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New Yorkers Attend White House Briefing

On Friday, September 9th, several New York advocates participated in an event sponsored by the White House, titled "Making Health Care Better Series: Cardiovascular Health."  The day-long forum offered an opportunity for volunteers to directly witness the impact of the American Heart Association's mission. 

The group was invited on a special tour of the White House prior to the briefing which provided an exciting glimpse into the history of the Presidency.  You can see many highlights from the tour on the American Heart Association's social media feed by searching with the tag #HeartAtTheWH.

In addition to the tour, the group joined advocates from across the country for a robust overview from our nation's leaders in heart disease and stroke prevention, care and treatment.  Presenters included Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, Dr. Gary Gibbons, Director of NHLBI, Dr. Nancy Lee, Assistant Secretary of Health, Dr. Shari Ling, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Debra Eschmeyer, the Executive Director of the First Lady's "Let's Move" initiative. 

The New York delegation was also briefed by national leadership from several organizations who have a vested interest in our mission against heart disease and stroke.  The American Heart Association's own CEO, Nancy Brown, presented on the progress made so far in the effort to promote health across the country.  She was joined by executives from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, YMCA USA, WomenHeart, the Horizon Foundation and Emory University.

With all of these impressive leaders in one room, perhaps the most impactful presentation was from a panel of heart disease and stroke survivors.  These personal stories of survival were at once inspiring and motivating.  While we have come a long way in our mission, there is still a lot of work to be done.

We are grateful for the many volunteers that attended from across the country. New York was well represented by:

* Annette Adamczak - Volunteer Advocate and one of New York's Premier Voices in Support of CPR & AED Training

* Dr. Mitchell Elkind - Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology, Fellowships Director, Department of Neurology, Columbia University

* Liz Elting - CEO, TransPerfect and New York City Go Red For Women Leader

* Janice Hall - Senior Vice President, Global Sales Capability at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and NYC Go Red For Women Corporate Chair

* William LaForte - Real Estate Attorney, Trevett Cristo Salzer & Andolina P.C. and Chair-Elect of the Founders Affiliate Board of Directors

* Wendy Mono - Volunteer Advocate and Chair Emeritus of the New York City Advocacy Committee

* Dr. Cheryl Pegus - Clinical Professor of Medicine and Population Health, Director, Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation, Associate Chair for Clinical Innovation, NYU School of Medicine                    

* Dr. Stacey Rosen - Vice President, Women's Health, Katz Institute for Women's Health at Northwell Health and NYC Go Red for Women Medical Chair

The American Heart Association is grateful for the support of these wonderful advocates.  We look forward to putting the lessons learned at the White House to good use for all New Yorkers!

Photo Credit: Stu Mono

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CT Needs Centralized, Statewide Stroke Registry

In CT, stroke has been one of the top 5 leading causes of death and leading cause of disability. In an effort to reduce the burden of stroke by improving the quality of care delivered to stroke patients, stroke registries have been developed to measure and track acute stroke care. 

As part of its commitment to improving patient care for stroke, the American Stroke Association has developed a number of quality improvement programs that include clinical registries. We support the use of registries to improve quality of care and to help identify risk factors to reduce chronic diseases. We are working with our policy makers to create a stroke registry in order to monitor incidence and support the development of relevant quality improvement initiatives.

We hope you will join in our efforts as we look to collaborate with legislators in order to enact statewide standards for the development and utilization of a centralized, statewide stroke registry. 

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Gearing Up for a Busy Fall!

And just like that, summer was over!

We hope that everyone had an enjoyable and relaxing summer vacation. With Fall upon us and the kids’ back to school, we are excited for another busy season full of AHA events. From Heart Walks, to Go Red Luncheons and everything in between, we are anxious to get the ball rolling on important legislative work in advance of the 2017 legislative session and have started to work on various campaigns in preparation.

This year we are working on some of the same budget priorities as last year, including funding for Healthy Food Access Programs, CPR in Schools Implementation, Tobacco Cessation Programs, Hypertension and Obesity Prevention Programs, etc.

Legislatively, we plan to work on Stroke Designation Legislation again, as well as a two new bills: One that hopes to improve Healthy Food in Public Places by changing the vending machine requirements in state owned buildings, and another that would raise the legal purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

It is an exciting time here at the American Heart Association and we look forward to working with all of our advocates to help move the needle on these important public health initiatives! 

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Recess is over, time for healthy lunch and science class

With the August Congressional recess winding down, Maine’s Congressional Delegation will be headed back to Washington DC to deal with budgets and zika funding.  However, before they leave this beautiful state and return to the hot and muggy weather of early fall in the nation’s capital, the American Heart Association volunteer, Sarah Porter wanted to assure that Senator Collins and Congresswoman Pingree know how important NIH Funding and school nutrition are to her.

Sarah is originally from Presque Isle, went to UMaine at Orono and received her Master’s in Public Health from Columbia.  While at UMaine, at the age of 20, Sarah suffered a stroke.  Luckily, despite an initial misdiagnosis, she made a full recovery.  This stroke (and a subsequent stroke and brain surgery) inspired her career in public health as well as her advocacy on behalf of the American Heart Association.  Sarah wants to help all Mainers have long and healthy lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Sarah (pictured here in the red dress) spoke with Senator Collins’ State Office Representative Kate Norfleet about the importance of NIH funding of heart and stroke research.  In Maine, cardiovascular disease and stroke are tied with all cancers combined as the #1 killers.  However, only 4% of the NIH budget is dedicated to heart disease and only 1% to stroke!  This is despite the fact that every $1.00 spent on cardiovascular research has a return on investment of $30.00. Nearly 44% of the U.S. adult population is projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease by 2030.  Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between the toll of cardiovascular disease and the funding directed to CVD research.

Also, Sarah made a plug for the bi-partisan Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016.  This bill would preserve the sodium reduction and whole grain standards in school foods.  These standards are crucial to making sure that when the bell rings in Maine’s schools, kids are getting healthy meals.

Sarah will be delivering her message to Congresswoman Pingree later this week.  If you’d like to be part of meetings with Sarah, on behalf of the American Heart Association, please let me know.

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Michael Angelucci, West Virginia

Michael Angelucci West Virginia

Michael Angelucci has been a dedicated advocacy champion for heart-health policy in West Virginia for many years. As a You're the Cure advocate, AHA Advocacy Committee Chair and Marion County EMT, he helped spearhead our efforts to pass CPR in Schools legislation in 2015. Critical to the success of the bill, he helped compile a comprehensive listing of all facilities in the state that were willing and able to teach CPR in Schools once passed, and allowed us to share it with the state department of education as a resource. In addition, he helped to teach a CPR in Schools training at the WV statewide KidStrong conference, where hundreds of health and physical education teachers and coaches attended.

And his dedication to improving healthy in the Mountain State doesn't end with passage of CPR in Schools legislation. Michael also rounded up thousands of signatures and delivered petitions to lawmakers to help us protect clean indoor air regulations around the state when several bills were introduced to weaken them in the 2015 and 2016 WV Legislation Sessions.

 In preparation for the 2016 legislative session, Michael participated in several meetings with department of health, EMS officials and neurology specialists in the state to help lay the groundwork for our Stroke Facility Designation bill. During the session, he attended committee meetings for the bill, contacted lawmakers and attended our State Lobby Day on February 2nd. At Lobby Day, he brought several employees with him and the group conducted a Hands-Only CPR training on the floor of the Senate during AHA's Go Red Week! Thanks in large part to Michael's efforts, the Stroke Bill was passed in the 2016 Session.

We were excited to be able to present Micheal with the 2016 American Heart Association Distinguished Achievement Award for his outstanding dedication to the health of the Mountain State. Thank you, Michael, for everything you do!

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Mary Kay Ballasiotes

Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

Mary Kay Ballasiotes has been advocating for children for over 15 years.  Her daughter, Michelle had a stroke before she was born and that moment changed both of their lives forever. Mary Kay’s advocacy days started in 2002 in Chicago where she founded the Childhood Stroke & Hemiplegia Connections of Illinois, simply because there was a need for it.  Before long, Mary Kay and her daughter were fixtures at Lobby Day.  At National Lobby Day, May 2006, Mary Kay spoke with the Vice President of the American Stroke Association (ASA) and told him about her daughter having a stroke before birth.  She learned that the VP had never heard of pediatric stroke. From that day on Mary Kay made it her mission to collaborate with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the ASA about pediatric stroke, and to raise awareness about it.

Over the years, Mary Kay and Michelle attended heart walks, lobby days, and were very vocal about pediatric stroke in each state they have lived in: Illinois, Georgia, and now North Carolina. Mary Kay has also co-produced a pediatric stroke awareness video with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, which was created to raise awareness that strokes can happen in babies, children and even before birth.

Most recently, she and Michelle and traveled to the Non-communicable Diseases (NCD) Alliance Global Forum in Sharjah, UAE. Michelle represented the AHA/ASA, and Mary Kay was able to experience this opportunity of a lifetime.

Making a difference in people’s lives is the most rewarding element of being part of advocacy.  Mary Kay and Michelle have attended many lobby days over the years, both national and state.  The experience never gets old to Mary Kay.  She loves seeing how her passion and effort can make a difference, and strongly feels that one person can make a difference!  In August 2010, Mary Kay and her family moved to North Carolina where she soon started working with Betsy Vetter, the AHA Director of Government Relations in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.  Mary Kay readily admits her love of working with Betsy.  She is one of the reasons Mary Kay is still volunteering and advocating with AHA.  Mary Kay feeds off Betsy’s passion and enthusiasm and feels that Betsy has a gift for working with volunteers and government officials.

Mary Kay is very proud of her daughter Michelle and the hard work that she has been doing right alongside her mother. While back in Chicago in 2007, Michelle was chosen to be one of the 12 “Faces of Cardiovascular Disease.”  Her image was captured on one of many large posters that were circulated around the United States for Heart Walks.  These posters are still being used today.  Because of Mary Kay and Michelle’s hard work, they were both featured in an ABC news article once again shedding light on pediatric stroke. In 2009, Michelle was honored with the Stroke Hero of the Year and received the National Youth Advocate of the Year award.

Mary Kay’s calling is to advocate for children. She feels that things happen for a reason. The stroke that Michelle suffered enabled both Michelle and Mary Kay to reach other families and make a difference in their lives and in the area of pediatric stroke.  Mary Kay does not have much free time, but when she does, she enjoys going out to lunch with friends and reading. 

One great memory Mary Kay has included that of her son, Alex.  While driving back from picking Alex up at college, he remarked how much he admires the work that she has done over the years.  The example that Mary Kay has provided has empowered him to pay it forward by getting involved in politics and leadership roles.   May Kay continues to advocate for children and wants everyone to know that one person can make a difference.

Advocate interview provided by Blog Contributor Amanda Orfitelli.

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Where in NC is PE?

When my granddaughter started elementary school, she had physical education (PE) class twice per week. At that time, we were disappointed that it wasn't every day. By the time she was in fifth grade, PE was only offered about twice per month. In her words, "How is that enough? I thought we needed PE every day!"

We can do better and now is our chance!

Tell our Public School Leaders to include PE in the state's education accountability plan. 

The federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in 2015 and now every state has to create an accountability plan. ESSA emphasizes a well-rounded education, prioritizing physical and mental health. We need to tell state education leaders PE should be included in NC's plan.

All students should have the opportunity to participate in PE - it not only helps their physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well. Just like my granddaughter, many students in NC do not get the physical education they need. With an ever-growing number of priorities competing for time during the school day, too many of our children have lost what was once a given: access to quality PE.

Will you help me save PE? Take action today!

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CT Needs State-Wide Hospital Stroke Designation Program

In Connecticut, stroke has been one of the top 5 leading causes of death and the leading cause of disability. An abundance of medical literature demonstrates that stroke patients receive better care, have better outcomes, and have less treatment related complications at centers equipped to treat stroke within the context of a system of care.  A stroke designation system improves the care delivered to all persons with stroke, and is inclusive for all hospitals.

Stroke certified hospitals are required to comply with a number of standards related to access and availability of appropriate leadership and stroke expertise, written treatment and transfer guidelines and the ability to provide necessary diagnostic testing and interpretation. Stroke certification is essential because it assures the public and the EMS community that a hospital has the procedures and guidelines in place to ensure persons experiencing stroke systems will be rapidly accessed and given the most definitive treatment, or triage, as rapidly as possible.

The state legislature appointed a stroke task force, and one of its recommendations in its February, 2016 final report was to re-establish and maintain a state-wide, hospital stroke designation program. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association plans to introduce legislation in the upcoming 2017 state legislative session that will accomplish this. Although the session does not begin until January, we are already at work forming a coalition of like-minded organizations and beginning to educate both advocates such as yourself and legislators. As this issue continues to develop we will keep you updated.

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We want to hear from you, Arkansas!

Our volunteers are our eyes and ears in the community. Help the AHA by identifying your friends, coworkers, neighbors, family members, or community members who may have a story to share related to heart disease or stroke.

It’s important for our legislators to hear stories from or about real Arkansans who would benefit from local smoke-free ordinances, increased access to healthy food, and other policies that can make a positive impact in their lives and communities.

Please consider if you or anyone you know can help with the following:

Comprehensive Smoke-Free Workplaces

Second-hand smoke is a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General’s report states that there is NO risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and any exposure has an immediate and adverse effect on the cardiovascular system. The good news is that secondhand smoke is a preventable risk factor. While many businesses are already smoke-free, too many bars and restaurants are not. All workers deserve the right to breathe smoke-free air, not just some of them. No worker should have to choose between their health and earning a paycheck.

Healthy Vending 
Arkansas currently has the highest adult obesity rate in the nation- 35.9%. We rank fifth in the nation for cases of diabetes, and seventh in the nation for hypertension. These illnesses and other obesity related diseases cost our state $1.25 billion annually, of which nearly 40% is financed by Medicaid and Medicare. Obesity is not only killing our state; it’s bankrupting us too.

To help us combat this problem, we are supporting the Arkansas Freedom for Healthy Choices Initiative. This effort will bring together local leaders to implement minor policy changes to help address our state’s obesity epidemic. This policy area focuses on ensuring there are healthy food items in vending machines located on public property. With this policy, public employees and visitors to government facilities will have access healthier food choices.

Improving emergency care for heart attack and stroke patients
When a heart attack or stroke occurs, everyone should receive the best care possible – from the time they dial 911 until after they are discharged from the hospital. In Arkansas we need to equip more first response vehicles to diagnose and treat heart/stroke patients, and improve consistency in care by gathering heart/stroke data that can highlight successes and pinpoint areas of need in our state. We support efforts at the legislative level to address these key opportunities for improvement.

We look forward to hearing from you!  Please contact Allison Hogue at or 501-707-6593.

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Tatum Weishaupt, New York State

My name is Tatum Weishaupt and I joined the AHA in April 2016 as the Mission Lifeline Director of the Capital Region of New York State.  Before I tell you about myself, let me share a little bit about Mission Lifeline.  The American Heart Association developed Mission: Lifeline to transform heart attack patient outcomes by connecting healthcare providers, prehospital providers and community stakeholders in a proactive system of care that saves and improves lives—from symptom onset through cardiac rehabilitation.  I am excited to be applying my skills and expertise to this lifesaving effort in Upstate New York.

Throughout my education and career, I have focused on medicine and healthcare systems. I attended Union College, graduating with a major in Neuroscience and Minor in Public Health, and continued to pursue my interest in the sciences earning a Masters Degree in Neuroscience from Georgetown University and George Mason University.

My career prior to joining the AHA included varying aspects clinical trials management at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I worked in various roles over a 6 year period. While I enjoyed oncology research, my transition to systems of care quality improvement at the American Heart Association has allowed me to combine my broad interesting in healthcare. As a Mission: Lifeline Director for the Capital Region, I work with local health care providers – including EMS agencies and hospitals – to ensure that the system of care for heart attacks can work in a coordinated way.

The systems of care work lead by the AHA is truly impactful in the community, and I am thrilled to join in these efforts. On May 16, 2016 I had the opportunity to join the AHA advocacy team at a Stroke Lobby Day, and learn about another aspect of our organization. The day spent at the New York State Capitol included meetings with Senators and Assembly members discussing a bill which would provide a three tiered stroke system of care. The goal is to ensure that all stroke victims receive the appropriate level of care, as rapidly as possible. This was truly an awe inspiring day, and lead to the bill passing the Senate 60-0 on June 9th!

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