Our 2015-16 Mississippi Advocacy Committee is composed of 12 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 some of our members. Today, we'd like you to meet Claire Hick of Southaven.
How long have you been a volunteer with the AHA and in what capacity? I’ve worked for the past five years on our team, fundraising for the annual Heart Walk. I’ve recently taken a more active role this year organizing a larger fundraising event at our hospital. This is my first year serving on the Mississippi State Advocacy Committee.
Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the AHA? I see first-hand the great work the AHA does as an organization to save lives. Most recently, we partnered with the AHA putting red hats on babies born on National Wear Red Day in February. The hats were an education for new parents that the AHA’s advocacy successfully lobbied to pass legislation to check all babies born in our state for congenital heart conditions before leaving the hospital. Through the media, the new law was also publicized in several area newspapers with the red hat baby photos to educate the public.
What heart healthy issue is most important to you and why? Sudden cardiac arrest is a more important issue to my family and I. Seven years ago, we lost our nephew to sudden cardiac arrest because an AED wasn't used on him in the less than the seven minutes that is recommended. Since then, our family has raised funds at an annual event and placed more than 50 AEDs in public buildings, churches and sports venues in our area. Since installation, many of the AEDs have been used to save lives.
What are two ways you keep yourself healthy? My husband and I play tennis, and we are starting to teach our three-year-old son to play. On days we can’t make it to the courts, we enjoy spending time together in our backyard.
How is your community healthy that makes you proud? Our city, Hernando, has won multiple awards recently for promoting family health. They’ve added walking trails, resurfaced tennis courts, rebuilt playground equipment, organized scavenger hunts, built bike trails and held community walk/runs. Our mayor, Chip Johnson, has been the driving force to make Hernando a healthy city. My employer, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto, is also a partner in the effort and has been the presenting sponsor for H.E.A.L. (Healthy Eating Active Living). This is an annual 10-week partnership created five years ago, that gives incentives to families for getting healthier, offering free weight-loss coaching, daily exercise classes and heart risk assessments.
Recently, I accepted proclamations on behalf of the American Heart Association in Southaven and Hernando for National Wear Red Day and National Heart Month. (See included pictures). I'm proud of both of these cities where I work and live. It's encouraging to see them moving in the right direction of being more heart healthy.
How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state? The Mississippi Hospital Association, AHA and DeSoto Economic Council send e-newsletters with public policy updates, and our team works to discuss issues and legislation with our delegation.
If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why? DeSoto County residents have one of the lowest unemployment rates and highest median wages of any county in our state, but we have the highest number of uninsured residents in our state. Part of this is because the employees are not full time or are temporary employees through agencies. This is a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that affects employees who have worked years for area employers but are still considered temporary employees. Insurance by the employer is not required, and the employee’s income is high enough to not qualify for any health exchange subsidies when he/she looks to find coverage. Most opt for no health insurance for their families due to the premium costs. Mississippi also did not accept the federal funds to expand Medicaid making the working poor who qualified in the past not able to qualify now.
Do you have a favorite AHA/ASA event you annually attend? What is your motivation to participate? We created at our hospital an event we plan on making annual called “Fashionably Heart Healthy.” Survivors of heart conditions are the models, and community leaders are invited for a luncheon and fashion show. All proceeds raised go to AHA.
Tell us one unique thing about yourself.
I won the International Science Fair top award in chemistry in high school. The research done made national headlines and caused the Food & Drug Administration to change the chemical required components in plastic wrap due to dangerous levels of a suspected carcinogen migrating into high fat foods. A love for science and communication paved the way for me to take care of others in hospital administration.