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Ask Texas Lawmakers to Fund Prevention Programs

Because of your help over the last three months lawmakers have drafted a state budget that includes several important investments for heart disease and stroke prevention. Take Action Here and ask lawmakers to fund critical measures that will prevent and treat heart disease and stroke:

The Texas House has passed their version of the state budget and now the Texas Senate is considering their version.  The budget that is eventually passed will fund state programs over the next two years and we want to ensure Heart and Stroke programs are adequately funded. 

Here are some of the funding items we support:

 -$2 million for Heart Attack and Stroke Data Collection. These funds will support a state program to collect data on the prevalence and treatment of heart attack and stroke, to improve care for heart attack and stroke patients in Texas.

 -$10 million for Texas Grocery Access.  This investment will provide grants and low cost loans to incentivize grocery stores opening in underserved communities.  Everyone should have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and this will help provide more options in the most needed areas of our state.  

 -1 million for Coordinated School Health (CSH). These funds will help school districts implement CSH which is  a systematic set of school-affiliated strategies and activities designed to advance student academic performance through physical, social, and educational development. 

 -$11 million for Tobacco Prevention and Cessations.  These evidence based programs have proven to reduce youth smoking and provide resources for smokers that want to quite.  However, this program is underfunded based on Texas’ population and smoking rate.

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Carol Sterling

Carol Sterling began her time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Ponca City, working with Heart Walk. Over the past few years, Carol became involved in the Go Red for Women campaign through the Passion Committee. Her first opportunity to learn about Advocacy happened when she attended her first Go Red Day at the Capitol event in February 2014, where she spoke to her state lawmakers about the importance of CPR training for High School students.
Since then, Carol has been an active member of the You’re the Cure network, and participated in many proclamation ceremonies for Stroke and Heart disease awareness. Carol is a Heart Disease survivor, and enjoys sharing her story with lawmakers because she believes it’s important to put a face to heart disease in Oklahoma.
Carol will soon head to Washington D.C. for the 2015 You’re the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day and will meet with members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation on important issues such as funding for the National Institute of Health and School Nutrition. 

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Texas Kids Tell Legislators It's Important to Be #CloserToMyGrocer

On Wednesday, March 18, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas campaign team hosted a Youth Advocating for Heart event at the Texas Capitol to advocate on behalf of increased access to healthy foods.

 Watch the recap video here!

“We’re trying to make it fair for other people who don’t have access to [grocery] stores to be able to have access … so they can live a long healthy life like I do,” said youth advocate Sky Travis, a fifth-grader.

More than 70 youth advocates, community members, school teachers and administrators, heart disease survivors, and American Heart Association volunteers came together from across the state to advocate for Texas Grocery Access Investment.

Eleven groups of advocates made their way to the Texas State Capitol, where they held about 65 meetings with legislators and staff. The youth advocates told compelling stories about limited grocery access in their neighborhoods or their friends’ neighborhoods. The timing of this event wasat a critical point in the campaign – one day before the related legislation was to be considered by the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

“Junk foods aren’t always okay to have, and I think that stores should have more healthy choices,” said Haeli Pradia, a sixth grade volunteer advocate.

The kids were honored to represent their schools and hometowns in the State Capitol. Teachers were also grateful for this opportunity for their students, most of whom were visiting Austin for the first time.

One volunteer, Sydne Marshall, is the supervisor of health and physical education teachers for Cy-Fair ISD. In this role, she works to help create the curriculum for students. Even with a strong curriculum focused on healthy eating and physical activity, she said, “It’s impossible for us to tell our students to pursue that outside the classroom if they are not able to have access to grocery stores.”

To learn more about the event, check out the Storify recap.

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Texans testify in support of Grocery Access Investment

On Thursday, March 19, Texans representing a variety of businesses and populations in Texas testified on behalf of HB 1485, the Texas Grocery Access Investment Act, in a hearing held by the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development. Only a day after a large Advocating for Heart day during which youth advocates and volunteers from around the state advocated their legislators on behalf of decreasing childhood obesity and increasing access to healthy food in Texas, the Committee heard compelling testimonies in support of HB 1485.

This bill, introduced by Representative Eddie Rodriguez of Austin and Representative Patricia Harless of Houston, would create the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund within the Texas Department of Agriculture, to provide grants and low interest loans to grocery store operators to open new stores, or renovate or expand stores, in low and moderate-income or remote rural areas throughout Texas that do not have access to healthy foods. The goal is to improve the health of Texans who lack access to healthy food by addressing the lack of grocery stores in underserved communities, while boosting the local economy in these communities.

Tania Noelle Boughton of Dallas, founder of the “Check the Light before You Bite!” educational program for children, testified that even if children know how to choose healthy food and are able to choose it at school, they have little chance to grow up healthy if they are not able to access healthy food at home. By incentivizing business owners to open grocery stores in underserved communities, Texas could help these children fight obesity and drive down high health care costs.

Tania Boughton
Amber Cooney of Austin, Director of Development and Communications at PeopleFund, described how assistance from Community Development Financial Institutions such as PeopleFund can help grocers overcome the barriers to entry in underserved communities. Improving access to healthy food in low-income communities in both rural and urban settings goes beyond improving diet and health outcomes—bringing new food outlets into underserved areas can provide an economic stimulus in communities that need it most. Grocery stores often serve as anchors, spurring local economic development by creating new jobs, revitalizing commercial districts, improving nearby housing values, and generating additional sales tax.
Amber Cooney

Other witnesses testifying in support of the bill included:

  • Dan Gillotte, Chief Executive Grocer, Wheatsville Co-op, Austin
  • Houston City Council Member Stephen Costello
  • Jenny Ayer, Children at Risk
  • Dr. Deanna Hoelscher, University of Texas School of Public Health, and Director of the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living

Dan Gillotte
 Council Member Stephen Costello

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Advocating for Heart: Take action to get Texas #CloserToMyGrocer!

On March 18, youth advocates and volunteers from across Texas will be Advocating for Heart in Austin to ask their elected officials to bring them closer to their grocer!

Follow along on social media using the hashtag #CloserToMyGrocer and at @YoureTheCureTX.

Join the movement and take action today! Click here to ask your lawmakers to help fight childhood obesity and increase access to healthy foods, by supporting Grocery Access Investment in Texas.

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Tania Boughton

Tania Noelle Boughton is Chair of the AHA State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention, the author of cookbook Eating Light, Done Right, and the founder of “Check the Light Before You Bite!” a healthy eating program in school districts, geared toward helping children make healthier food choices. But first and foremost, Tania is Mom to her two sons.
A few years ago, Tania saw what appeared to be a hole in the self-help/cookbook market. As she quickly dropped her baby weight and experienced droves of people at the gym asking how, began to she dig deeper. She realized that while she had made the decision to stop eating emotionally, many of these people had not. Herein lies the groundwork for Eating Light, Done Right: Simply Sinless Recipes from the Single Mom Next Door. Drawing on her experience in the military counseling troops on weight control, she quickly realized that she loved helping people face the demons within. This turning point redirected her life in a positive direction.
As a mom, Tania knows how important it is to make eating healthy fun for kids. That’s why she teamed up with the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) to establish a program called “Check the Light Before You Bite!” to reward kids when they choose healthy food options at school. The program is in full swing with sponsors, teams and professional athletes signing on, however she quickly realized that her work needed to be taken a step further. Rewarding children for writing recipes, essays and making healthier eating decisions was progress, however it wasn't enough. As she traveled further into schools and the underserved areas, she realized that many of these children didn't have the option to eat healthfully, because they had little to no access to grocery stores and healthy food.
Tania understood that her journey to improve children’s health would not be complete without being involved in advocacy through You’re the Cure, to engage Texas lawmakers to change policies for the better. Tania came upon a poignant moment this past December when delivering holiday gifts to an elementary school in Dallas. The hallways were lined with children, Pre-K to fifth grade, waiting to go home. Each student was holding an apple or pear, given to them by the cafeteria staff because otherwise the fruit would have spoiled overnight.

Tania was struck by the fact that these apples and pears may be the only fruit, or dinner that the children would have at home that night. This moment was both heartbreaking and motivating, all in one. The Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign, in which Tania is an active participant through her role on the State Leadership Council, will work diligently to change this, so all Texas families can access grocery stores. Tania is passionate about engaging more volunteers in this effort, and the You’re the Cure Texas team thanks her for her dedication!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Thurman Paul

Thurman Paul is like many You’re the Cure Advocates connected to stroke. His father’s uncle suffered a stroke two years ago.  His interest in the Advocacy work of the American Heart Association began with a simple call to action to sign a petition in support of obesity prevention on the community level.

Thurman promptly signed the petition and answered a follow-up email to supporters of the petition asking for those interested in learning more about the American Heart Association’s advocacy work to reply to the email. He did so because he believes finding a cure for heart disease and stroke should be a priority.  Thurman’s first activity as a You’re the Cure Advocate involved a visit to U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s office to advocate for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The concept of volunteerism and activism is not a new one for Thurman. He recently returned from a service trip to Nicaragua where he taught classes and distributed food and supplies to youth groups.

Thurman has also worked with his mother to visit juvenile centers and visit with youth.   Travel and new experiences are a driving factor in his commitment to service. “Volunteerism is a way for me to give back while being around people,” he said. 

Interested in becoming more involved with the American Heart Association’s fight to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke? Email Brian Bowser at to learn more about how you can take action!

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Investing in Prevention

The cheapest and most effective way to treat heart disease and stroke is to prevent them in the first place.

Take action now! Ask lawmakers to fund important lifesaving programs.

We encourage lawmakers to support a number of funding requests that will reduce heart disease and stroke in Texas:

1. $2 million for the Heart Attack and Stroke Data Collection Initiative. These funds will support a state program to collect data on the prevalence and treatment of heart attack and stroke to improve care for patients across Texas. A fully-funded program is critical to see where heart and stroke events are occurring, measure outcomes for patients, pinpoint areas of need, and improve the care for heart attack and stroke patients across Texas.

2. $2 million for Coordinated School Health Funding. This investment would fund a systematic approach to improving the health and well-being of all students so they can fully participate and be successful in school. By bringing together all of the major players in a child’s life, Coordinated School Health creates an environment that is supportive of health and learning, and results in decreased obesity rates, increased fitness, and increased graduation rates.

3. $10 million for Texas Grocery Access Investment. This funding would support businesses and create jobs, while helping to bring grocery stores to the more than 3.4 million Texans living in communities where it is difficult to buy fresh and healthy food. This investment would help families be healthier and fight obesity, and ultimately drive down the costs associated with poor nutrition and obesity.

 These investments will go a long way towards preventing cardiovascular disease and will save our state and taxpayers money through reduced health care costs.

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Grocery Access Legislation Introduced!

Thanks to advocates like you, legislation was just introduced in the Texas House and Senate that would create a Texas Grocery Access Investment program. This investment would support business and create jobs. It also would bring grocery stores to communities where it is difficult to buy fresh and healthy food, help families be healthier and fight obesity, and ultimately drive down the costs associated with unhealthy living.

It’s critical that you ask Texas legislators for their support. We believe that everyone deserves the right to healthy food in their communities. If not for yourself, speak up today for the health of your more than 3.4 million fellow Texans who lack access to grocery stores. Ask House and Senate committee members who oversee this legislation to grow businesses and create jobs by supporting Texas Grocery Access Investment.

Click here to ask Texas legislators to fund this bill now!

Texas Grocery Access Investment Act – Highlights

The Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund is a grant and loan program to bring new grocery stores to underserved communities, as well as support renovation and expansion of existing stores to ensure access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, poultry and seafood products.

This critical program aims to help healthy and affordable food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers to entry into low-income and underserved communities—barriers like land acquisition financing, construction and workforce development.

A modest, one-time public investment of $10 million for the 2016-17 biennium in the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund would improve public health by providing access to healthy foods in order to reduce diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This program is an investment in the economy of underserved areas since grocery stores create quality jobs and contribute to the revitalization of rural and urban communities.

Grocery Access Investment – How it Works

  • The legislation would create the Texas Grocery Access Investment Program at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). 
  • The program’s fund will be comprised of money appropriated by the Texas Legislature, as well as federal, state, or private grants or loans and/or any other financial assistance to be utilized for the construction, expansion or renovation of grocery stores to provide access to healthy foods in underserved areas. 
  • The agency would be able to contract with a non-profit or community development financial institution, which would administer the program, establish program guidelines, raise matching funds, promote the program statewide, evaluate applicants, underwrite and disburse grants and loans, and monitor compliance and impact. 
  • TDA will develop rules, regulations or other procedures to carry out the program. No more than 10% of the funds appropriated can be used by the agency for administrative and operational costs to manage the program.   

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Don Bremner - 3 Time Heart Survivor and Advocate

I had my first heart attack at the age of 51 about an hour after a hard game of squash.  Up to that point I was in excellent health and maintained my fitness by running 10Ks and half-marathons.  I knew about my family heart history but like many thought, ’I’m fitter and healthier with a much better diet than Dad had’ believing it wouldn’t impact me.

But that changed an hour after a squash game in 2004 when I felt nausea, dizziness, sweating, and threw up several times. Twenty minutes later there was no pain but tightening in my chest. Being a guy I made a practical decision to drive 17 miles home to my wife. Do not do this.

Once home the paramedics were called quickly and I started receiving medical attention. The great work they do includes communicating with the hospital so they are prepared to receive you and this can be life- saving.

They put paddles to my chest in the wagon leading to a stent in RCA. Home lunchtime Wed. I went back to the gym Saturday to ramp up my fitness slowly.

In 2005 I experienced a similar event and had another episode in 2012.  I am very fortunate to survive these events and feel compelled to share my story and help others.

I have made it my mission to talk with groups of people to help them learn the risk factors and warning signs associated with heart disease – especially men!  I have found that guys have a terrific ability to ignore warning signs and not admit when their body is telling them something is wrong. 

I explain the importance of good nutrition and exercise.  But I also explain the critical role that genes and family history play in one’s risk for heart disease.  My dad died at age 59 from cardiovascular disease after three events.  His dad also died at 67 from CVD.  My brother had a double by pass at age 49 and is thankfully still living at 76.

My message is simple: know your risk, know your numbers, and don’t ignore warning signs.  Listen to your Doctor and act on their advice. Your loved ones and friends will thanks you.

While I have made many presentations over the years I recently made a trip to the New Mexico Capitol to share my story with lawmakers.  With the help of heart and stroke healthy legislation we can continue to not only raise awareness but improve effective systems of care for patients. 

I look forward to sharing my story with anyone willing to hear it and encourage you to share your voice in any way you can. 

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