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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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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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Why do restaurants make it so difficult?

It's been a long day. You started off before dawn, ran the kids out of the house, dropped them off at school, put in a full day's work, picked the kids up at their after-school program and have just a few precious minutes before getting them settled into bed before the next marathon day. But wait...they're hungry!  You're hungry!  There's no time to pull ingredients together, so grabbing take-out is the only option. Wouldn't it be great to know that the meals you purchase off of the kids' menu are as healthy as possible?  For far too many busy parents in New York, finding fruits or vegetables on the kids' menu is downright impossible. And if you're worried about the other ingredients in the meal, you have to find the time to research on restaurants' websites or ask for their nutrition pamphlet (make sure you bring your magnifying glass!)  You shouldn't have to work so hard!

Both New York City Council and the State Legislature are considering ways to better support parents and encourage restaurants to help make the healthier choices, easier to find. At the recent hearing for the bill in New York City, business advocacy groups claimed that this policy will be a huge burden on restaurants, and we should just allow them to put the menu together however they deem best. But a quick analysis of kids' meals shows an alarming level of sodium, fat, sugar and calories. We shouldn't force parents to choose between hunger and health. 

Do you have a story to tell about this issue? Do you agree that kids' meals should be healthier? If so, comment below and we'll follow up with you!  And watch for action alerts on these bills in the Action Center. We appreciate your help!

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Bob Elling, New York

Bob Elling is a career paramedic, but has many other “jobs,” including educator, author, and four decades of service as a very passionate American Heart Association volunteer. Bob has served in a number of capacities: Founder’s Affiliate board member, Albany Regional Board of Directors, NYS Advocacy Committee and You’re the Cure network advocate, NYS Emergency Cardiovascular Care committee, Volunteer Leadership Committee, as well as national faculty for Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and regional faculty for BLS, ACLS and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).

Three of his career highlights have been serving as the Basic Life Support Science Editor during the development of the CPR and ECC Guidelines in 2005, helping lead the successful CPR in Schools Campaign in NYS that requires all high schools students to learn this lifesaving skill, and as the Medical Editor of the Nancy Caroline Emergency Care in the Streets paramedic text. He has authored/edited 48 textbooks and hundreds of videos and magazine articles for EMS providers.

Originally trained as a medic in the Bronx (Jacobi 3), he has served as a paramedic in NYC as well as the Capital District of NY for 40 years. Bob’s “other jobs” include Clinical Instructor for Albany Medical Center, faculty for the paramedic program at Hudson Valley Community College, and part-time medic at the Times Union Center and Whiteface Mountain Medical Services. 

Bob lives in Colonie and Lake Placid, NY where he enjoys biking, running (he’s completed 31 marathons!), skiing, hiking, and writing.

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Smaller Stomachs Deserve the Healthiest Meals

New York City may be moving forward to help improve the quality of meals served to kids in our restaurants - but they're not going far enough!  The current version of the bill, just posted for a vote in the Council Health Committee - only affects meals that have a toy connected to it.  While these meals are clearly marketed toward our kids, there are many other restaurants that don't use toys for their promotion.  Kids meals on menus from 'family-friendly' restaurants are often among the most egregious culprits, with loads of salt, fat and sugar!  Let's make sure NYC gets this right so we can lead the country in the right direction!  All restaurants that have kids' menus should meet high quality nutritional requirements for those meals!

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