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Recapping My Last 2 Years

By Ben Schmauss, Government Relations Director in Nevada

It has been an incredible 2 years working as the Gov. Relations Director in Nevada for the American Heart Association. I have worked with great people on issues that impact heart disease and stroke for adults and children. Some of those issues include the Statewide Wellness Policy (Passed Summer 2014), Statewide Stroke Registry (Passed Spring 2015) and the $1 increase to the Nevada Tobacco Tax. (Spring 2015)

 

Each of the public health victories listed above represents countless hours of thoughtful work from survivors, volunteers, staff, coalition members, elected officials and many more.  So why do we work so hard? Why do we have such challenging goals?  Life is Why!

 

Yes. Life is WHY!! Last week I was presenting CPR Kits to a school district in Rural Nevada and the Superintendent of the district said to me “you know those AED’s you all worked to get into our schools and buildings, last month one of my Vice Principals used one to save a life.”  The individual’s life that was saved represents more than just a person that was saved.  They are a living proof that the work we engage in has a Why. Every time they give a hug , help a friend or say I’m sorry is one time more than they would have been able had it not been for the work we have the privilege to be part of. 

 

As I celebrate my 2 year Anniversary as the Nevada Government Relations Director and 7th year working with American Heart Association I am grateful for the living proof that the work we do makes a difference. 

 

The accompanying picture is with Superintendent Dale Norton, Assemblyman James Oscarson and myself minutes after Superintendent Norton told me the story of the AED Save. The CPR kits in front of us represent the resources needed to train over 6,000 kids in hands only CPR in NYE County Nevada. 

 

This training will lead to lives being saved!

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You're the Cure Advocates Go Red!

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s campaign to raise awareness about women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and empower them to take control of their heart health.  It is a year-long campaign that culminates in February for Heart Month.  All of the markets within the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate celebrate with events throughout February and into the spring.

Advocacy work goes hand in hand with the Go Red For Women movement in many ways.  One way is our advocates work with their local government officials on proclamations that declare the first Friday in February as Wear Red Day.  In North Carolina, the town of Matthews, Huntersville, Cary, and Winston-Salem passed proclamations.  As did Spartanburg and Columbia in South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. 

The District of Columbia took their support of Wear Red Day to the next level with several local councilmembers taking to social media to express their office-wide support.   Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1, Jack Evans of Ward 2, and Charles Allen in Ward 6 sent out tweets to their followers of their offices dressed to the gills in their finest red. Councilmember Yvette M. Alexander emailed her constituents to urge them to be diligent in keeping their lives free of cardiovascular disease with helpful tips and facts. 

Another great example happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, when advocate Dr. Sandra Burke presented to the Mecklenburg County Board of Directors about heart health and continuing collaborative efforts to improve the health of the local community.  And here, the women of the Virginia General Assembly went red on 2/9 to bring awareness to heart disease.  

Go Red is a nationwide movement that unifies communities in prevention and education about the risk factors and warning signs of cardiovascular disease.  We are proud of the policies and changes you are influencing to make strides toward a world where we are free of heart disease and stroke.

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Reminder: send your message today!

Great news!  Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 61-36 to pass House Bill 1001.  As you may remember, this is the legislation that includes a $1 increase in Indiana’s cigarette tax.  Thank you to every advocate who attended our Day at the Statehouse last week, every advocate who submitted a Letter to the Editor, every advocate who called their lawmaker, and every advocate who has sent a message to lawmakers in support of this measure. 

You can still send your lawmaker a Thank You note for their vote!  Click here to join in: https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=37683

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Update on Tobacco to 21 Legislation

The 2016 legislative session has started and things are moving quickly. A bill to raise the tobacco and electronic smoking device purchase age to 21, House Bill 2313, which the American Heart Association is supporting received its first hearing in the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee on January 21st.

During the hearing, AHA volunteers also participated in a press conference held by the Attorney General on this legislation. Numerous health organizations including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association also participated.

Four bills were heard in the committee on the 21st with HB 2313 being last. Our dedicated volunteer Eric Rothenberg testified in support of the bill. Because the bill was heard last not everyone who signed in to testify was able to but Eric did a great job representing the AHA.  Overall, the majority of those in attendance at the committee hearing testified in support.

On Friday February 29th the bill was formally voted on by the House Healthcare and Wellness Committee passing with a vote of 9 ayes. 

As of today, February 8, when this post is being written we are still hoping for a hearing in the Appropriations Committee which is necessary for the bill to progress through the House. On Friday, February 5, the Senate version of the legislation died when it failed to get a vote in committee.

The American Heart Association believes HB 2313 is an important piece of legislation that will drive down smoking rates in Washington. In fact it was the focus of our annual lobby day this year on February 9th.

We hope that this issue will receive the necessary hearing and votes to keep progressing during the 2016 legislative session and that we can count on your support. Please keep your eyes open for our emails on the issue and take action when we call upon you to message your lawmakers.

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E-cigs - Creating a Whole New Crop of Smokers

A whole new generation of smokers may be on the horizon thanks to e-cigarettes.

More and more youth are turning to e-cigarettes and studies show that when they do, they are also likely to turn to traditional cigarettes.

The use of e-cigarettes by kids tripled last year and new data from Vermont shows that more than 30% of high school students have tried e-cigs with 15% now using them regularly. In fact, more Vermont kids are now using e-cigarettes than are smoking. But the e-cigarette use could start to bump smoking levels back up.

Given new studies, including one from Dartmouth, showing kids who vape are also much more likely to smoke -- even kids who said they would never try it -- Vermont should act to prohibit vaping in the same places where smoking is prohibited. Protecting the social norms we’ve created about the dangers of tobacco is important if we want to protect our kids.

Take action today to urge lawmakers to support including e-cigarettes in Vermont’s clean indoor air laws.

https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/actioncenter.aspx

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A Glimmer of Hope

Those of you who are long-time You're the Cure advocates are very familiar with the American Heart Association's efforts over the years to advocate for funding the state budget to prevent smoking and tobacco use in our kids and to help smokers who wish to quit to kick the habit. New Jersey completely eliminated the funding from the state budget in 2010 and we have been advocating to get it reinstated since but have been unsuccessful so far. New Jersey is the only state in the country that dedicates no funding to fighting the #1 preventable cause of death and we have been at the bottom of the list for years.

However, there is a glimmer of hope this year! Legislators on both sides of the aisle are supporting legislation to address this lack of funding by dedicating a small portion of the tobacco tax to anti-tobacco programs and prevention. There was some movement at the end of last legislative session but time ran out. We are hopeful that our champions in the Legislature can get some momentum behind this and get it moving soon. We will be asking you, our dedicated  You're the Cure advocates to act in the coming weeks and months so that we might finally win this battle!

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Governor Cuomo's 2016 budget proposal doesn't do enough!

On January 13, Governor Cuomo laid out his 2016 agenda in a combined State of the State and budget address in Albany.  

While my colleague Martha and I sat in the Convention Center and anxiously waited to hear how Governor Cuomo would be supporting programs that protect New Yorkers from heart disease and stroke, we were disappointed to find out that there was nothing included in the executive budget that would aid healthy food access or CPR in Schools support.

The Governor and the state legislature share the responsibility for how New York organizes its budget. It is critical that the final budget include funding for health-related programs we know will save our state money by improving the health of all New Yorkers.

Help us tell Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to invest in the American Heart Association budget priorities!

Click here for more information about the New York Healthy Food and Healthy Communities fund.

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Your Advocacy Team is Hitting the Road in 2016!

Mark your calendars to join us in 2016!  The North Carolina AHA Government Relations Team: Betsy Vetter, Sarah Jacobson and Kim Chidester will be traveling across the state (from Asheville to Wilmington!) to offer 5 in-person Advocacy Training Sessions.

In these workshops, we will offer education on our 2016 policy issues, an advocacy coaching session with a fun twist, and training on how to interact with your lawmakers.

Choose the workshop(s) you’d like to attend:

[Triangle] February 9th, 2016 from 11:30am – 1:30pm at AHA Offices [3131 RDU Center Drive, Morrisville]
[Charlotte] February 10th, 2016 from 5pm – 7pm at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church [517 Baldwin Avenue, Charlotte]
[Asheville] March 24, 2016 from 5pm – 7pm at Mission Health, Biltmore Park [First floor Community Room, 310 Long Shoals Rd, Arden, 28704]
[Wilmington] April 13, 2016 from 11:30 to 1:30p: Location to be finalized

In these workshops, we will be offering an issues-training around the following policy initiatives:

  • Healthy Corner Store Initiative
  • Closing the Coverage Gap
  • Tobacco use prevention and cessation programs
  • Issue in the pipeline: Active Transportation

We hope that you will save the date that works the best for you to join us in person, and be sure to watch your email over the next few weeks for reminders about these trainings. If you would like to join, please RSVP to Kim Chidester.

Also, we will be offering another opportunity to engage alongside us as we meet directly with your lawmakers!  Please mark your calendar to join us on May 10 as we prepare for our 2016 NC Lobby Day!

See you soon, North Carolina!

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We Are Making Things Happen in South Carolina!

We are excited to kick off 2016 in South Carolina!  This year, session is expected to be eventful and productive.  Please check out our legislative priorities below.  We hope you will join us as we continue our exciting and life-saving work in the Palmetto State!

CPR Training in Schools
Require Hands-Only CPR training as part of the already required health education class for high school students.  Right now, less than 11% of people suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, and training a new class of young citizens in CPR every year can change this frightening statistic. 

We’ll also be working to: 

  • Require schools to implement the beverage and snack guidelines in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Interim Final Rule Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in Schools.
  • Fully fund the Stroke Systems of Care Act of 2011 setting up a statewide stroke registry. Data analysis from the registry will ensure stroke patients receive the best available care for their condition.
  • Require Medicaid to cover cessation services for current tobacco users including both counseling and pharmacotherapy with no or minimal cost sharing.

Also, please be sure to watch your email for upcoming opportunities to join us in 2016!  Kim Chidester, your Grassroots Director, will be traveling across the state (from Columbia to Charleston!) to offer 3 in-person Advocacy Training Sessions.  As these dates and locations are set, we will be sure to let you know so you can mark your calendars.

Thanks for being by our side!  We couldn’t do this without you. You’re the Cure advocates work to support and advocate for public policies that will help improve the cardiovascular health of Americans and reduce deaths by coronary heart disease and stroke.   If our voice is loud enough this session, we can impact the lives of South Carolinians for many years to come! 

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Youth and e-cigarette exposure

About 18 million U.S. middle and high school students – 70 percent – are exposed to e-cigarette (also known as e-cigs) advertising online, in stores, newspapers, magazines and movies, and on television, according to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

E-cigarettes deliver a nicotine-containing aerosol popularly called vapor by heating a solution usually made of glycerin, nicotine and flavoring agents. An American Heart Association policy statement said that e-cigarettes target young people and can hook people on nicotine and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use.

In a recent statement, AHA CEO Nancy Brown said:  “The tried-and-true methods to attract a new generation to tobacco must be reined in,” “Otherwise, more and more young Americans will put themselves at risk for heart disease, stroke or even an early death as a result of taking up tobacco in any form.”

The e-cig ads are following a familiar tobacco marketing playbook of old with themes of independence and rebellion that are aimed specifically to addict the next generation.  E-cig advertising to young people “is like the old time Wild West,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a media briefing. With no regulations and growing ad budgets, spending nearly tripled in one year from $6.4 million in 2011 to $18.3 million in 2012, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The CDC said that manufacturers of e-cigarettes also target youth through advertising on social networks. Online ordering makes it easier for kids to purchase e-cigs and related products.

In 2014, e-cigs became the most common tobacco product used by middle and high school students. The most recent CDC data shows that from 2011-2014 e-cig use by high school students increased from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent. Among middle school students it rose from 0.6 percent to 3.9 percent. This sudden and dramatic rise in youth use sadly illustrates the effectiveness of unregulated advertising for these products. 

For the full story, please visit here.

We are working to raise awareness on the issue at the local, state and federal levels on this growing public health issue.  If you want to get involved locally, please contact Josh Brown for more information.

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