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AHA Launches GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest for Rhode Island Schools

The American Heart Association recently launched its GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest for Rhode Island schools.  Students in Grades K-5 are asked to draw a picture of their favorite physical activity and favorite healthy food. Students can also demonstrate how physical activity and healthy eating helps build healthy hearts, healthy families and healthy communities.  In addition to being entered to win great prizes, posters will help educate lawmakers about the importance of supporting policies that promote access to healthy foods and opportunities to play and be active in the Ocean State.  Schools will be provided with 11x17 posters for entries. Simply click the link below to download the contest flyer for details.  Deadline for entries is April 29, 2016.  Many thanks to our GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest sponsor – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island!

(Please visit the site to view this file)

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Rhode Island Stroke Experts Gather at NECC Summit

Thanks to the leadership of the Rhode Island Senate, Rhode Island House of Representatives, Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Stroke Task Force, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and You’re the Cure advocates – Rhode Island is considered a national model for stroke care.  Experts from our state recently gathered at the 10th Annual Summit of The NorthEast Cerebrovascular Consortium (NECC) to discuss next steps.

The annual educational summit attracts over 300 stroke professionals from across the eight Northeast states and across the stroke continuum of care. The two-day event includes evidence based education through plenary and breakout sessions (topics focusing on EMS, Rehabilitation and Nurses), poster presentations and excellent networking.  This year’s summit topics included: Integrating the Latest Guidelines into Practice, Endovascular Strategies, Future Landscape for EMS, Telemedicine in EM, Dehydration, Blood Pressure Management for Stroke Patients, Stroke Camp/Stroke Support Groups, ICU/Critical Care, Cryptogenic Stroke and Palliative Care.

The NECC is a voluntary-led regional consortium that has developed its own structure and guidelines with the support of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Over 50 volunteers make up the groups and committees who work year round to develop a strategic plan and implement pilot projects to address recommendations around seven areas focused on stroke including prevention, community education, notification and response of EMS, acute stroke treatment, subacute care and secondary prevention, rehabilitation and continuous quality improvement.

For more information visit



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Jennifer Wall, Rhode Island

Tobacco Free RI is a coordinating network that brings together the people and organizations working on tobacco control in RI.  We are excited to introduce Jennifer Wall, the new coordinator for Tobacco Free RI (TFRI).  Jennifer works closely with the TFRI Chair, the Network Council and the Local Policy Work Group committee, and manages the day-to-day activity of the network. She supports the work of the network partner organizations (including the American Heart Association) by providing and sharing information, resources, advice and technical assistance on best and promising practices of tobacco use prevention and treatment; and by convening meetings and facilitating discussions so that network partners can find common ground and collaborate to bring about effective policy change to reduce tobacco use in RI.

Jennifer is a certified prevention specialist who has worked in the prevention field for the last 18 years. An experienced community organizer, advocate, fundraiser, and non-profit manager, she has honed her skills in several fields including substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, and youth leadership development. Most recently, Jennifer was employed by the East Providence Prevention Coalition (EPPC), a small non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles. She also co-founded and coordinated DICE, the EPPC's youth-led program that empowers young people to make change in their community through leadership development, peer education, and service to the community. For more than a decade, Jennifer has served on the Youth-to-Youth International's Eastern States Conference adult staff and more recently she presented workshops to participants from all over the East Coast. A long-time tobacco prevention advocate, Jennifer spent the first 10 years of her career aiding in the passage of Rhode Island's smoke-free workplaces legislation.

Jennifer is a native Rhode Islander who grew up in East Providence and currently lives in Cumberland. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Public and Community Service from Providence College. Jennifer is passionate about social justice issues, traveling and empowering individuals to be the change they wish to see in the world.

For more information on TFRI, visit

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Rhode Island Advocacy Committee Approves 2016 Policy Agenda

The RI Advocacy Committee has approved an ambitious agenda for 2016 and we’ll need the help of You’re the Cure advocates like you to achieve our goals! 



Policy priorities include:


  • Ensure that Rhode Island’s school nutrition policies/requirements are consistent with beverage and snack guidelines in the USDA Interim Final Rule Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in Schools. 
  • Eliminate the advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools.
  • Enact food and beverage vending standards for state property consistent with those developed by the American Heart Association, or by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/General Services Administration or the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity.
  • Ensure that schools are providing quality physical education by increasing accountability and reporting.
  • Secure state funding to assist with implementation of Rhode Island’s CPR in Schools Law that requires all high school students to receive hands-on CPR training and an overview of AED use prior to graduation as part of the health education curriculum.
  • Increase state funding for evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs that help smokers quit and prevent kids from ever starting this deadly habit.

Thank you for your continued support and advocacy!  As we head into the 2016 Legislative Session, please be sure to update your profile in You’re the Cure to make certain you receive alerts on the issues that are important to you.  If you would like to get more involved in our advocacy efforts, please contact Megan Tucker, Director of Government Relations for Rhode Island at

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American Heart Association Highlights Advocacy at RI Healthy Schools Coalition Breakfast

The American Heart Association was very excited to sponsor and present at 2015 RI Healthy Schools Coalition Breakfast for School Leaders Symposium on September 24th at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.  The event brought together more than 300 superintendents, district administrators, school committee members, food service directors, community wellness partners and parent leaders from all 36 school districts in the state for an informative presentation and discussion of current school wellness issues, best practices and challenges.

Megan Tucker, AHA Director of Government Relations for Rhode Island presented on the importance of advocacy and using your voice to influence and shape policies at the State House.  Megan encouraged attendees to join the You’re the Cure grassroots network; call their legislators; draft op-eds; provide expert testimony and attend a Lobby Day at the State House to show support for issues that are important to them.  She also discussed bills related to updating Rhode Island’s school nutrition/competitive foods standards and ensuring that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised and marketed to children on school property.  The audience was encouraged to join the AHA’s efforts to get these measures passed by the General Assembly in 2016.

The Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) consists of over 100 members representing over 100 RI organizations, schools and districts committed to working towards the achievement of better health through nutrition and physical activity in RI public schools.  For more information visit:

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Little Heart Heroes, Rhode Island

More than 50 families affected by congenital heart defects joined the American Heart Association on Saturday, September 20, 2015 for a day of learning, networking, and fun at Goddard Park in Warwick.  It was a great opportunity to talk with the families about our policy priorities and ways that they can get more engaged in advocacy.  Many of our Little Heart Heroes have already joined us at the State House to lobby for heart health. 

In addition to talking about advocacy, Little Heart Heroes and their Super Siblings participated in “superhero” activities including CPR Demonstrations, Face Painting & Hairdos by Paul Mitchell School of Rhode Island, Pumpkin Pile: Paint Your Own Pumpkin, Power Plants Station: Plant Your Own Vegetable, Decorate Your Mask Station, Superhero Obstacle Course, and “Strike a Pose” Hero Photos.

Little Heart Hero Day (LHHD) is the American Heart Association’s annual celebration of our most special survivors; children with congenital heart defects (CHD). We celebrate survivors with Heart Hero Capes, and Super Siblings with Medals of Honor. Families from all over Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts came together to highlight their successes despite their struggles.

The 6th Annual Little Heart Hero Day was locally sponsored by East Commerce Solutions, Inc., and the Gabrielle Dinsmore Heart & Hope Fund.

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Larry Sadwin, Rhode Island

In 1964, Larry Sadwin was a senior at the University of Rhode Island. Early one Sunday morning, his mother called. Larry’s dad had suffered another heart attack. This time, he couldn't be saved. They buried him that afternoon, about eight years after burying his father, Louis, another victim of this horrible disease.

Having lost his father and grandfather to heart disease, Larry says, “I should've been more aware of my own heart health. I shouldn't have smoked three packs a day for 18 years. Just because I played a lot of tennis and looked healthy, I shouldn't have believed that proved I was healthy. I should've gotten routine physicals to find out.”

In 1982, what he thought was indigestion turned out to be a lack of blood getting to his heart, a condition called ischemia. It took all of 37 seconds on a treadmill for the cardiologist to recognize the severity of his condition.

So he smoked his last cigarette that day, changed his diet and began taking various medicines. He went through a cardiac rehabilitation program but it still wasn't enough.

In September 1984, after angina pains caused one too many ambulance rides to the hospital, Larry met a surgeon who said, "I will fix you." And he did, performing a triple bypass.

16 years later in 2001, Larry was chairman of the American Heart Association in Rhode Island, a passionate volunteer and advocate for cardiovascular health and education. But again, he needed medical care for his own heart disease -- several stents to clear blockages in other coronary arteries.

Larry remarks, “I joke that I've received happiness through chemistry and surgery. Yet, I really have had a front row seat on the evolution of care for heart patients over the years. The care I've received over the last three decades keeps getting better, giving me hope for the future.”

“Early in my journey as a heart patient, I realized that the American Heart Association was a driving force behind the progress,” Larry said. “The organization's commitment to research, awareness and education have saved and improved countless lives, including mine.”

“I've always felt we do a number of things very, very well for patients, such as being strong on prevention and a great resource of research information. But one area where we could improve was being there for patients and families right after an event and providing the soft touch they need -- offering a gentle, guiding hand that pats them on the back or points them in whatever direction they need to be pointed.”

That’s why Larry has been working on a special project with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association over the last year, the Patient Support Network!

“While this is uniquely my story, many elements are all too common.” According to Larry, “That's why all of us survivors and caregivers need a place where we can get together. And in this day and age, a virtual gathering point only makes sense. The AHA Support Network can be whatever you need it to be. Take as much or as little as you want. Come for advice or a virtual shoulder to cry on. It's a club nobody wants to be part of, but we are, so we need to be there for each other; after all, we're the only ones who truly understand what we're going through.”

For more information on the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Patient Support Network, visit

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Rhode Island Advocates Lead Congressional Visits During August Recess

Many thanks to Rhode Island advocates John Potvin, Kathy Harrington and Miriam Plitt for leading our Congressional outreach during the August Recess!  Advocates visited the offices of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman Jim Langevin and David Cicilline to deliver a simple message: Step Up to the Plate for School Meals!  Advocates urged our Members of Congress to protect the strong 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. 

Since becoming law in December 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has given America’s children access to healthier food options for breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day. 95% of schools and diverse communities across the country are meeting the requirements and ensuring their students are getting a head start on a healthy lifestyle.  Rhode Island has always been a leader on school nutrition and was one of the first states to adopt strong nutrition standards.   

Congress will debate whether to re-authorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act this year and we need your continued support!  Visit to learn more.

Photo: Kathy Harrington visits Senator Whitehouse's office.

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American Heart Association Hosts Liberian Delegation in Rhode Island

The American Heart Association has been building a new partnership with the Liberian Community Association of Rhode Island and we were honored to have the opportunity to meet with officials from Liberia on recent trip the United States.  Our discussion and information exchange focused on child nutrition.  The presentation by our Liberian colleagues on the impact of malnutrition in Liberia and the interventions being utilized and developed was powerful. We learned a great deal about the challenges facing Liberia and its people – including lack of sanitation, infrastructure and agriculture (the country currently imports 90% of its food).  But we also learned about the hope, dedication and perseverance of leaders like Helena Dagbe-Williams, Nutrition Supervisor, Liberian Ministry of Health, who are inspiring change.  Many thanks to Mrs. Dagbe-Williams for taking the time to meet with us – and to Gabriel Duana, Vice President of the Liberian Community Association of Rhode Island for making this visit possible. 

The Liberian Community Association of Rhode Island is a new member of our state coalition – The Alliance for a Healthier Rhode Island.  We are working together to ensure that all children in Rhode Island have access to healthy foods, quality physical education and safe places to play and be active.

To view Mrs. Dagbe-Williams presentation click here: (Please visit the site to view this file)

Photo L to R: Megan Tucker, AHA Director of Government Relations; Helena Dagbe-Williams; Karin Wetherill, AHA Voices for Healthy Kids Consultant; Gabriel Duana.

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Candace Pierce, Rhode Island

The American Heart Association’s National Office was recently awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce chronic diseases and health disparities in low-income communities across the country.  The National Office selected 15 markets to receive funding for this program and we were very excited to learn that the City of Providence was one of the designated sites.   Goals of the grant include increasing access to healthy food and beverages and increasing opportunities for physical activity.  Candace Pierce was hired this past April as the American Heart Association’s Regional Campaign Manager charged with implementing the Providence grant.  We sat down with Candace to ask her about her work...

Q. Why was the American Heart Association interested in applying for this grant for Providence?

A. Zip codes are one of the best measures of heart health, and those living in low-income areas have a shorter life expectancy due to a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases. Providence has a significant low-income population with limited access to healthy foods and beverages and places to be physically active.

Q. How will you have an impact?

The grant is aimed at policy, system and environmental changes. If people have better access to healthy foods and beverages and have safe places to be physically active, they will be healthier. Part of this includes teaching people that these things are important to their health. In particular, we are aiming a large amount of our work at children, so they have more opportunities to eat healthy and be active, while also learning the importance of this. Children who are obese or overweight are more likely to grow up to be obese and overweight. We hope to break that cycle or stop it before it starts.

Q. Can you share the specific goals of your grant?

A. The first is to increase physical activity in the Providence Public School District (PPSD) and the second is to increase access to healthy foods and beverage at child care centers, hospitals, workplaces, government buildings and recreation centers.

Q. Tell us a little more about what you’re doing in the Providence Public School District.

A. I’m working closely with the PPSD Wellness Coordinator, Jennifer Quigley-Harris, who was hired to implement and communicate a very strong school wellness policy. I’m collaborating with Jennifer on the implementation of a Comprehensive Physical Activity Program for all elementary schools. Essentially, this means increasing student physical activity to 60 minutes per day through activities before, during and after school. It also include quality physical education classes, as well as family and staff engagement in the activities.

Jennifer and I are working with the Rhode Island Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (RIAPHERD) organization to run a Let’s Move, Physical Activity Leader (PAL) training for school staff. PALs will be trained how to increase physical activity, whether it’s how to be active during indoor recess or improving the quality of the physical education classes so the children are getting moderate to vigorous exercise.

I’m also working on engaging more parental support and involvement.

Q. Why is physical activity so important to school success?

A. Physical activity not only contributes to better health, but research has concluded that it also leads to better academic performance, increased focus and better classroom behavior.

Q. We’d like to hear what you’re doing with child care centers.

One important activity involves training child care center providers how to serve healthier food and beverages to the children in their centers. This is particularly aimed at centers receiving federal funds through Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides aid for the provision of nutritious foods. Under CACFP, providers are required to follow meal and snack guidelines and we are going to put that into action with some ideas for meal planning, shopping tips, and food preparation.

We hope to have the training at Johnson and Wales University, where they can see food preparation demonstrations. Part of the emphasis will be on cooking or providing foods with less sodium, fat and sugar.

Q. What will you be doing in hospitals?

A. We’d like to help hospitals assess the food they sell in their cafeterias and vending machines, and consider some changes toward healthier items. We can help them inventory their food and beverages and make recommendations on changes. This may include changing the environment so healthier items are in more prominent places (i.e. fruit at the register), foods are labeled so people know what they’re eating, or perhaps some healthy items being priced less than unhealthy ones (i.e. water is cheaper than soda).

Q. Are other organizations working with you on this?

A. Yes! I couldn’t possibly do this without the support and guidance of many partner organizations and individuals. The lead team consists of the American Heart Association, the Providence Healthy Communities Office and its Advisory Council, and the Providence Public School District Wellness Committee.

I’m also working with Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Rhode Island Kids Count, the Rhode Island Departments of Education and Health, Health Care Without Harm, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, BrightStars, the Rhode Island Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, and many leaders at the local universities.  

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