American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Governor Raimondo Releases FY 2017 Budget Proposal

On February 2, Governor Gina Raimondo presented her FY 2017 budget recommendations to the General Assembly.  We are still reviewing the details of the budget proposal, but wanted to draw your attention to two issues:

Healthy Communities Bond – the Governor has proposed issuing $35 million in bonds to extend bike paths and improve state parks.  Several environmental projects are also included.  The bond referendum would go before voters in the November general election.  The American Heart Association strongly supports increased funding for biking, walking and recreational opportunities.

Cigarette Tax Increase – The Governor also proposed increasing the state cigarette tax by 25-cents per pack.  While we appreciate the Governor looking at the cigarette tax, the American Heart Association is opposed to small tax increases that will yield no public health benefit.  In addition, we are concerned that none of the new revenue is being directed to prevention & cessation programs that are proven to help current smokers quit and prevent kids from ever starting this deadly habit. 


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New Policy Brief Calls for More Physical Education in Rhode Island Schools

Our partners at Rhode Island Kids Count recently released a new policy brief entitled, “Promoting Increased Physical Activity in Schools.”

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve strength and endurance, help control weight, and prevent chronic disease. It has also been shown to improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores. Research also shows positive effects on the brain, including improved attention, processing, memory, and coping. “Promoting Increased Physical Activity in Schools” provides an overview of current practices and policies regarding physical activity in Rhode Island schools (including recess and physical education), and includes recommendations for promoting increased physical activity in schools. 

To view the policy brief click here:,%20Issues,%20Oral)/Physical%20Activity%20%20Rhode%20Island%20KIDS%20COUNT%20Policy%20Brief-Phys%20Activity%20in%20Schools-Jan%202016.pdf

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Yvonne Heredia, Rhode Island

On May 14, 2015, I was awakened with sudden chest heaviness and difficulty breathing. I took an aspirin and then woke up my 16-year-old daughter to go outside my home with me so that I could get fresh air.While I was outside; I said a quick prayer and realized that something just was not right. I decided to call 911 and when I did, I strongly encouraged the 911 operator to hurry with rescue. I stated that I did not think I would make it if they did not hurry fast. Soon after, the rescue arrived to transport me to the hospital. When I arrived at RI hospital I was immediately rushed into the trauma room and the first evaluation that was performed was an EKG. I was then told that I was having a massive heart attack.

My heart rate began dropping fast. I noticed the trauma team preparing to shock me. My heart rate started to increase. I then was sent to the catherization lab to be stented, and then moved to the cardiac critical care unit. Once I was stabilized, the cardiologist came in to discuss my care. The cardiologist first indicated that I was very lucky to be alive because the type of heart attack that I suffered was the Left Anterior Descending with 99% blockage.

I am a registered nurse having full understanding of the magnitude of the information regarding a heart attack. My experience has prompted me to be a voice for women about the importance of recognizing subtle signs of a heart attack. The signs and symptoms that I experienced is proof of how women exhibit symptoms differently.


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A New Year in the Ocean State

As we start 2016, we have a busy legislative session ahead of us! We have made significant progress on many of our issues – school nutrition, healthy food & beverage advertising in schools, funding for CPR training in schools, tobacco control, and funding for “transportation alternatives” like biking & walking (just to name a few!).  I look forward to working with you and all of our You’re the Cure advocates in the Ocean State to make sure that we see some of these priorities make it through the General Assembly and to Governor Raimondo’s desk. I know you have advocated for some of these issues for many years and just like me you are ready for success!

If you would like to get more involved in our advocacy efforts, please feel free to contact me anytime!  In addition to our online grassroots activities, there are many opportunities to get engaged “offline” as well.  Perhaps you would like to try something new in 2016?  Attend a Lobby Day at the State House, meet with your state senator or representative, testify at a committee hearing, or draft an op-ed for your local paper?  Call or email to learn more!

Cheers to a productive 2016!


Contact Info: 

Megan Tucker

Director of Government Relations

American Heart Association

(401) 228-2331

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2016 Legislative Session Commences in Rhode Island

The RI General Assembly opened its 2016 session on Tuesday, January 5th.  The work of the new legislative year is now underway!

The General Assembly’s website is an excellent resource for following the legislative process:  Learn more about your state senator and representative, view committee calendars, see what’s scheduled for a floor vote, watch committee hearings and floor sessions on Capitol TV’s live web streaming service (free), and much more!

To learn more about how a bill becomes a law in Rhode Island click here:


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Karin Wetherill, Rhode Island

Meet Karin Wetherill, Wellness Coordinator for the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC).  Since 2002, Karin has been active in making schools healthier places for all Rhode Island children.  She’s worked with Kids First, the Rhode Island Department of Education, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Alliance for a Healthier Rhode Island and is a consultant on the American Heart Association's Voices for Healthy Kids Campaign in Rhode Island, in addition to her role at RIHSC.

What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity? 

It was through my work at Kids First where I saw firsthand the need for greater attention to school wellness policies and practices.  Kids were getting mixed messages about nutrition and physical activity at school because the environment didn’t always support what they were being taught in Health and PE class.   Schools needed to be better models for students.  And not all children across the state were in schools that were serving healthy foods and had safe play areas for regular exercise.  It becomes a social justice issue when poor and minority kids don’t have the same opportunity and access.  All schools can and should model and inspire children to learn and practice healthy life behaviors.  They also can engage families and have an impact on the home environment as well.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity? 

Schools are a natural place to teach healthy habits and support children making healthy decisions.  It’s critical, though, that they get support.  RIHSC provides guidance to districts on the development and implementation of strong wellness policies and helps them put the policies into practice at the school level.  At the state level, RIHSC works with our partner community organizations to advocate for laws and regulations in areas such as competitive food/beverage sales and food marketing and advertising in schools and strong Physical Education standards.  This combination of state and school level action is effective at making sustainable improvements that will help promote real culture change in our communities! 

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity? 

We’ve been fortunate in Rhode Island to have successful collaboration between community-based advocates and state-level leaders.  We’ve been able to advance policies and regulations that are making a positive difference in our schools.  School leaders are much more aware of the relationship between health and academic outcomes and now take an active role in health and wellness initiatives in schools.     

What do you look forward to most about your job?  

I get energized by collaboration and partnerships.  I love working with a wide variety of people and organizations and finding ways to connect them to each other.  It’s fun to be able to work with educators, legislators, health professionals, students, parents, food service staff, farmers and others… craft ideas and solutions that will support healthful improvements in schools to benefit children.  

What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?  

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and ate my fair share of junk snack foods.  Processed foods were the new thing and we were swayed by the marketing of these convenience foods.  I’m so glad I became better educated about food and made sure my own children had more fresh food choices.  A favorite activity has always been berry picking in season at our local farm.   

The Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition was founded as a local chapter of the national Action for Healthy Kids organization. Since that time, they have grown into a vibrant statewide organization of over 100 members, including school districts and community organizations.  RIHSC works to support all schools in developing and maintaining healthier environments for nutrition, physical education and physical activity.  Through their communication, outreach and technical assistance program, they share best practices, identify funding and resources, offer workshops and trainings, and host an annual Breakfast for School Leaders Symposium each September, where according to Karin, they “are able to bring the entire state health and wellness community together with school leaders to prioritize school wellness and share research, successful practices, new ideas and tools that can be practically used in each school.  We want everyone to walk away with something that they can take back to their schools to easily implement.”  RIHSC’s mission is to support the work of every district wellness committee and foster collaboration between schools and our member community organizations.  For more information visit

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Senator Susan Sosnowski to Receive American Heart Association Award

The American Heart Association will recognize Rhode Island State Senator Susan Sosnowski (District 37 – New Shoreham, South Kingstown) for her commitment to fighting heart disease and stroke at an award ceremony on December 14th

Sosnowski will be presented with the 2015 Tracey A. Kennedy Leadership in Advocacy Award, a “lifetime achievement” award given in recognition of outstanding leadership and tireless efforts to advance the mission of the American Heart Association – building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Sosnowski, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture and member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services, was selected for her leadership on bills that will help build a healthier Rhode Island.  During the 2015 Legislative Session, Sosnowski championed legislation that would update Rhode Island’s school nutrition standards and ensure that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised and marketed to children on school property.  Both bills were unanimously approved by the Senate. 

Senator Sosnowski also sponsored Rhode Island’s original school nutrition bills that required elementary, junior and senior high schools to offer only healthy snacks and beverages to students.  The measures – enacted in 2006 and 2007 – set the stage for Rhode Island to become a national leader in school nutrition.  In addition, Senator Sosnowski has been a strong advocate for tobacco control, leading efforts to protect Rhode Island citizens and children from the dangers of secondhand smoke. 

“Senator Sosnowski believes in offering and providing a healthy environment for all Rhode Islanders, but especially our children. She has a long history of partnering with the American Heart Association. We are thrilled to recognize her lifetime achievement as a public health champion,” noted Tracey Kennedy.

“Regardless of how busy Senator Sosnowski is, every time we bring her a new idea she is willing to jump in and help. Her leadership and commitment are greatly appreciated.  We are very lucky to have her at the State House,” said Megan Tucker, Director of Government Relations.

The Tracey A. Kennedy Leadership in Advocacy Award was established in 2010 and is named for one of the American Heart Association’s most passionate advocates.  Tracey Kennedy of Wakefield is a stroke survivor and her commitment to advancing the American Heart Association’s mission through meaningful policy change at the state and federal levels is unparalleled.  She has displayed tremendous leadership over the years as past Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Board of Directors and as an Advocacy Ambassador.  Kennedy currently serves as Immediate Past Chairwoman of the Rhode Island Advocacy Committee. 

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Rhode Island GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest Underway

The American Heart Association recently launched its GET HEALTHY! Poster Contest for Rhode Island students in Grades K-5.  Students are asked to draw a picture of their favorite physical activity and favorite healthy food. They can also demonstrate how physical activity and healthy eating help 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 and/or individuals 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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