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Looking Back at Our Year Together!

The 2015 Legislative session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation into 2016. Thank you for your advocacy efforts this session!

Senate Bill 320 & House Bill 3265: CPR in Schools
This requires all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED as part of the already required high school health education class. The bills received favorable reports with amendments from both the House and Senate Education Committees, and each bill passed its respective body with unanimous support. However, no further action was taken once each bill passed into the opposite body.

Senate Bill 484: School Nutrition Guidelines
This ensures schools are meeting nutritional standards set by the USDA and that standards are regularly updated with USDA guidelines. It also helps parents understand how schools are meeting nutrition standards by reporting compliance in existing school health improvement plans. S 484 passed the Senate during the last week of May and will be ready for consideration by the House next year.

Send a letter to your Representative to urge them to support Senate Bill 484

Tobacco Control Funding:
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $6 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories:
Two more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, bringing us to 60 South Carolina municipalities enjoying- smoke-free air!

As part of the You’re the Cure team, we made GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2016 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

Thank you, sincerely, for all you do. You are our hero.

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Supreme Court Rules For the Affordable Care Act

We live in exciting times. While most of the time, the American Heart Association works with our You’re the Cure advocates on legislative issues, recently the AHA (with several other non-profit health organizations) was able to inform Americans across the country that their access to health care had been upheld by the Supreme Court through a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, directly through the court case King v Burwell.

In January, the AHA and other organizations (including the American Cancer Society & ACS Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) submitted a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule the original intention of Congress had been to make tax credits for health insurance available to all, not just residents of states that decided to participate in a state health insurance exchange.

The King v Burwell ruling means that residents of states which had previously opted to participate in a federal health insurance exchange will be able to continue to benefit from tax credits for the health insurance they have chosen. Consequently, Americans who participate in the insurance exchange and are eligible will be able to expect tax credits for their policies [this does not affect those who currently receive insurance through their employers].

What does this mean for cardiovascular and stroke? Two facts worth noting for those who are uninsured:

  • Uninsured patients with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control than the insured.
  • Uninsured people who suffer the most common type of stroke have greater neurological impairments, longer hospital stays and up to a 56 percent higher risk of death than the insured.

American Heart Association President Nancy Brown had this to say in her statement reflecting on the court’s ruling: "We commend the Court for not halting premium tax credits in the federal marketplaces, enabling an estimated 6.4 million people in 34 states to keep the assistance that makes their health insurance affordable. As a result, these patients can continue to focus on their healing and recovery, instead of worrying about losing their coverage and care. Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two major Supreme Court challenges, it’s time for our nation to concentrate on improving the law and enrolling as many uninsured Americans as possible so everyone can receive the quality health and preventive care they need."

History is made every day, and we are thankful for our advocates who help us change our communities for the better.

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Getting Back into the Swing of Life

Guest Blogger: Nora Perry, Stroke Initiatives Director

Having a stroke can change everything.  What would you do if it happened to you?  Would you feel comfortable starting physical activity again if you were still regaining balance?  Would you want to socialize again if you were still working with a speech therapist?  How exactly would you get back into the swing of life?

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is helping stroke survivors and their caregivers answer some of these questions with the Saving Strokes event.  This unique rehabilitation-through-golf clinic allows survivors and their family and friends to get out on the greens for pleasure, but also for a purpose.  Golf has been shown to improve balance, coordination, neuroplasticity, and other skills essential to stroke survivors’ recovery.  Saving Strokes gives survivors the opportunity to attend a free, safe, and welcoming event to try golf as part of their rehabilitation.  And no one is excluded – all ages, mobility levels, and stages of physical and cognitive recovery are welcome.  There is even a monthly continuation program, Golf Fore Health, that lets golfers stay active throughout the year.

Do you have a stroke survivor in your life who might like to join our program?  Invite them to be a part of Saving Strokes or Golf Fore Health!  On June 19th, Saving Strokes celebrated its 7th year in Salt Lake.  With the support of friendly physical therapists, helpful golf pros, and a range of adaptive golf equipment, survivors got to putt, chip, and swing their way toward better stroke recovery.  The event also included a heart-healthy luncheon, special speaking presentations, and plenty of time for socializing and peer support for both survivors and caregivers.  Attendees gave it rave reviews!  Merrill and his caregiver Linda said they love it so much that they’ve come every year since the event began. Lorin said he was glad to know golf was still something he could do.  Amy said she was inspired to see survivors in all walks of life using the event to try to get back to normal life.  And Tim, a young stroke survivor, said he had fun meeting other survivors and can’t wait to golf more.

We have two more FREE events for stroke survivors later this year, click here to RSVP:

Provo: Wednesday, August 26th from 10 am to 1pm at East Bay Golf Course

Ogden: Friday, September 18th from 10 am to 1 pm at Schneiter’s Riverside Golf

Life after stroke can be rich and rewarding.  The AHA/ASA is here to support survivors and caregivers through their post-stroke journey.  If you know a stroke survivor who might benefit from our programs, please contact us!  Saving Strokes will take place again next June and the next Golf Fore Health program starts this August.  Together, we can help stroke victors get back into the swing of life!

Marc Watterson, AHA/ASA Government Relations Director, 801-702-4427

Nora Perry, AHA/ASA Stroke Initiatives Director, 602-414-5352

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Illinois Legislative Year End Wrap-up

As we close the books on the American Heart Association’s fiscal year and inch closer to the end of the General Assembly’s 2015 overtime legislative session. Let’s take a look back at the progress we’ve made on systems of care in Illinois. We’ve made huge strides, but there’s plenty left to do and we’ll need your help.

Stroke System of Care

On August 18th Governor Quinn signed landmark stroke legislation. Currently, we are on track to have the final Administrative Rules for the 2014 stroke law approved by this fall. The rules will allow for the state designation of Comprehensive Stroke Centers and Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals, as well as the creation of a state stroke registry. 

Lauren’s Law: CPR in Schools

Efforts to implement the 2014 Lauren Laman CPR and AED training law have also progressed. We continue to work with the IL State Board of Education on their promised, though not yet released, Advisory Document to help ensure schools comply with the new law. 

STEMI Heart Attack Legislation: HB 4121

This legislation is on hold in the House pending further negotiations, we hope to move forward soon as this fall during the annual legislative veto session. 

Strengthening Illinois EMS

We have continued our work with the Illinois EMS Alliance to help fight potentially devastating cuts to the EMS Medicaid reimbursement rate. These cuts would put emergency medical care for heart attack and stroke patients at further risk.

Physical Education

There were numerous threats to Illinois’ daily physical education requirement this year. But, because of our strong network of advocates we were able to stop each attempt! There were four bills that threatened the health of Illinois’ kids, including; allowing waivers for students who enroll in AP classes and proposing to eliminate physical education completely. We won another battle on the P.E. front, but will continue to need your voices to fight and protect the long-term health of all Illinois kids. .

Tobacco Control Policies

This year we worked hard to defend Illinois’ Comprehensive Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law from drastic changes. Thanks to our advocates and strong partner organizations, we were able to keep the law intact. Additionally, we worked to support the IL Smoke Free Campus Act which took effect on July 1, making all state campuses smoke free!

HEAL Act: Sugary Drinks Tax

With the legislature in overtime and no budget in sight, our proposed penny-per-ounce sugary drinks tax is still in play as a popular way to raise revenue for the state, restore Medicaid funding and help fund health programs. According to a recent public opinion poll, 65 percent of Illinois voters support a proposal to enact a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and to use the proceeds to improve Illinoisans’ health. The voters of Illinois are willing to pay a tax on sugary drinks in order to curb obesity-related chronic illnesses. This would be a BIG WIN for health and a HUGE LOSS for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. These chronic diseases cost Illinoisans over $6 billion a year in unnecessary health care costs. A penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax is expected to generate more than $600 million dollars a year. These dollars could be used t in communities across the state to expand opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity and restoring Medicaid.

There are many ways you can lend your voice to this campaign TODAY! Please take a minute and complete each action:

1. Sign our petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/support-a-sugary-drink-tax-as-part-of-illinois-budget-solution-and-help-illinois-kids-be-healthier

2. Call key legislators or the Governor and ask them to support the sugary drink tax. Dial 844-325-5900 and you will be connected with the key lawmakers or governor to express your support for the tax!

You can stay up-to-date on the campaign by visiting

www.HEALtheBudget.org

 

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Governor Ige Signs Three Lifesaving Bills

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

We are very excited to announce that Governor Ige has signed three lifesaving bills into law. We can't thank our dedicated advocates enough for their help in passing these bills. We are happy that a few of you could join us for the bill signing. Big thanks to Dr. Char and stroke survivor Chris McLachlin for their help on HB 589. The families involved with HB 467 we thank you for sharing your stories with lawmakers. They truly made a difference and helped make clear why pulse oximetry screening is so important.

House Bill 467 would require all Hawaii birthing centers to screen newborns for critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs) using a tool called pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the most common birth defects in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects.

An estimated 300 infants with an unrecognized CCHD are discharged each year from newborn nurseries in the United States. These babies are at risk for having serious problems within the first few days or weeks of life and often require emergency care. Pulse oximetry, is a non-invasive, inexpensive test that consists of sensors placed on a baby's hand and/or foot to check blood oxygen levels.  The screening can identify some infants with a CCHD before they show any signs. Once identified, babies with a CCHD can be seen by cardiologists and can receive specialized care and treatment that could prevent death or disability early in life.

House Bill 589 would establish a state stroke registry and require all acute stroke care hospitals to collect and submit stroke data to the State Department of Health (DOH). The DOH would then compile and share reports based on the data with the state’s Stroke Coalition, which includes representatives from acute stroke care hospitals, EMS agencies, the DOH and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The Coalition members would use the data to identify weaknesses in Hawaii’s stroke system of care and work to improve it with the goal of speeding patient access to the best available care and improving long-term health outcomes.

Senate Bill 1030 would raise the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people each year.  It is known to cause heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases, among other health disorders, and costs the U.S. $96 billion in health care expenditures each year. Nearly 1,000 kids under the age of 18 become regular, daily smokers each day; and almost one-third will die from it.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report on March 12 bolstering this policy in which it found “increasing the minimum legal age for tobacco products will likely prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults. The age group most impacted will be those age 15 to 17 years.” Raising the minimum legal age to 21 will mean that those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.

 

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Lori Valencia Greene

Lori Valencia Greene, Maryland

Lori Valencia Greene is a woman of many hats: mother, daughter, friend, student, and an advocate for change in her community. She was surprised at the young age of 47 to also find herself a stroke survivor!

Lori has always had a desire to make a difference. Because of this she volunteered in her native District of Columbia since she was a teenager.

Lori first became involved with advocacy work in 1985 when she took a job as a legislative assistant on the Hill where she worked for 10 years, including two stints as Legislative Director. She fell in love with the work and eventually took jobs lobbying for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Black Women's Health Project, and the American Psychological Society (APA). While working for the APA, Lori was an advocate for a bill that would eliminate race and ethnic health disparities. One of her proudest moments was seeing this bill turned into law. She says, “I like advocacy work because I feel like I am making a difference, particularly when I am advocate for people who can't advocate for themselves.”

Lori’s stroke experience brought her many challenges, but it also gave her a new drive for advocacy work. “After going through the whole process I realized that there is still a lot of work to be done. I had great care, but there were things that could have been improved and there is still a lot that isn't known about why people have strokes.” After her stroke, Lori stumbled on the American Heart Association web page where she happily signed up for advocacy volunteer work, and has been an active advocate for You're the Cure ever since. She is currently serving on an advisory committee for You’re the Cure.

Of all of the experiences that Lori has had, she says she is most gratified by her advocacy work. Lori’s advice to advocates is to have passion and patience. “Don't give up. Just don't give up. Its' easy to give up, but don't do it. The people you are advocating for need you.”

Are you passionate about advocacy? Tell us your story HERE.

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My 'Why' - Kayla Bashe

Here's the latest blog post from our summer intern, Kayla Bashe -

During my gap year, I wanted to learn something useful, so I received training in first aid and CPR. Our instructor, a full-time EMT, told us about people whose lives could have been saved if only someone on the scene knew what to do, or about people who arrived at the hospital already dying because they hadn't known they were having a heart attack until it was too late. There was something incredibly empowering about receiving my little cardboard CPR certification card in the mail. I knew if I saw someone having a cardiac emergency, I would know what to do.

There's this saying that if you save someone's life, you save the entire world. Knowing that you're basically capable of doubling an entire world's chance of survival? There's nothing like it.

My father has been involved with the American Heart Association since I was an embryo. For a while, it was just 'That Thing My Dad Did', like watching cheesy comic-book movies or blasting religious techno music. But the more I learned about the AHA, the more I wanted to help. And when I realized I had a few free months during the summer, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Recently, I helped out at the advocacy table at our gigantic, record-setting CPR event in Times Square. We had a huge variety of participants - every type of person from the Naked Cowboy and the owner of Marnie the Dog to a grandmother visiting from Australia and a seven-year-old girl in a Frozen T-shirt. So many of those people will probably go on to teach CPR to others. Some of them might even save lives.

Volunteering at the AHA is basically the gift that keeps on giving. I get to help write press releases that teach people about the signs of a stroke or heart attack and send letters to legislators explaining why CPR should be taught in New York City schools. Everything I do, sitting here at my laptop, ripples out to have an impact I can't even imagine. I guess you could say I 'heart' being involved with this organization.

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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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Vermont Heart Walk to Highlight the Team Effort that Saved a Local Coach!

Vermont advocates pushed for passage of legislation in 2012 that required schools to teach students Hands-only CPR and the importance of an AED (automated external defibrillator). Its efforts like these that have raised awareness to the need for public access to defibrillation and a strong chain of survival. Many schools now have AEDs on hand, including at sporting events.

It’s a good thing. The American Heart Association’s Vermont Heart Walk on September 26th will highlight the successful effort that saved the life of Rice High School Girls’ Basketball Coach Tim Rice from a cardiac arrest during a game against CVU this winter. The CVU team had the foresight to bring their AED to the game with them. That AED, along with many quick actions from bystanders and EMS enabled the coach to give a thumbs up as he left the game instead of much worse outcome.

We’ll honor Cardiologist Ed Terrien, who performed CPR on Coach Rice that day. Join Dr. Terrien and hundreds of others walking at the Vermont Heart Walk at Oakledge Park in Burlington on September 26th to raise funds for life-saving research.

There will also be Heart Walks on September 12th in Swanton and September 19th in Berlin. You can register for any of the walks at www.vermontheartwalk.org. Do it today and make a commitment to save lives. Get your friends and family together for a great day and a great cause!

You can also ensure that your community and school have a strong chain of survival by contacting your local high school and asking if the school has an AED and making sure students are CPR-trained.

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NYC Council Hearing on the PE Reporting Bill

Welcome another blog post from our summer intern, Kayla Bashe!

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This past week, the American Heart Association participated in a hearing for the PE Reporting bill in front of the NYC Council Committee on Education.

Just before the hearing began, we had a press conference on the steps of City Hall. The AHA and members of our Phys Ed for All coalition spoke about why city students need physical education. We care about kids' health and academic success.  And most schools in NYC aren't meeting the minimum standards for PE that are required by state law.

The American Heart Association was represented by Yuki Courtland, a member of our Advocacy Committee here in New York City.  Yuki had several opportunities throughout the day to address the impact that physical education can have on children's health and habits.

Inside, the City Council members heard from representatives of the NYC Department of Education, who spoke about their concerns in the bill. However, Council Member Dromm, a former teacher and Chair of the Education Committee, pointed out the discrepancies between their comments and the majority of collected research.

In one example from the testimony, an elementary school provided students with only one half-hour PE lesson per week.  And on that day, their teacher always noticed a huge improvement in their concentration and performance.

I learned that one of the biggest roadblocks to giving our city's students appropriate PE is that too many schools are forced to share the same areas, thereby making scheduling difficult. For example, six schools might have to use the same gym. Programs incorporating physical activity into classrooms can help bridge the gap, but to provide an effective solution, parents and advocacy groups need more and better information.

So before you switch off your computer and get moving, exercise your typing skills and make sure your city representatives support the PE reporting bill today!

Take action here:  http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=36879 

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