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Thank You for Everything You Do!

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week this week (April 12 – 16) – and with that thought on our minds, we wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you, and all that you do for You’re the Cure initiatives all across the East Coast.

We appreciate every single alert response, every call, every visit you have made to your lawmakers and elected officials. We appreciate you joining us in conference rooms across our division as we train you on different state policies and how to be an engaged advocate. We appreciate those who serve on our Advocacy Committees, putting in long hours in meetings and on calls as you help us shape our grassroots plans.

We appreciate you, and we appreciate your time and all you do as a partner of the American Heart Association. In case you ever forget, every little thing – both large and small – makes a difference!

Every Little Thing you do

as a You’re the Cure advocate helps,

and we appreciate you!

 THANK YOU for all you do.

Just a note: If you haven't joined our advocacy network yet, it's never too late! Just visit us at www.yourethecure.org and become a You're the Cure member. It only takes a few moments to sign up, but you'll help make a difference that will last through the years!

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MN Advocates Testify on AHA Issues at the Capitol

Last week was full of hearings up at the Capitol and State Office Building! We want to thank ALL of our volunteers who testified on our issues. Check it out below:

The House Transportation Finance Committee released their omnibus transportation finance bill on Tuesday. We lined up 4 testifiers to focus on a narrative about bike/walk investment that stressed the business case and need for investment in Greater MN. Peter Grasse (3M Employees Bicycle User Group), Patrick Hollister (Active Living Planner, PartnerSHIP4Health), Dawn Moen (Program Specialist, BLEND-CentraCare Health Foundation), Dorian Grilley (Executive Director, Bicycle Alliance of MN).

Patrick Hollister (right) and Peter Grasse  (below) testified  at the MN House Transportation Committee hearing about the economic and social benefits that walkable/bikeable communities bring to Greater MN and the need for infrastructure in the suburbs to support bicycling as a real choice to get to and from work. ‪#‎FundBikePedinMN‬ ‪#‎mnleg

Dawn Moen (below), testified in the MN House Transportation Committee, thanking the committee for their support of Safe Routes to School and advocating for more state investment in active transportation.

 

 

 

The Physical Education bill was heard in the Senate Education Budget Division on Thur. April 8th and in the House Education Finance Committee on Friday April 10th. Matt Johnson, PE teacher at Hassan Elementary School in Rogers (main picture and below), testified on our bill to ensure all MN students get a quality physical education. He opened by asking the committee members to stand up and move around to get some blood flow to the brain.

 

The bill will be laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill. Thank you, Rep. Bob Dettmer, for being a tremendous lead author and champion for PE!

Dr. Russell Luepker, a longtime AHA volunteer (below) testified against the proposed tax relief for premium cigars in the Senate Tax Committee on Wed. April 8th. He did a fantastic job, as always, standing up against reducing the hard won tobacco tax increase we achieved in 2013. Check out this interesting article in the Star Tribune covering the hearing: “Cigar tax cut considered at Capitol, but anti-smoking activists push back”

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Nevada Lobby Day 2015 Recap

On Tuesday, March 31st, American Heart Association staff, business leaders, survivors, and You’re the Cure advocates joined together in Carson City at the Capitol to support heart-healthy legislation.  In addition, dozens of advocates supported their efforts by taking action online.

To those of you who joined us in Carson City or took online action, the Nevada Advocacy Team wants to say THANK YOU!  

In case you didn’t attend Lobby Day, here’s how we did it:  

  • We hosted a Hand-Only CPR demonstration in the morning.  If you don’t know Hand-Only CPR or would like a 2 minute refresher, please click here!
  • We met face-to-face with legislators in the Assembly Education, Assembly Health and Humans Services Committees as well as members of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • We dropped off informational packets to all remaining legislators who were unavailable to meet due to previous engagements.

And if you missed this year’s Lobby Day, don’t worry! You can still support our efforts online by clicking here and there will be additional opportunities to take action in the coming months. We’ll need every single one of you along the way! 

Please email Ben Schmauss at Ben.Schmauss@heart.org or Josh Brown at Josh.Brown@heart.org if you are interested in future volunteer opportunities, or if you have any additional questions. 

Thank you again for being a critical part of the You’re the Cure team!

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It’s Not too Late – RSVP for Lobby Day, April 22nd

Can you believe it, our annual California AHA/ASA Lobby Day in Sacramento is just a few weeks away?  

California AHA/ASA Lobby Day

Wednesday, April 22nd

West Steps of the Capitol

10am - 3pm (Registration starts at 9am) 

It’s not too late! Register here if you’d like to attend! 

 

A few highlights of the event will include: an opportunity to connect with other AHA/ASA advocates, an advocacy training to ensure you’re prepared for the day, motivational speakers and survivors connected to the AHA/ASA mission, the opportunity to directly communicate with your state legislators, and two complimentary heart-healthy meals. 

 

If you haven’t done so already and are planning to join us in Sacramento, please register here. Registration is required so we can schedule face-to-face meetings with your legislators’ offices!

Please contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any questions via email at Josh.Brown@heart.org or via phone at (916) 431-2364. 

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American Heart Association Celebrates National Walking Day

By Violet Ruiz, Government Relations Director

The American Heart Association celebrated National Walking Day on Wednesday, April 1st! National Walking Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in April and is meant to help Americans actualize ideal cardiovascular health. Even though National Walking Day is over – take time to tie up your sneakers, take a walk and celebrate your health every day!

On National Walking Day, Americans are encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. Statistics show people stick to walking plans more than any other form of physical activity and walking is one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke – the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers.

The other amazing thing about walking is that you don't have to wait until next year to get moving again. National Walking Day celebrations will come and go, but walking should be part of your daily exercise routine. Regular physical, such as walking, gardening, cycling, and climbing stairs can help you:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce or control blood pressure.
  • Raise HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
  • Sleep better.
  • Have more energy to do the things you love.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity. Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any other physical activity. If you can't carve 30 minutes out of your day to walk, just taking a few more steps in your day is a simple and effective place to start. It's really that easy. Or be creative and break up your activity into 10- or 15-minute increments. For example:

  • In the morning, park or get off the bus/train 10 minutes away from your job and walk briskly to work.
  • At lunch, walk for 10 minutes around where you work, indoors or outdoors.
  • At the end of the day, walk briskly for 10 minutes back to your car or station.

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You're the Cure at the Capitol: A Sea of Red Arrives at the State House

On March 30 and 31, over 60 You’re the Cure advocates from across North Carolina met at the American Heart Association’s office for our annual State Lobby Day.  Advocates participated in advocacy training on Monday. We reviewed the AHA state lobby day issues, learned the components of an effective meeting with a lawmaker and had time to meet in our lobby day meeting groups. 

Yolanda Dickerson and Frank Amend, present and past chair of the NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee respectively, along with Ilana Adlee, You’re the Cure youth advocated, discussed how they prepare for legislative meetings and what to expect from a meeting with a lawmaker. Everyone left with an understanding of what to expect at the legislature on Tuesday.

Resembling a sea of red, we arrived on Tuesday at the Capitol and enjoyed conversations with many Representatives, Senators, and their legislative aides as advocates urged their lawmakers to support:

  • HB 250/SB 298: Healthy Food Small Retailer/Healthy Corner Store Act
  • SB 662: Appropriate Funds for Tobacco Use Prevention
  • A NC Plan to Close the Coverage Gap

At mid-day, Matt Newman and our You’re the Cure youth advocates lead their fellow advocates, lawmakers and legislative staff in a walk around Halifax Mall to help raise awareness about National Walking Day, April 1.  By day’s end, we heard attendees comment that it had been a great day filled with positive experiences. 

A special thank you to the NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee for their help in planning and executing this signature advocacy event.  Finally, a big thank you to all the advocates that joined us for this year’s lobby day!

It’s not too late to make a difference by taking action as part of our virtual lobby day, just click here.

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We Haven't Given Up on Healthy Utah

Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director 

The 2015 Legislative Session has finally come to end and while there are important issues that have yet to be resolved, we can be proud of the efforts we have engaged in and the results we were able to see.

Top of mind for many people the past few months has been the status of Healthy Utah. In the years I have spent following and being a part of the political scene here in Utah I have never witnessed a more important – yet politically galvanizing – issue as this. And while the result at the end of session was not what any of us were hoping for (nothing was passed) the important thing is that this issue is far from over. As long as the “coverage gap” continues to exist there will be a need to help those who most need affordable access to healthcare.

Over the next 4 months a group comprised of Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, Senate President Niederhauser, Speaker Hughes, Senator Shiozawa, and Representative Dunnigan will hammer out the details of a compromise that will address the “coverage gap” here in Utah. I am hopeful that by the end of this summer we will have a bill passed by the legislature that finds the delicate balance between providing for those Utahns who are in need while ensuring that our financial obligations are taken care of now and into the future.

A bright spot this legislative session was a bill that we hadn’t reported on before. Early in the session Senator Vickers proposed and ultimately passed legislation that dealt with the construction of new schools here in the state. I was drawn to this legislation in light of the work we have been doing with UDOT’s Safe Routes to School program. They indicated that they receive many applications each year from schools asking for financial help with infrastructure projects around their schools (sidewalks, crosswalks, safety zones, etc.).

A surprisingly large amount of these applications actually come from newer schools because they had failed to adequately prepare for the pedestrian traffic coming in and out of the schools and surrounding neighborhoods. The legislation passed by Senator Vickers ensures that all proposed school construction projects must plan for pedestrian traffic around these schools before they open their doors on the first day of school. Our hope is that the pre-construction planning will ensure new schools are built with the school child in mind – both in the classroom and as they travel to and from school each day!

Lastly, but certainly not least is an update on E-cigarette legislation we have been working with Representative Paul Ray on for the past few years. I am happy to announce that after years of working on this issue the state legislature unanimously passed legislation that ensures that e-cigarettes are now treated like other tobacco products here in the state. That means that those that create and/or sell e-cigarettes will now have to obtain a tobacco license. This will ensure that existing laws regarding youth access will be better enforced and will also ensure that manufactures and retailers meet high quality control standards for how these products are made and where they are sold. The ultimate aim of this legislation was to ensure that Utah’s existing laws restricting these products from minors was strengthened. I am happy to announce that this legislation met that goal!

I express my sincerest thanks to those of you who have helped us in our advocacy efforts this session and throughout the years. With your help we are well on our way toward our 2020 goal of improving the health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%. As always, for heart disease and stroke in the state of Utah, You’re the Cure!

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This was big - a look back at Oregon Lobby Day 2015

Guest blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

On Tuesday March 3, AHA advocates filled the halls of Oregon’s State Capitol to share their stories and ensure that decision-makers heard about our priorities during AHA’s Oregon Lobby Day.

As Dr. Cleveland, AHA Advocacy Chair, shared with everyone that day: “Advocacy is good for us.” And advocating for policies to keep Oregon healthy and safe, means our actions are good for everyone else too.

Here’s a quick video, starring our advocates, with the highlights: AHA Oregon Lobby Day Video. (More photos here: Lobby Day photos.)

Just how big was Tuesday?

I couldn’t be more excited to say “thank you” 76 times today—to each and every nurse, firefighter, doctor, survivor, student, mom, sister, brother, father, and friend—who showed up and spoke up.

Thanks to our 76 advocates we held lobby meetings with over one-third of the legislature, educating and advocating on our top policy priorities.

And today, we’re 76 steps closer to passing policies for a healthier Oregon—an Oregon where every Oregonian is trained in school to save a life with CPR, where kids can learn and grow in healthy school environments, and where tobacco is no longer the number one preventable cause of death.

It was a busy at the Oregon Capitol and AHA advocates accomplished a lot—take a look:

  • Face time with decision makers: Advocates lobbied over one-third of Oregon’s legislative offices, meeting face-to-face with 23 legislators and 12 staffers. Decision-makers heard about our three priorities: requiring all Oregon students to be CPR trained before graduating; eliminating junk food marketing from schools; and increased funding for Oregon’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. 
  • 60 new lifesavers: High school students hit the hallways, training over 60 legislative staffers in Hands-Only CPR. 
  • 1,000 Beats to Save a Life: 45 students took to the Capitol rotunda, working together to perform 10 straight minutes of CPR, demonstrating just how simple the steps are to save a life. 
  • Special advocates recognized: AHA recognized two special advocates for their dedicated and ongoing efforts to support CPR training in all of Oregon’s schools: Josh Moore, firefighter with Eugene Springfield Fire & Rescue, and Raoul Meekcoms, a sudden cardiac arrest survivor with a powerful story he’s not afraid to tell. (Click on their names to read more about their inspiring work.) 
  • Student shout outs: North Salem High School, South Salem High School, and Valley Catholic Middle School were recognized by Rep. Brian Clem, Rep. Ken Helm and Senate President Peter Courtney on the House and Senate Floors.
  • Proud of our partners: Three organizations who partner with the AHA in Oregon on advocacy efforts spoke on a panel, sharing with advocates their expertise and experience: Upstream Public Health, Voices for Healthy Kids, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
  • Guest speakers: State Representative Ken Helm spoke to advocates and shared his personal perspective on what learning CPR has meant for his son; Dr. Minot Cleveland, AHA’s Oregon Advocacy Chair, reminded us why advocacy is good for us and why he never gives up; and Eric Batch, Vice President of Advocacy for the Western States Affiliate, on how Oregon can lead the way.
  • Photos, Hashtags, Videos, Oh My: Here’s a video starring advocates with some quick highlights: AHA Oregon Lobby Day Video. (And view the photo album here: Lobby Day photos.)

Our heartfelt thanks from the advocacy team goes out to all of our volunteers who work year round to support the work of the American Heart Association.

 

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If You Build It, They Will Come: Relationships with Lawmakers

There’s a saying often used when referencing the act of sales which can also be applied to advocacy: It all comes down to relationships.

As an advocate, building relationships with elected officials is the number one way you can ensure that lawmakers across your state are educated on the issues most important to you. You’re the Cure advocates are given opportunities to strengthen their skills at building relationships with decision makers through the various advocacy activities offered while promoting AHA’s policy goals.

One key to building relationships with legislators is to understand their preferred method of receiving information. What are the best ways to reach out to them, communicate with them, and follow up with them? Sometimes, the timing of communication can be one of the more important variables. VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent] suggests that getting in touch with him at his local office is best: "Usually, setting a meeting in my Mechanicsville District Office prior to session sets a more relaxed environment in which a citizen advocate may express to me their thoughts on issues of importance to them and about legislative matters that may arise during the impending session."

Not sure what your legislator prefers? Make a call to their legislative assistant—not only will they be able to direct you, but developing a relationship with this "gatekeeper" can also help you form a better relationship with your lawmaker!

Additionally, sometimes your elected officials will be the ones to reach out to you directly.  NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] said that in her opinion, the best way to communicate with her constituents is for them to "set up a meeting to talk about the issues that people have, or their concerns.  I prefer talking with people – communicating with me through email is a great way, [including] phone numbers so that I can call them back. Personal dialogue is sometimes better than written dialogue."

Your legislators know that advocates are vital for them to keep a finger on the pulse of their communities back home.

Councilmember-At-Large David Grosso [I-District of Columbia] shared his perspective: "Advocates are a major driving force in the legislative process. They are boots on the ground and know intricately those issues that impact different populations and communities. I want to know what their specific concerns are. As a member of the legislative body, sometimes we have a 30,000 ft. view of issues, but the advocates help us to focus on the nuance and intricacies of various matters. Having that perspective is invaluable because it enables us to tailor laws and regulations to the specific needs of the communities that we serve. Through our relationship with advocates, we are able to identify the areas where we can have the greatest impact, ensuring that we are serving a wide demographic in the most effective and efficient ways possible."

Through the voice of their constituents, elected officials are in a much better position to stay updated with a focused view of what's happening in their communities.

From DC, Maryland, Virginia, and into the Carolinas, our legislative bodies may look different; however, at the end of the day we are all people, one and the same. Our elected officials have important jobs where they represent us by making decisions that ultimately affect our daily life – but their main focus is their constituents.

If you’re up to it today, we would like to challenge you to use this information and take action. Send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a time to meet with your legislator today! Your elected officials are ready and willing to get to know you and what is important to you and your community!

A special thanks to Councilmember-At-Large Grosso [I-District of Columbia], VA Delegate Christopher Peace [R – New Kent], and NC Representative Becky Carney [D-Mecklenburg] for their contributions to this piece.

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