American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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#Back2Healthy Blows Up

As part of our ongoing Step Up to the Plate for School Meals campaign, You're the Cure and the AHA led a #Back2Healthy social media day of action on Thursday, September 3rd, to help build awareness and tell lawmakers we can't go back on strong school nutrition standards.

With thousands of participants joining in, our messages reached more than 17 million Facebook and Twitter users, and proved the large and diverse array of individuals and organizations in support of healthy school meals. Additionally, with Congress poised to return from its August recess, we were also able to share stories and photos from all the great meetings that You’re the Cure advocates held with legislators and their staff throughout the month.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the day of action and visited their lawmaker! The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has been a huge success, with 96% of schools nationwide meeting the healthier standards. And if you haven’t joined in yet, it’s not too late: click here to share a #Back2Healthy message on Facebook, and here to do so on Twitter. Every message makes a difference!

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CPR in Schools Campaign Reaches Midpoint

Just this month, North Dakota became the 25th state to require all students be trained in CPR before high school graduation. Today, New York became the 26th state to ensure their students will be CPR Smart!  Today’s vote by the New York State Education Department Board of Regents means that more than 1.5 million lifesavers will be added to our communities each year.

For the first time, we can say that more than half the high school graduates in the United States will have been trained in CPR before graduation! Congratulations and thank you for all your work to get us to this important milestone!
More than 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year. About 90 percent of those victims die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start CPR or are afraid they’ll do something wrong. Bystander CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our community with lifesavers – those trained to give cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive.

The American Heart Association is helping create the next Generation of Lifesavers™ by advocating for laws in every state that ensure students learn CPR before they graduate. With the help of AHA volunteers and staff, 26 states are on board. Help us bring along the others!

The power to save a life is literally in our hands. And in our kids’ hands.

To learn more about the campaign and pledge your support for CPR in Schools, visit

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The Fight for Healthy School Meals

All this month, You're the Cure advocates across the country will be meeting with their lawmakers and pushing to keep school meals healthy. This past week, a group of constituents from Congressman John Kline’s district met in Minnesota to explain why we must protect the strong nutrition standards introduced by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Four kids and their moms who live in local school districts joined the meeting, as well as a Farmington elementary school physical education teacher and tennis coach, and a mother who had all five of her kids go through school under the old, outdated standards.

Each student emphasized the importance of schools continuing to serve healthier and more nutritious meals at breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day. Seventeen-year-old Maddie and 12-year-old Colin led the way, explaining how their school introduces new fruit and vegetable dishes that students can sample and vote on to determine which will end up on their lunch trays. Elaine Larson, who raised all five of her kids in the congressman’s district, highlighted the need for schools to educate students not just in the classroom, but by what they serve in the lunch line. Carrie-Ann shared that before her kids’ school had the healthier standards in place, she would only let them get hot lunch twice a week, since the meals that they were being served would often include an entire day's worth of fat and sodium.

Show your support for all the advocates meeting with their lawmakers this month by taking action now at By demonstrating power in numbers, we show the broad support for serving our kids healthy food now and giving them the healthy futures they deserve.

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Let's Celebrate the Last 12 Months!

The following blog post was written by the Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Health Quality, Mark Schoeberl. 

One important way the American Heart Association achieves its Mission is by advocating for laws that enable individuals to live healthier lives. It’s part of our commitment to build  a “culture of health,” which for our advocacy work translates into supporting common sense public policy that helps make the healthy choice an easy choice and where  all Americans benefit from having access to high-quality, affordable health care.

As part of this work, the American Heart Association has in the past twelve months successfully advocated for nearly 70 changes in public policy specifically designed to help Americans enjoy longer, healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. This work is never easy, and the tremendous success we have achieved this past year would simply have not been possible without the support of you, our You’re the Cure advocates.  On behalf of the entire AHA leadership and staff, I want to personally thank you for joining us as we work together to build a culture of health in your community and all communities across this great country. 

As advocates with a tendency to want to quickly move on to take on the next policy challenge and opportunity, we often fail to pause to reflect on the success we have achieved and the impact we have had through our advocacy efforts.  So with that in mind, I wanted to share some of our exciting victories:

  • More than 1 million people got health insurance coverage through expansion of the Medicaid program in, Indiana, New Hampshire, Montana and Pennsylvania.
  • Nine more states passed measures to screen infants for congenital heart defects, meaning nearly 900,000 more babies will be screened each year. The simple, inexpensive, lifesaving pulse oximetry test is now required in more than 40 states.
  • More than 16 million people have better access to safe places to exercise thanks to shared-use liability laws passing in Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia. These laws enable schools to open their facilities to people for physical activity after hours.
  • More than 4.7 million kids will get healthier foods at school, now that Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah have aligned with federal standards requiring these foods be primarily whole grains, fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein.
  • Nearly 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia now have healthier food options. The district now requires foods and beverages sold through vending machines on government property meet healthy standards.
  • More than 1.3 million students will graduate from high school with CPR skills, thanks to new laws requiring this lifesaving skill in New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Indiana, Oregon, Connecticut and San Francisco. 24 states now require CPR for high school graduation.
  • Illinois, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Arizona, Kentucky, New Mexico, Minnesota, Oklahoma and, Rhode established the recognition of all three tiers of nationally certified stroke care facilities. In all of these states, EMS authorities are now required to develop and implement formal transport protocol plans for STEMI and stroke patients, respectively.
  • New Orleans banned smoking in most indoor public places, including bars, restaurants and casinos, protecting the city’s residents and millions of tourists from secondhand smoke.

We can all be extremely pleased and proud of the success we have accomplished over the last year and the lives we have impacted through our work.  Thank you again for all of your time, commitment and energy that has made this possible.

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Women Deserve Equality in Health Too!

Did you know most medical research done today is still conducted using only male subjects? That means lots of unanswered questions when it comes to the best treatment for women with heart disease. Well now lawmakers are working to fix the problem by proposing a law requiring all National Institutes of Health basic research to include female subjects. To grow support for the proposal lawmakers need to hear from you asking for support of the Research for All Act. The next time a friend or loved one faces a diagnosis of heart disease we want to be sure she has the best possible treatment no matter her gender. So please take a minute and send your message to lawmakers now.

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Tobacco's Latest Threat: E-Cigarettes

Tobacco Companies are aggressively marketing e-cigarettes to our nation's youth, and it's working. With thousands of flavors like cotton candy, Swedish fish and gummi bears, it's no wonder e-cigarette use among young people has tripled. The American Heart Association and its partners are working hard to bring this problem under control.

Find citations here.

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You're the Cure on the Hill 2015 update

Since You’re the Cure on the Hill, there have been several developments around our efforts to protect strong school nutrition standards and push for more funding for heart disease and stroke research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the next few months, Congress will be reviewing legislation on school meals, with the House and Senate expected to debate the issue later this month and in July, prior to August recess. We’ll be getting in touch with you then to let you know how to capitalize on in-person meetings with your representatives and Senators when they’re back home. If you haven’t told your lawmakers why healthy school meals are so important, click here to do so in less than 60 seconds.

You can also check out our videos featuring AHA CEO Nancy Brown’s visit to Charles Rice Elementary in the Dallas Independent School District, a national leader on successfully meeting the standards, as well as a video featuring our youth advocate all-star Genna Ringler. And please make sure your friends and family know that all their questions on the importance of this issue can be answered at!

For NIH funding, here’s the latest:

Congressional appropriations: In the next few weeks, both House and Senate appropriations committees will propose funding levels for NIH. We are hoping to see an increase, but won’t know until the proposals are made public. Stay tuned!

21st Century Cures Act and NIH Innovation Fund: The U.S. House of Representatives is working on bill called the 21st Century Cures Act. One part of the bill would provide a much needed boost of money for the National Institutes of Health by creating the “NIH Innovation Fund”.  Specifically, the Fund would allocate an additional $8.75 billion for new, innovative NIH research over a five year period or $1.75 billion a year. The House is expected to debate and vote on this legislation in the near future. Many aspects of the larger bill are still being worked out, but we are encouraged that it may provide more funding for medical research. Check back for more details.

NIH Senate Caucus:  In late May, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) formed the bipartisan NIH Senate Caucus.  The goal of the caucus is to boost NIH’s funding, which has seen a 20% decrease in purchasing power over the years. Currently, there are 16 Senators in the caucus.

  • Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Co-Chair
  • Richard Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair
  • Jerry Moran (R-KS)
  • Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
  • Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • Gary Peters (D-MI)
  • Angus King (I-ME)
  • Edward Markey (D-MA)
  • Al Franken (D-MN)
  • Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Thom  Tillis (R-NC)

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Volunteers Urge Congress to Increase Access to Telestroke

In February of 2014 Nancy Lowman woke up with a sharp pain in her neck and distorted vision. After feeling nauseous and with symptoms continuing, Nancy decided to go to a nearby hospital in Hickory, NC. Staff there thought she was having a stroke, but without a neurologist on site, they weren’t sure how to proceed.

Luckily, the medical center was part of the North Carolina telestroke network. Staff were able to virtually connect, via a robot, with a neurologist 60 miles away at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, who diagnosed Nancy with a stroke and prescribed a clot-busting drug. Nancy walked out of the hospital 48 hours later.

Last month Nancy and her nurse Danielle traveled to Washington, DC to tell their story and urge Congress to make telestroke care more accessible.

What is telestroke?

Stroke telemedicine, now commonly referred to as “telestroke,” is the use of videoconferencing to give urgent care to those having a stroke. Specialists are provided with timely data to assist clinicians at the bedside in stroke-related decision making for patients at hospitals that do not have a stroke neurologist available around the clock. 

Time is of the essence in treating stroke: For a typical stroke patient, 1.9 million brain cells die for each minute that a stroke goes untreated. Research shows that the quicker a patient receives treatment with the clot-busting drug, the better the odds of a full recovery.

In Nancy’s case, by using telestroke technology, a neurologist at another hospital was able to quickly diagnose her condition and guide Nancy’s doctors and nurses in administering the clot-busting medication. Nancy and her nurse are convinced that if her treatment had been delayed, she would not have walked out of the hospital just two days later without any lasting disability.

In simple terms, telestroke improves patient lives by preventing serious, long-term disability.

Why doesn’t every hospital utilize telestroke technology?

Current federal law states that Medicare will only reimburse hospitals who perform a telestroke consultation if the patient is located in a rural hospital. However, over 90% of strokes occur in suburban and urban areas. Nancy’s hospital in Hickory is not considered by Medicare to be rural so the stroke experts who diagnosed her from Winston-Salem are not paid for the care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries having a stroke. This lack of reimbursement is a barrier for the majority of Medicare patients needing timely telestroke care.

What can be done to increase access to telestroke care?

The easiest solution is to allow Medicare to reimburse the hospital for a telestroke consultation, regardless of where the patient lives. Not only would this increase access to telestroke and improve patient outcomes, but it would also save money by reducing the need for more costly inpatient rehabilitation or long-term care.

How can you help?

There is a bill in Congress call the FAST (Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine) Act. This bill would expand Medicare’s coverage of telestroke services. Right now we need as many lawmakers as possible to cosponsor this bill to show support for increasing telestroke access. Ask you members of Congress to cosponsor the FAST Act today!


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A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

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You're the Cure on the Hill - A Youth's Perspective

Today we'd like to introduce one of our youth advocates, Michelle Ballasiotes. Michelle attended our You're the Cure on the Hill this week, and shared her story with Congress. Read on below and hear about her experience on Capitol Hill. Take it away Michelle!


Hi, I am Michelle Ballasiotes and this week I joined over 380 AHA advocates and staff from across the country in Washington, DC for You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015. We were in D.C. to "Step Up to the Plate" for healthy school meals and medical research funding. It was two very exciting days where I met so many wonderful and passionate advocates who were ready to share our message with Congress.

Here are some highlights from my trip.

Monday - A Day to Learn about the Issues

On Monday while the adults attended their training sessions, I was able to participate in an engaging youth training led by Kim and Andrea from Youth Empowered Solutions. They first provided us with background information about the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and NIH Medical Research Funding. One surprising thing that I learned was that the initial reason for healthier school meals was because kids were not receiving the proper nourishment they needed and were even too skinny to join the army! Since then, it has become even more important for kids to have healthy options at school.

It was important for us to learn about the history and important facts of each of our issues, because we wanted to be able to confidently share what we learned with our members of Congress. We also practiced how to incorporate our personal story into our asks of Congress. By personalizing the issues, we learned that our ask becomes much more powerful.

As a reward for a hard day's work, we learned how to make a quick and easy apple cobbler. Which taught us that it's okay to have healthy desserts in moderation. It was a delicious break during our training! 

Another important part of our training was learning about the important role that social media plays in emphasizing our message. Many of our Senators and Representatives are on social media, and they listen to the things we have to say. We were able to share the hashtag, #StepUp4HeartHealth, throughout the event and see it make a real impact. So remember, hashtags have power!

The next big event on Monday was the Heroes Luncheon, which featured an actual school meal served on fun, red lunch trays. The taco salad was delicious!

It was also so awesome to see two fellow North Carolinians receive national awards! My friend, Cassidy Collins, won the National Youth Advocate of the Year Award and Dr. David Huang received the National Science Advocate of the Year. It was great to see the passion that many North Carolina advocates share for the American Heart Association!

I learned so much on Monday and felt prepared to take what I learned and share it on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Tuesday - Time to turn Capitol Hill RED

To start off the morning, I led a few youth advocates onto the stage at the send-off breakfast. We were able to share some of what we learned during our previous day's training with everyone. It was great to provide a quick recap for the whole group before we made our way up to Capitol Hill to meet with our members of Congress.

My first meeting was with Senator Tillis and his staff. It went great! We were actually able grab a few minutes with the Senator himself. I found it very helpful to know some background on each member of Congress ahead of time. It let me know what points will persuade them the most.

During my day on Capitol Hill, I learned that every meeting on the Hill goes differently and you have to be prepared for anything. For example, during our meeting with Representative Hudson, his staff brought up some interesting points about medical research funding and how we measure results. I also learned that Hill staff members may be new and are just trying to absorb everything we told them. Which was okay, because we were prepared to answer all of their questions and were able to educate them on our issues.

The rest of our meetings went great and I am confident we hit a home run on Capitol Hill!

Why Did I Attend You're the Cure on the Hill 2015? - My story

I attended You're the Cure on the Hill because I suffered a stroke before I was even born. As a result of my stroke, I have been able to work with the American Heart Association. I want to be a strong advocate for more awareness of cardiovascular disease and the policies that influence positive change. This year, I was able to be a powerful voice in advocating for more NIH medical research funding, because the cause of my stroke is still unknown. If we don't know what causes strokes in kids, how can we prevent them?  Also, by being a youth myself, I was able to share my personal experience of why keeping healthy school meal standards strong is important to kids like me!

Being on Capitol Hill is always such a thrill for me. I love seeing people's faces when they see the sea of red and know it is the American Heart Association. It's also wonderful to show Congress that youth have a voice and we are not afraid to express our opinions.

Each year I attend Lobby Day is different, but it's always exciting. I've done National Lobby Day six times and I can't wait until the next event! I love reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people.


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