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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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2016 Policy Planning Underway in Rhode Island

The 2016 Legislative Session might seem a long way off…but for the dedicated advocates who serve on the Rhode Island Advocacy Committee, summer is the perfect time to start gearing up for another successful year!  There are many steps that go into our policy planning process.  Staff work closely with RI Advocacy Committee members to conduct research and assess different policies, and based on that rigorous analysis the group collectively identifies 5-6 areas that will be the focus of our 2016 policy agenda.  Once the group approves the agenda, they develop comprehensive campaign plans that will help guide us to victory.  Campaign strategies include grassroots and grasstops advocacy, direct lobbying and media advocacy.  Needless to say, You’re the Cure advocates like YOU play a critical role in our efforts.  Beginning this fall and throughout the legislative session, we need your help to educate lawmakers and keep the pressure on so they move our bills.  Advocates are also encouraged to attend our RI Lobby Day which will be held in May 2016 (more info to come!).

So, what policy issues are rising to the top of the list?  We have a couple of issues that are carryovers from the 2015 Legislative Session – we will continue to prioritize CPR in Schools funding; updates to Rhode Island’s school nutrition/competitive foods law which covers all foods and beverages sold outside of and in competition with the school meals program (vending, a la carte, fundraising, etc.); and, school marketing to ensure that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised/marketed to children on school property.  We are excited to add 1-2 new issues to the line-up as well.  Sneak peak – there is a lot of interest among advocates and partners to launch a campaign related to physical education in schools.  Perhaps we can take the first step in 2016?

Please stay tuned for more details!  The RI Advocacy Committee plans to finalize the 2016 policy agenda by the end of August.  If you have any questions or would like to get more involved with the American Heart Association’s policy work in Rhode Island, please contact Megan Tucker, Director of Government Relations at megan.tucker@heart.org.

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SAVE THE DATE: Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition Breakfast

SAVE THE DATE for the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition “Breakfast for School Leaders Symposium 2015" on Thursday, September 24th, 7:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.  The American Heart Association is excited to cosponsor this annual event which brings together superintendents, district administration, 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.  Register HERE beginning August 24th. 

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: http://www.rihsc.org/

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Steve Goulet, Rhode Island

We recently had the pleasure of meeting an amazing new advocate!  Steve Goulet is a cardiac arrest survivor - and now he's on a personal mission to save lives with CPR.  Check out his incredible story in The Providence Journal:

Photo credit: The Providence Journal

http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150604/NEWS/150609610 

A story of revival: Woonsocket EMT's cardiac arrest becomes mission to save lives with CPR

After a long day of work at his garage in 2006, Steven Goulet sat down at the bar with his buddy and ordered a cold beer.

He didn't have so much as a sip. 

The moment the drink arrived, his eyes rolled back and he slumped over, his head hitting the bar. 

Goulet doesn’t remember any of what happened next — not the nurse who rushed to his side, not the frantic chest compressions she and others performed, not the 22 minutes that passed before his pulse could be restored. At 27, he was in full cardiac arrest.

Even if Goulet survived, the doctors told his family as he lay comatose in the hospital, he’d probably be severely brain damaged.

But when Goulet finally came to, not only was he his old self, but he quickly learned that CPR had likely saved him. It was a life-changing experience.

Since then, Goulet, eager to save other people's lives, has become an EMT and performed CPR on countless patients.  He's also sought to encourage everyday people to learn basic CPR skills.

“It’s amazing,” he says after recounting what happened to him in the bar nine years ago. “If nobody knew how to do CPR, I would have never made it.”

Nurse wouldn't give up

Born and raised in Blackstone, Mass., owned a car repair business in his hometown before his life would forever change. It meant working long hours. When his friend stopped by the garage close to 11 p.m., he was surprised to see Goulet still at work. 

“He said, let’s go grab a beer,” Goulet said. 

On reflection, Goulet said he was fortunate he hadn’t been left alone — and even more fortunate that a nurse was at the bar when they got to the Millerville Club. When his buddy yelled for help, she began CPR and, when she tired, got others in the bar to help take turns. 

Again and again they checked for a pulse. Nothing. It went on for about 15 minutes. 

“People said, ‘Stop, stop. He’s going to be brain dead,'" he later learned. But, he said, “She just kept going.” 

Town paramedics arrived after about 15 minutes. It was another seven minutes before they restored his pulse. Brain damage can occur after as little as three minutes without a pulse and death in as little as four to six minutes, according to the National Library of Medicine. 

Goulet initially went to Landmark Hospital in Woonsocket before being transferred to Rhode Island Hospital. Meanwhile, an emergency room physician at Landmark, who after going home puzzled over what caused Goulet’s cardiac arrest, stumbled upon something in a medical text that he thought was the answer.

It was Brugada syndrome, an electrical disorder in the heart that can cause lethal arrhythmias and is sometimes genetic. He called doctors at Rhode Island Hospital and, although Goulet had no family history of Brugada, his suspicions were later confirmed. 

Surgeons implanted a defibrillator in Goulet's chest to shock his heart when the abnormal ventricular rhythms occurred. But because they were happening so frequently, he later began taking a medication that dramatically reduced the need for those shocks.

A new life

Returning to running his garage was too stressful. So Goulet, who is married with children, set out to find a new career. After learning that his condition prevented him from becoming a truck driver, he began taking EMT courses, inspired by his own experience. 

“That’s why I wanted to be an EMT. I felt like I’d have more compassion for people and what they were going through,” Goulet says. “If that happened to someone else, I wanted to help them the way people were able to help me."

Eventually, he earned an “EMT-Cardiac” license. After volunteering and working part-time for the Chepachet Fire Department, he took a full-time job in Woonsocket with Medtech Ambulance. 

Coincidentally, on Goulet's first day on the job, he was assigned to ride with Michael Marcoux, who was the leader of the team of paramedics that helped save his life. As a deputy fire chief with the Blackstone Fire Department, Marcoux joined two other EMTs in taking over resuscitation efforts from the nurse, bar customers and a police officer who arrived moments earlier. 

“It was an awesome team effort,” says Marcoux. When it comes to cardiac arrest, “very, very seldom do you have an outcome like Steven.” 

Since becoming an EMT, and joining a busy ambulance service, Goulet figures he’s administered CPR hundreds of times. 

“I’ve saved lives and gotten them to the hospital. Even if I hadn’t gotten a pulse back … [the emergency room] had a viable patient to work with,” he says. “ It’s a passion now. I’ve never been happier than what I’m doing now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Governor Raimondo Signs Rhode Island Stroke Bill Into Law

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed our stroke bill into law – ensuring the best possible care for stroke patients in the Ocean State!  The bill had been unanimously approved by the Rhode Island House and Senate. 

The new law makes some important updates to the Stroke Prevention and Treatment Act of 2009. While the changes in the stroke bill are fairly minor, they are important and will allow the Rhode Island Stroke Task Force to continue its charge of improving the system of care for stroke patients in the Ocean State.  Revisions include: 

  • Relaxing the stroke registry reporting requirement by allowing hospitals flexibility to use different data platforms; 
  • Adding a Comprehensive Stroke Center designation.  This is a level above the Primary Stroke Centers created by the original law - there is already one hospital in Rhode Island that has achieved this high level designation; and,
  • Requiring an annual review of the EMS Pre-Hospital Care Protocol for stroke.  

When the Stroke Prevention and Treatment Act was enacted nearly six years ago, there were just two Primary Stroke Centers in Rhode Island.  We now have seven Primary Stroke Centers and one Comprehensive Stroke Center.  Thanks to the work of the Stroke Task Force and dedicated You’re the Cure advocates, Rhode Island is considered a national model for stroke care.   

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2015 Rhode Island Legislative Session - Wrap Up

The Legislative Session came to an abrupt end on June 25th after House and Senate negotiations reached an impasse. Dozens of bills were left in limbo – including our competitive foods/school nutrition & healthy school marketing bills.

As you know, the competitive foods/school nutrition bill and the healthy school marketing bill were top priorities for the American Heart Association and our coalition partners.  The first bill would have updated Rhode Island’s competitive foods/school nutrition guidelines to align with new USDA regulations (competitive foods means anything sold outside of – and in competition with – the school meals program such as vending, a la carte, school stores and in-school fundraisers).  The second bill would have ensured that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised and marketed to children on school property. 

Both bills were unanimously approved by the Rhode Island Senate.  On the last day of session, our competitive foods/school nutrition bill gained momentum – it was quickly approved by the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee and immediately placed on the House floor calendar.  As far as we know, our healthy school marketing bill was part of a bundle of smaller bills that were still being negotiated by the House and Senate.  Later that night, the House and Senate came to a stalemate and the session abruptly ended.  Dozens of bills were left on the floor calendar – including our competitive foods/school nutrition bill.  Our healthy school marketing bill was left on the negotiating table. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with the merit of our bills and everything to do with politics – which made it extra disappointing. 

We came so close to victory – and it’s the outreach of our amazing You’re the Cure advocates that helped us get to that point!  We will be ready at the earliest opportunity to tackle these bills again – whether it’s during a special session this fall or January 2016.

In the meantime, we need to celebrate our two big wins this year: our stroke bill was signed into law by Governor Raimondo, ensuring quality care for all stroke patients in Rhode Island; and, the Rhode Island Department of Health adopted regulations ensuring that every newborn in Rhode Island will receive a pulse oximetry test to screen for critical congenital heart defects effective July 1, 2015.  Congratulations everyone!!!

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Rhode Island GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest Award Recipients

The American Heart Association and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island hosted the 2015 GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest Award Ceremony at the Rhode Island State House on May 20th.  The award ceremony recognized eleven outstanding students in grades K-8.  Winning students demonstrated how physical activity and healthy eating helps build healthy hearts, healthy families and healthy communities. Several hundred posters from all over Rhode Island were submitted for consideration this year.

Congratulations to our award recipients!

Grades K-1:
1st place – Averi Senecal from Winsor Hill School in Johnston

2nd place – Mackenzie Barrette from Wawaloam School in Exeter
3rd place – Kamaiina Jackman from Tiogue School in Coventry

Grades 2-4:
1st place – Mia Clancy from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Caroline Pesenecker & Casey Khuon from Winsor Hill in Johnston
3rd place – Michael Psilopoulas & Dante Iafrate from Winsor Hill in Johnston

Grades 5-8:
1st place – Isabella Luchka from North Scituate Elementary
2nd place – Isabelle Besser from North Scituate Elementary
3rd place – Sienna Fusaro from Westerly Middle School

The American Heart Association is committed to helping kids and families live heart healthy lives!  As we educate and lobby lawmakers to support policies that promote access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active in Rhode Island, we wanted to take the extra step to get students involved.

Many thanks to our generous sponsor: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island!

 

 

 

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Rhode Island Advocates Participate in State & Federal Lobby Days

The week of May 11th was busy for Rhode Island advocates! A small group traveled to Washington, D.C. May 11th & 12th to meet with the RI Congressional Delegation – and on May 13th, advocates gathered at the State House for RI Lobby Day.

Federal Lobby Day:  More than 380 You're the Cure advocates descended on Washington, D.C. May 11th & 12th for You're the Cure on the Hill.  Rhode Island was represented by John Potvin, EMT-C, Vice Chair of the RI Advocacy Committee; Tracey Kennedy, stroke survivor and Immediate Past Chair of the RI Advocacy Committee; Ron Kennedy, Tracey’s husband and caregiver; and, Megan Tucker, AHA Director of Government Relations. The group had very productive meetings with Senators Reed and Whitehouse and staff for Representatives Langevin and Cicilline.  Advocates asked the RI Congressional Delegation to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and to support strong school nutrition standards, and also to make cardiovascular disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

State Lobby Day:  On May 13th, Rhode Island advocates gathered at the State House to help build support for the AHA’s priority issues.  Advocates asked their legislators to support our bill that would eliminate unhealthy food and beverage advertising in schools by making sure that federal and state nutrition standards also apply to advertising/marketing.  They also asked legislators to support funding to purchase new CPR equipment/manikins for all public high schools to help implement the 2013 CPR in Schools Law.  

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Rhode Island House & Senate Approve Stroke Bill

The Rhode Island House of Representatives and the Rhode Island Senate have unanimously passed our stroke bill, ensuring quality stroke care for Rhode Islanders!

This bill makes some important updates to the Stroke Prevention and Treatment Act of 2009. While the changes in the stroke bill are fairly minor, they are important and will allow the Rhode Island Stroke Task Force to continue its charge of improving the system of care for stroke patients in the Ocean State.  Proposed updates include:

  • Relaxing the stroke registry reporting requirement by allowing hospitals flexibility to use different data platforms; 
  • Adding a Comprehensive Stroke Center designation.  This is a level above the Primary Stroke Centers created by the original Law - there is already one hospital in Rhode Island that has achieved this high level designation; and,
  • Adding language that would require an annual review of the EMS Pre-Hospital Care Protocols for stroke.  

When the Stroke Prevention and Treatment Act was enacted nearly six years ago, there were just two Primary Stroke Centers in Rhode Island.  We now have seven Primary Stroke Centers and one Comprehensive Stroke Center.  Thanks to the work of the Stroke Task Force and dedicated You’re the Cure advocates, Rhode Island is considered a national model for stroke care. 

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.


Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:

 

  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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