank you to our volunteers in Albany County who made phone calls and sent emails to their legislators letting them know why raising the purchase age is so important. Check your email for additional action alerts as we get closer to the full vote!

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Albany County Legislature Holds Public Hearing on Tobacco 21!

Last night, the Albany County Legislature held a public hearing on raising the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

Public Health advocates and community members came out in full force to discuss the reasons why raising the purchase age is so important. I was there beside my colleagues from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and our friends with the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition.

Only three people spoke out against the measure, including the Convenient Store Association who suggests this will hurt small businesses and it won't actually help decrease the rate of smoking. We helped dispel these myths with statistics that show otherwise.

Overall, I think the meeting went well and I think we will have enough votes to pass it through the Health committee in the next month. Stay tuned!

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New Stroke Advocacy Video Coming Soon!

Yesterday, staff at the Albany, NY office met with local paramedics and AHA volunteers to create a new video highlighting the advances in stroke treatment and why it is important for states to have stroke systems of care, including designation of stroke hospitals.  In New York, the AHA/ASA is advocating for legislation to designate three levels of stroke hospitals and coordinate EMS response and transport.  on the importance of Stroke Designation Legislation.   

Each person interviewed discussed why changes in stroke treatment options make can save lives and reduce disability if patients are transported quickly to the  a hospital equipped to treat stroke. 

Paul Symansky the AHA Stroke Ambassador for the Capital Region of New York, talked about her own experience of having a stroke and how appropriate and timely treatment helped her get back to living a productive, happy life.

Stay tuned for the release of this short video coming in May!

--Martha & Kristin

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A busy Albany comes to a stand still as Legislators go on break

You would never have guessed that yesterday more than 20,000 people came out to rally in support of three different candidates all vying for the 2017 Presidential bid. With supporters and protesters lining the streets of downtown Albany in hopes to see Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, or John Kasich, the scene was more than chaotic.

Today in Albany was much different.

The halls of the Capitol were quiet as many legislators were finishing up their work for the rest of April, preparing to go back to their districts for a much needed two week post-budget break. Knowing full well that May will bring on a flurry of legislative asks, Senators and Assemblymembers will enjoy the next two weeks at home before the madness of session swings into high gear. With only May and June left of the 2016 legislative session, AHA will be working hard on passing legislation that would raise the purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 21; include e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act; implement quality PE standards in schools, and many others.

Stay tuned for ways to help with these campaigns throughout the month of April!

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In Preparation for American Stroke Month

You likely know the statistics: Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the number five cause of death in the United States. In 2013, over 50,000 New Yorkers were hospitalized due to stroke and that same year over 6,000 died from stroke. Over the next three months, the American Stroke Association in New York will be engaged in passing legislation to improve access to stroke care in New York State.

Please click here to make sure our lawmakers are educated about this issue.

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NYS Passes Final Budget Agreement, But What's in it for Heart Health?

On Friday, April 1, Governor Cuomo and Legislative Leaders announced an agreement on a final state budget totaling approximately $147 billion dollars. Built-in to the agreement were several hot ticket items including Paid Family Leave, $15 minimum wage, and an increase in school aid. Not included, however, was much for heart-healthy programs like the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, CPR in School implementation, or Bike/Pedestrian funds for Complete Streets.

While we didn’t receive as much funding as we would have liked, we were able to secure $500,000 in funding for the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities fund, which will help locate grocery stores, mobile markets, farmers markets, etc. in low-to-moderate income areas of the state, which would normally have trouble accessing healthy, affordable food. We are extremely grateful to Senator Funke for his commitment and dedication to this issue as we would have not been able to secure the funding without him.

Another positive in the agreement is that Legislative Leaders maintained current 2015-2016 levels for Tobacco Control, Hypertension and Obesity Prevention Programs and we look forward to working on these initiatives over the next year.

Stay tuned to find out what we are working on post-budget!

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Final Week of State Budget Negotiations

This week is already turning into a frenzy. With tons of advocacy and coalition groups vying for funding in this year's budget, the Capitol has turned into a zoo. One group is holding a 24-hour vigil in the Assembly chamber starting today in hopes to see their budget requests reflected in the final budget. It's very hard to get around!

We are hearing from some of our sources that the funding we are seeking to reinstate the Healthy Food/ Healthy Communities Fund is still an uphill battle. We have many supportive legislative champions that are fighting for it, however, we are one group of many this year that have a very important funding request. With the budget bills slated to be printed tonight by midnight in order to have an on-time budget, our time is running out to educate lawmakers on the importance of this program. If you haven't already, please call your legislator's office and ask them to support this fund!

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UPDATE - A Victory Against #SneakySalt

Salt likely won't be sneaking around restaurant menus in New York City any more - thanks to a ruling by the State Supreme Court that upheld the city's Sodium Warning Label. This law requires that any food item or meal combination that has a dangerously high level of sodium must have a small 'salt shaker' icon placed next to it.  The motivation behind the law is to empower the consumer to make healthier choices while dining at one of the city's chain restaurants. And it's already working!

Many restaurants started complying with the law as soon as it went into effect back in December.  For those that have seen the updated menus, it is amazing how many food items have too much salt!  Here is one menu from a city restaurant:


This should help make restaurant patrons think twice about what to order! 

The science community agrees.  We're all consuming far too much sodium.  Everyone should strive to reduce their consumption by at least 1000mg per day, if not more! Too much sodium is a major public health problem, leading to elevated blood pressure and increased risk for stroke and heart disease.

The American Heart Association is grateful that the power is finally being placed in the hands of the consumer.  We get to more easily make the choice about what we want to eat and how much salt we want to consume!

The fight isn't entirely won yet.  The law is expected to face continued scrutiny in the courts.  But in the meantime, let's celebrate this victory for NYC hearts!

UPDATE - February 29, 2016 - The National Restaurant Association has levied an appeal against the city's law that will momentarily suspend the city's ability to fully enforce the policy. The city must respond in the next couple of weeks and we fully expect the law to be upheld. As the legal debate wages on, please continue to support the restaurants that have already updated their menus.  You can post photos like the one above on social media, using the tags #WatchTheSalt or #SneakySalt to applaud this greater transparency for consumers. 

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Want to keep the kids busy this week AND help out the AHA?

Did you know 32 out of the 62 New York State counties are struggling with access to healthy food? That is roughly 1.7 million New Yorkers who lack access to stores with healthy food options. And poor nutrition can lead to diet-related illness - like heart disease and stroke. This is unacceptable!

In support of the American Heart Association's mission to improve nutrition for all New Yorkers, we are asking lawmakers to provide $18 million in funding to improve access to healthy foods. Here is where you come in!

While home with the kids this week, encourage them to draw a picture of their favorite fruit or vegetable. You can submit the picture directly to us by emailing it to Kristin Salvi ( or you can post it on social media using the hashtag #HealthyFood4NY.

Let’s keep the conversation going in support of healthy food access for all New Yorkers!

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New State healthy food access report, Healthy Food = Healthy Economy, is now available!

A new report released last week by a group of New York State coalition partners sheds light on the efforts to improve access to healthy food and how more work needs to be done.

The report, Healthy Food = Healthy Economy, details New York State’s work to improve healthy food access and its impact on the state’s economy. It also breaks down the current status of healthy food access in New York and the health problems associated with lack of access.

Current statistics show that six out of ten adults in NYS, and one-third of the state's children are at serious risk for diet-related diseases, which can be influenced by unhealthy nutrition. Eating a healthy diet is a major factor in preventing the obesity epidemic, but many New Yorkers do not have access to the healthy food they need. In fact, 32 of New York’s 62 counties struggle with access to healthy food.

The Healthy Food = Healthy Economy report shows investing in healthy food retail and improving access to healthy foods can help keep both the New York community and the New York economy healthy. This is why we need to continue fighting for funding to improve access to healthy foods across our state. Follow this link to read the report:

Please join us in our fight for healthy food access by contacting the NYS Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker to remind them why healthy food retail is important.  Let them know that as an advocate for the American Heart Association, you would like our state to devote $18 million dollars to improve access to healthy foods. For additional talking points, please review the linked state report found above.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie - 518-455-3791

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan - 518-455-2071

Help us keep the momentum going as budget negotiations kick into high gear. New Yorkers all across the state who lack access to healthy foods are counting on us!

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