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New Hampshire’s Legislature Session is a Wrap

New Hampshire state lawmakers have finished session and bills now move on to the Governor’s office for signing into law.  Two of the American Heart Association’s priority bills have succeeded.  The Reauthorization of NH’s Medicaid Expansion program, continues healthcare coverage for 47,000 for another two years.  The Study Committee for Complete Streets policy will engage advocates, lawmakers and state agencies into the fall.  Work on two other issue areas of importance to the AHA mission to save lives and improve Heart Health will continue into the next session.  Over the summer and fall months the AHA will be working on our new campaign for Healthy Active Kids, to improve school and community environments to support access to healthy foods and physical activity.  Local advocacy continues as well for CPR training of students prior to graduation from high schools.  Tobacco control efforts also continue, including the goal of raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years.  Information on these opportunities for advocates to become involved will be communicated through the You’re The Cure network. 

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Take Action for Corner Stores Today

We would all like the option to make a healthy choice, right?  We need your help now to speak up for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. Legislative session is moving fast and the NC House will be debating the state budget next week. It is important that the $1 million appropriation for Healthy Corner Stores is included.

Ask your legislators to fully fund the Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

Over 1.5 million of our North Carolina neighbors live in communities where healthy foods aren’t affordable or accessible. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative can help change that by bringing healthy, local foods into small stores in neighborhoods that need them most.

We all deserve the right to make a healthy choice. Tell your lawmakers today that you want all North Carolinians to have that right and ask them to include full funding for Healthy Corner Stores in the state budget.

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Will you help influence scientific research?

We need to hear from consumers like you as the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) partner together on the future of research. Your experience could lead to the next research study to improve heart disease and stroke treatment.

As an advocate we’ve asked you to speak out for increased funding for medical research and you’ve answered by contacting lawmakers and sharing your personal stories as survivors, caregivers, and loved ones touched by heart and stroke disease. Now we invite you to share your experience, the decisions made in determining your or your loved one’s treatment plans and the factors that influenced those decisions. If we better understand your experience it can help guide the research that will lead to better care tailored to the specific needs of patients.

If you’ve had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, or you know a loved one who has, your unique understanding could help guide research to solve un-met care challenges faced by individuals like you and improve heart and stroke treatment.

Here are the details:

  • We are focused on un-met challenges faced by patients and caregivers like you. 
  • To join this challenge, you’ll be asked to provide a written submission of your first-hand experience after a heart disease or stroke event.
  • The story and description of the concerns you faced and the decisions you made should be personal and not a general case.
  • A team of scientific professionals and patient representatives with expertise in heart disease and stroke will review your story. Learning more about issues and concerns important to your decision-making can help them improve experiences and outcomes for patients in the future.
  • If your submission is chosen, you could win $1,000 and possibly help shape the future of cardiovascular research.
  • All submissions must be received by June 8, 2016.

Please take this important challenge and share your insights. Your story matters. Take the challenge today!

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Tobacco 21 Passes in Albany County!

Today is a great day to live in Albany County. Last night the Albany County Legislature voted to pass Local Law C, which would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The vote was 24-13.

It was inspiring to see the work of the legislature at it's finest. While some legislators still argued against it, the number of legislators who spoke in favor of it was overwhelming.

These individual's gave their "Why". Because they are parents and want to see their children grow up without an addiction to tobacco. Because they themselves smoked and saw firsthand how easy it is for youth to get their hands on cigarettes. Because they themselves are dealing with the consequences of smoking. Because they have lost someone they love to one of the many tobacco-related health conditions.

The next step is to urge Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy to sign the bill into law. It's unclear how he will act, so the pressure is on to make sure he knows how important this legislation is and the impact it will have on Albany County's youth.

Stay tuned for more developments!

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American Heart Association Heart at the Capitol

Guest Blogger: Ashley Wicklund. Government Advocacy Intern – Sacramento

The AHA hosted Heart at the Capitol, formerly known as Lobby Day, on April 14th this year and it was a great success. As an integral part of the planning team, it is very fulfilling to have seen it go so well. I am a Government Advocacy Intern for the AHA, and I was tasked with setting up all the meetings with the legislators for the event. As you could imagine, sending emails to all the legislative offices and coordinating with legislators or their staff took some time. When I first heard about Heart at the Capitol and began setting up meetings, I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of the event. But after I had confirmed about 85 meetings with the offices of Senators and Assemblymembers, I began to realize just how important this event was.

 

Heart at the Capitol provides an opportunity for volunteers and constituents to come to the Capitol and talk to legislators about the important legislation that the AHA works so hard to pass. The AHA’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This is why the AHA focuses its energy toward legislation that seeks to require high school graduates to learn Hands-Only CPR (AB 1719) in order to increase the number of people who are able to save lives in the case of a heart attack; legislation that adds a distributor fee onto sugar-sweetened beverages (AB 2782) to invest in communities that are disproportionately impacted by health issues associated with over consumption of sugary drinks; and legislation that would ensure that the Medi-Cal population has access to tobacco cessation programs and resources (AB 1696) to help people quit tobacco use. The AHA commonly uses the phrase “life is why” – life is why the AHA does what it does, to create healthier lives for Californians and Americans around the country.

 

As the event began, more and more people were arriving and checking in, anticipating the exciting day ahead of meeting with their legislators and listening to motivating speakers tell their own stories about heart disease or stroke. From the eyes of an AHA intern, it was great to see the turn-out of constituents and volunteers.  We had a crowd of over 150 attendees from all across California including over 80 students coming from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The level of enthusiasm our advocates had to go in and speak with Senators and Assemblymembers about such important issues was thrilling! Once we got into the meetings, it was clear how much they cared about the topics at hand and how excited they were that legislators and staff shared their enthusiasm.

 

The meeting-filled morning passed by and opened the door to an afternoon of guest speakers. The afternoon kicked off with a press conference from Assemblymember Rodriguez about the CPR in schools bill, who talked about the importance of a bill like this and thanked everyone for coming out for the day. Next, was a very moving story by a man named Steve Griffiths, who survived a heart attack thanks to the actions of his young son and his knowledge of Hands-On CPR. The story was eye-opening and drove the bill home by telling a personal story of how a kid who knew hands-only CPR saved his life. Here’s part of the story.

 

The last speaker of the day was a 9-year-old girl named Savanna Karmue, who wrote her own book titled “Happy Heart.” She learned that heart disease is the number one cause of deaths in America and decided to write her book to spread the word about how to keep a happy heart. Please see her speech here.

 

Reflecting back on Heart at the Capitol, it is easy to see the success it had. The attendees were overjoyed to participate, the legislators had genuine conversations about the AHA’s heart healthy priorities, and the speakers all had personal and inspirational stories that promoted the goals of the AHA and bills. I only hope the participants enjoyed it as much as I did, and that future Heart at the Capitol events will be this successful!

 

To see a glimpse of the experience, please see the photos here.  I’m the one pictured on the left!

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Smoke-Free Workplaces Bill Still Needs Your Help

Our Smoke-Free Workplaces bill made tremendous progress towards becoming a statewide law this legislative session.  This policy passed out of the Senate and received support from over one thousand Alaskan businesses and organizations. We were making our way through the House, but unfortunately the bill stalled in committee.

 

While we missed a great opportunity this session with the stalling of Senate Bill 1, we still have another chance to pass smoke-free indoor workplace legislation this calendar year. We expect the Governor to announce a special session soon where legislators will have another chance to pass legislation to make Alaska a safer state to live in and visit. With that being said, we still have time.  But your support is desperately needed.

 

If you haven’t expressed your support for smoke-free indoor workplaces yet, please do so here.

 

Making sure all indoor workplaces are smoke-free will protect ALL Alaskan employees from unwanted secondhand smoke exposure and will create a standard for healthy business practices for the entire state.  There are too many workers in Alaska unprotected from dangerous secondhand smoke.

 

We are losing 53,800 people each year due to secondhand smoke** exposure. Children are at significant risk to many acute and chronic diseases as a result of secondhand smoke exposure.

 

One such person is Monica Lettner, a musician whose livelihood and career depend on working in bars and restaurants where, in some parts of Alaska, smoking is still allowed.

 

“I was a smoker once upon a time, but I believed then as I do now, that no one should have to be an involuntary smoker,” said Lettner. “I’m also a professional musician. I sing and play guitar, solo and with a band, and I coach young girls aspiring to be rock artists as well.”

 

“Musicians live gig to gig, and play wherever they are invited, mostly in bars,” Lettner explained. “Not only can we not choose to not play in smoky bars and still survive, but we also breathe in much more air than our listeners sitting on their barstools. We breathe secondhand smoke for hours a night simply to do our jobs. Now I’m lucky to be protected when I play at home in Anchorage, but almost anywhere else in the state, I’m back to secondhand smoking.

 

I’m passionate about music and want to encourage young people to pursue rock music, but I also want them to be safe and healthy wherever they have to play in our state. Senate Bill 1 would protect my health and theirs now and into the future,” Lettner said.

 

All Alaskans have the right to breathe smoke-free air. We hope we can count on you in crunch time.

 

**This number is based on the midpoint numbers for heart disease deaths (48,500), lung cancer deaths (3,000), and SIDS deaths (2,300) as calculated in the 1997 California EPA Report on Secondhand Smoke.

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Weighty Tobacco Issues Brought Before DC Council

The tone was set…as heavy rain pelted against the windows, over 30 members of the DC Tobacco Free Coalition gathered at the John A. Wilson Building on April 28 to discuss a weighty tobacco control agenda. The plan was simple - to march to the DC Council and advocate for fully funding the DC Tobacco Control Program, increasing the tobacco purchase age to 21, restricting smokeless tobacco use in sports venues and treating electronic-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products.  This was to be a pivotal ‘Day at DC Council.’

These dozens of DC residents banded together with the support of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the American Lung Association.  With the meetings set and the facts in hand nothing could dampen the spirit of this group of dedicated health advocates.

As meetings unfolded with Councilmembers, You’re the Cure advocates shared startling statistics:

  •  95% of smokers start before age 21 and 12.5% of DC teens smoke
  • The CDC recommends the District invest $10.7 million to support a comprehensive tobacco control program in the District, which is currently funded at only $1.34 million 
  • 800 District residents die from smoking related illnesses each year
  • 800,000 packs of cigarettes are purchased by DC teens every year

One of the attendees, Neha A. said, “I was at DC Lobby Day because tobacco is a very important issue that effects everyone - users and non-users.  Besides the critical fact that current tobacco control funding is far below ideal, it was important for me to emphasize the impact of tobacco exposure and use on the youth/teenage population as well as dispel myths about electronic cigarettes.”

Day at DC Council was just the start! All You’re the Cure advocates are encouraged to make their voices heard and urge the Council to support tobacco control when they consider the FY17 budget on May 17.  Click here to add your voice!

Hear inspiring messages from advocates on the scene at our Day at DC Council: 

 

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Let's Get Mobile!

We’re keeping up with the times, and now you can advocate by text, in addition to the emails you might be used to. 

You can get on our mobile list and lend your voice to a policy issue at the same time – just be sure you reply to the ‘auto-response’ after you send your first text, and complete the action step!

  • DC:  Text XTOBACCO to 52886 to urge DC Council to fund tobacco cessation
  • MD:  Text CHOICES to 52886 to tell legislators we still want healthy items in state vending machines
  • VA:  Text FRESH to 52886 to bang the drum about the need for better grocery access
  • NC: Text NCYTC to 52886 to urge lawmakers to support healthy food access across the state
  • SC: Text CPRSC to 52886 to thank state leaders for requiring CPR skills to be taught in high schools   

When you text the keyword, we’ll respond right away with your activation link – just click on the link and fill in the fields (you won’t have to do that every time), then tap the SEND EMAIL button. 

It’s an easy way right at your fingertips to make a difference.

Welcome to the new world, us! 

 

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FDA Announces New Rule Overseeing All Tobacco Products Including E-Cigs!

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced exciting news that they finalized a rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, among others. This move will help improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco.

Before today, there was no federal law prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18. Today’s rule changes that with provisions aimed at restricting youth access, including:

  • Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online);
  • Requiring age verification by photo ID;
  • Not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility); and
  • Not allowing the distribution of free samples.

This move will also help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks.

For more information, check out the press release here: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm499234.htm 

One step closer to protecting our youth against the dangers of nicotine!

 

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They Want to Hear From You!

Even though Connecticut is indeed a small state, it still consists of no fewer than 169 towns and cities. Within those towns and cities are 151 state representatives and 36 state senators, all of whom are re-elected every two years. You are a constituent to one particular state representative and state senator, and their job is to represent you in Hartford. As an advocate of the American Heart Association, it is important that you know who your own legislators are, and just as important that they know who you are. 

To create this relationship requires little of your time and could start as easily as you sending them a short email introducing yourself as a constituent and letting them know about an issue that you are passionate about, such as heart disease, childhood obesity, unhealthy school marketing or tobacco use.  Once you have exchanged an email or two with your legislators, follow it up periodically with a short note, such as wishing them a fun and relaxing summer, luck in their upcoming elections in November, and a happy holidays. This way they will remember your name and when you need a word with them, their door will be open. Remember, they represent you and really do want to hear from their constituents!

To find your legislator go to https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp. You will be asked to pick your town and to enter your street address and will then be provided with a link to their bio’s containing contact information. You can also email me at james.williams@heart.org, and I am happy to help set up and facilitate meetings.

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