On June 12th, American Heart Association volunteers, staff, coalition partners and Minnesota policymakers gathered to celebrate our public health victories at the Capitol this year. AHA’s Executive VP for the Midwest Affiliate, Kevin Harker, kicked off our celebration and recognized the important leadership Minnesota has in  the nation in promoting health and preventing heart disease and stroke. We are setting the bar high! Legislators included Rep. Diane Loeffler, Rep. Nick Zerwas, and Sen. Carla Nelson. All played key roles in advancing AHA’s agenda at the Capitol in 2013. We thank each and every person who played a role in the success this year—they are too numerous to name!

Some of our key victories this year included:

  • Tobacco Tax: The House and Senate passed a $1.60 increase in the price of tobacco!  This increase will save 26,000 Minnesotans from premature death due to smoking! It will also prevent 47,700 MN kids from becoming addicted smokers and it will be the impetus to encourage more than 36,600 MN adults to QUIT smoking. With 66% of Minnesotans supporting this increase, it was the right thing to do to save lives and save health care costs in Minnesota.
  • Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP): SHIP was funded at $35 Million per biennium. This money is in the base funding for the MN Dept. of Health, which means funding will be continued in future biennia. This long-term and statewide commitment provides stability in the funding to make the long-term investments needed to reverse the obesity epidemic and help reduce tobacco use.  Currently about half of Minnesota Counties receive funding through SHIP to improve healthy eating, increase physical activity, and reduce tobacco use. The new funds will help reach the entire state with these important prevention strategies.
  • Safe Routes to School: The Minnesota Safe Routes to School program was funded at $500,000 per biennium! This money is in the base funding for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. This is the first-ever commitment in the state transportation budget to ensure that our children are given the opportunity to safely walk and bike to school. This funding will help communities plan SRTS programs, provide training for staff and volunteers to support SRTS, and other non-infrastructure costs that are crucial to a successful SRTS program. This funding will be awarded on a competitive basis to schools across Minnesota.
  • Pulse Ox Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHD): This bill requires all birthing centers in Minnesota to screen newborns for CCHD using Pulse Oximetry prior to discharge. This simple, painless, non-invasive test costs less than a single diaper change and can detect heart defects that do not present in a physical exam. 1 in 100 babies are born with a heart defect and heart defects are the most common and most deadly birth defect for infants.
  • Stroke Center Designation:  This bill creates in state law a method for designating hospitals based on their capacity to treat acute stroke. Hospitals that are nationally certified as Primary or Comprehensive Stroke Centers by the Joint Commission will be recognized in MN state law as having that status. Hospitals that meet the 10 criteria of our Minnesota Stroke System Council will be designated by MDH as Acute Stroke Ready. This will allow local EMS services to tailor their triage and transport protocols based on which facilities can best treat the patient having a suspected stroke. In Minnesota, stroke is the leading cause of 12,000 hospital admission each year and over 2,100 die from stroke each year in our state. 1 in 3 stroke patients arrive first at a small, rural hospital. Knowing the capacity of those hospitals prior to arrival will save precious minutes, because with stroke – time lost is brain lost.