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Congress Takes a Break – Advocates Take Action!

Each year during August, Congress goes into recess and lawmakers return to their districts.  This is a great opportunity for advocates to take action locally!  You’re the Cure advocates have been out visiting offices and providing important information about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). 

On August 17th, Dr. Joey Skelton and Brenner FIT hosted a healthy cooking demonstration and discussion about the importance of healthy eating with Nick Wilkinson, Triad Regional Representative for Senator Thom Tillis.  Gretta King, daughter of You’re the Cure advocate Valerie King and Mr. Wilkinson put their culinary skills to the test and created a heart-healthy breakfast for the group.  What a great opportunity to talk about the consequences of obesity in children, the importance of nutrition standards for school meals, the role of nutrition in our overall health. 

The HHFKA has given America’s children access to healthier food options for breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day.  Strong nutrition standards help provide a balanced diet so kids can grow and learn in the healthiest possible way.  Thanks to the HHKA students are eating 16% more vegetables and 23% more fruits. 

You’re the Cure advocates nationwide are out delivering a clear message to our members of Congress this August as our kids go back to school:  “We Can’t Go Back!”  We need to protect strong school nutrition standards enacted by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and reject any effort to go back to school meals loaded with salt, fat, and sugar.

You can help, too.  Step up to the plate with us in support of strong school nutrition standards and take action here

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit StrokeAssociation.org to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Making Success of Recess

Who’s on recess this summer?  Our legislators are, that’s who.  Every year they get a recess in August from their usual duties at the state capital to attend to business at home in the districts they serve.  That spells ‘golden opportunity’ for us to reach them at a new level. YOU can come play recess with us!  

August Recess, as it’s fondly called, is when we take our top federal policy issues right to the legislator’s home court.  You’re the Cure advocates do ‘drop-offs’ at the district offices nearest them, leaving materials to drive our message. 

We also look for opportunities to catch our representatives in the community to deliver these messages, at town halls or other public appearances where there may be a chance to ask questions or meet-and-greet. 

The message we must carry is year is all about kids, and making sure the schools are providing them nutritious wholesome lunches.  We need advocates help to tell lawmakers to protect strong school nutrition standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The bill is up for re-authorization this year, and with funding set to expire at the end of September, now is the time to reinforce our message and emphasize the importance of healthy school meals. You can see details at: www.heart.org/SchoolMeals.

 Activities advocates can do to participate:

  • Drop materials off at the District office(s) for your legislators
  • Call your legislator’s offices and make an appointment for a quick sit-down to share information about the issue
  • Check your legislator’s web pages to see where they may be making public appearances and join them to look for an opportunity to ask an issue-relevant question or share information.

Wanta help?  We’ll make it easy for you!  Just email or call 804-965-6554 to let us know how you’d like to help, and we’ll get you hooked up with materials and information. 

This year the congressional recess officially ends Sept 7, 2015.  Come play recess with us and help kids get healthier meals in school!

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Dana Powell

Dana Powell, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

On January 1, 2012, our family began the year with the birth of our second son, Asa Heard Karchmer. Like all babies, Asa delivered love and wonder into our lives. But those dreams were abruptly shattered on day two of Asa’s life. We came home from Watauga Medical Center in Boone, North Carolina and very soon realized Asa was struggling to breathe. We rushed back to the ER, then a few hours later, my husband and I followed the NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) transport team as it rushed Asa to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Wake Forest, NC. In the ambulance, Asa received oxygen, IV infusions of antibiotics and antivirals for a possible infections, and prostaglandins to treat a possible cardiac condition. No one was sure what was causing our baby’s medical emergency. Asa was in a state of shock when he arrived at the NICU at 2:00am on January 3 and we were uncertain whether or not he would survive the rest of the night.

By late morning, Asa’s clinical picture started to become clearer. A pediatric cardiologist confirmed that Asa was born with a very special heart – one which, anatomically speaking, worked just fine in utero but couldn’t make the transition to this world without serious medical intervention. His diagnosis was a congenital heart defect known generally as coarctation of the aortic arch (or more specifically as an interrupted aortic arch): a severe constriction of the main artery leading from the left ventricle of the heart and delivering blood to the entire body. It is among the more common types of cardiac defects among newborns and is often accompanied by other cardiac defects (in Asa’s case, a ventricular septal defect, or VSD, and a bicuspid valve). The cardiologist explained that this particular defect was not a problem in utero where there is a bypass shunt (called the PDA) between the pulmonary artery and the aorta, connecting below the arch and the coarctation. This duct began to close a day or two after birth, as it does in all babies. Yet in Asa’s heart, as the PDA closed, the coarctation prevented blood flow to most of his body, putting him into severe crisis.

We sat anxiously for a week with Asa in the NICU, enduring what seemed like an endless battery of tests on his fragile body (spinal tap, EEG, extensive blood work, MRI, etc.) until he was stable enough for heart surgery. So when he was just one week old, Asa underwent open heart surgery to repair the coarctation and VSD. His chest was left open for four more days to accommodate internal swelling but otherwise, Asa pulled through like a superstar. A miracle. In another three weeks, he was nursing well and we finally took him home to his older brother, and friends, in the mountains where we live.

Our experience with Asa’s newborn cardiac crisis gave us emotional and spiritual resources that we would draw upon again, six months later, when he developed Infantile Spasms, a fairly rare and frequently devastating form of childhood epilepsy. Although Asa’s epilepsy remains a daily battle, he is now a lively 3 ½ year old, with a strong and caring heart. He is now the middle of three brothers, each unique, yet Asa’s more difficult journey has deepened and strengthened our own hearts, along with the hearts of everyone who knows him.

Blog content provided by Dana Powell, mother of Asa, and You’re the Cure Advocate

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Have you checked out the AHA store lately?

T-shirts, measuring bowls, jewelry and everything in between. This summer you can “Shop Heart” choose the best of AHA swag like cookbooks, apparel, and accessories.

You can help spread our message of heart health when you wear an American Heart Association t-shirt, jacket, lapel pin, or tie. In addition to great gear we also stock educational materials so you can share important heart and stroke prevention advice with family and friends. Best of all when you "Shop Heart" money spent supports the mission of the American Heart Association.

Check out the latest merchandise in the store and show your support for the AHA today. 

P.S.  – There is a limited edition You’re the Cure T-shirt in the store. But hurry, only a couple dozen remain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Supreme Court Rules For the Affordable Care Act

We live in exciting times. While most of the time, the American Heart Association works with our You’re the Cure advocates on legislative issues, recently the AHA (with several other non-profit health organizations) was able to inform Americans across the country that their access to health care had been upheld by the Supreme Court through a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, directly through the court case King v Burwell.

In January, the AHA and other organizations (including the American Cancer Society & ACS Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) submitted a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule the original intention of Congress had been to make tax credits for health insurance available to all, not just residents of states that decided to participate in a state health insurance exchange.

The King v Burwell ruling means that residents of states which had previously opted to participate in a federal health insurance exchange will be able to continue to benefit from tax credits for the health insurance they have chosen. Consequently, Americans who participate in the insurance exchange and are eligible will be able to expect tax credits for their policies [this does not affect those who currently receive insurance through their employers].

What does this mean for cardiovascular and stroke? Two facts worth noting for those who are uninsured:

  • Uninsured patients with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control than the insured.
  • Uninsured people who suffer the most common type of stroke have greater neurological impairments, longer hospital stays and up to a 56 percent higher risk of death than the insured.

American Heart Association President Nancy Brown had this to say in her statement reflecting on the court’s ruling: "We commend the Court for not halting premium tax credits in the federal marketplaces, enabling an estimated 6.4 million people in 34 states to keep the assistance that makes their health insurance affordable. As a result, these patients can continue to focus on their healing and recovery, instead of worrying about losing their coverage and care. Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two major Supreme Court challenges, it’s time for our nation to concentrate on improving the law and enrolling as many uninsured Americans as possible so everyone can receive the quality health and preventive care they need."

History is made every day, and we are thankful for our advocates who help us change our communities for the better.

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Lori Valencia Greene

Lori Valencia Greene, Maryland

Lori Valencia Greene is a woman of many hats: mother, daughter, friend, student, and an advocate for change in her community. She was surprised at the young age of 47 to also find herself a stroke survivor!

Lori has always had a desire to make a difference. Because of this she volunteered in her native District of Columbia since she was a teenager.

Lori first became involved with advocacy work in 1985 when she took a job as a legislative assistant on the Hill where she worked for 10 years, including two stints as Legislative Director. She fell in love with the work and eventually took jobs lobbying for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Black Women's Health Project, and the American Psychological Society (APA). While working for the APA, Lori was an advocate for a bill that would eliminate race and ethnic health disparities. One of her proudest moments was seeing this bill turned into law. She says, “I like advocacy work because I feel like I am making a difference, particularly when I am advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves.”

Lori’s stroke experience brought her many challenges, but it also gave her a new drive for advocacy work. “After going through the whole process I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done. I had great care, but there were things that could have been improved and there is still a lot that isn't known about why people have strokes.” After her stroke, Lori stumbled on the American Heart Association web page where she happily signed up for advocacy volunteer work, and has been an active advocate for You're the Cure ever since. She is currently serving on an advisory committee for You’re the Cure.

Of all of the experiences that Lori has had, she says she is most gratified by her advocacy work. Lori’s advice to advocates is to have passion and patience. “Don't give up. Just don't give up. Its' easy to give up, but don't do it. The people you are advocating for need you.”

Are you passionate about advocacy? Tell us your story HERE.

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Healthy Corner Stores Video Released!

Today the North Carolina Alliance for Health (NCAH) released a video featuring the stories of three corner store owners in North Carolina who participated in a pilot program to stock and sell healthy and local produce in their neighborhoods. The video shows how the program has benefited the store owners, local farmers, and their communities. With more widespread funding to implement this initiative across the state, more store owners would be able to stock and sell more nutrient-dense food, providing healthier choices for customers all across the state.

The video can be accessed here.

NCAH urges members and partners to use this video in your efforts to promote the Healthy Corner Store Initiative! Share this link with your staff, board members, listservs and social media outlets. For additional information about the video or ideas about how to promote it, please contact NCAH’s Healthy Food Access Coordinator, Sarah Jacobson, at sarah@ncallianceforhealth.org.

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Join us as we rev up F. A. S. T!

With strokes affecting thousands of Americans every day, we’d like to invite you to join us as we rev up awareness about this medical condition. To help with that, today we’d like to share some startling statistics with you:

· 2,150 Americans die each day from Stroke and Heart disease.
· About one person dies from stroke every 40 seconds
· Stroke is the No. 5 killer of all Americans
· Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability among Americans

We’d also like to invite you to watch an exciting video about F.A.S.T. - and ask you to also win the gold by sharing the link with at least 10 of your friends. Whether through Twitter or Facebook, emails or instant messages – this video has some great information about the campaign, and we hope you’ll race our other advocates in spreading the word.

We’d like to spread the word about F.A.S.T. with at least 2,150 Americans across the country, and we sincerely appreciate your help in getting us to the finish line!

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Yolanda Dickerson

Yolanda Dickerson, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

I am the product of my village.  When I received the AHA Survivor Advocate of the Year award in DC two years ago, I knew it was really not about me. The award is a culmination of those who invested in me and what I’ve learned up to this point. For more than 11 years now I have raised money for heart walks, volunteered for American Heart Association (AHA) in booths at various events, and been a guest speaker to parents, survivors and even AHA staff.  I have helped train other advocates, spoken to countless legislators, and been featured in Public Service Announcements, but these things didn’t start with me.

My advocacy story started with my mother who encouraged all four of her children to not let adversity stop their dreams and to help others along the way.  I learned the power of resolve in the face of limitations from my brother Darrell; of working smart (not hard) from my brother Rodney; and to stay focused on family from both my younger brother Willie and Cousin Charles. My daughter, Ilana, has taught me the benefits of (sometimes) being silly and enjoying the moment.

These lessons have been honed and sharpened by AHA/YTC staff and volunteers through trainings and practice sessions. How could I begin to thank Sloan Garner, Betsy Vetter, Kacie Kennedy all the other AHA/YTC folks who have put time, trust, and support in my success as an advocate and as a person. Every survivor, caretaker, and medical provider I meet leaves their mark and positive influence on my resolve to continue volunteering. I can’t run cross country, but I can effect change that reaches beyond my community one volunteer effort at a time.

 To all those named and unnamed members of my ‘village’ I say thank you and I will continue to honor you by using my abilities to help others.

 Yolanda Dickerson, You’re the Cure Survivor-Volunteer-Advocate

 

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