Thursday, December 24, 2009

Senate Passes Health Care Reform Legislation!

Statement from AHA CEO Nancy Brown on Senate Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
December 24, 2009

After decades of delays, heart disease and stroke patients can look forward to meaningful reforms in our health care system with today’s historic vote in the Senate for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We are gratified the Senate has given Americans a holiday to remember with approval of a bill which, while still imperfect, will benefit patients and their families as they struggle to cover the cost of medical care. Although much more work lies ahead to fix our broken health care system and ensure quality, affordable care for all Americans, this bill lays the groundwork to expand coverage to the uninsured, place an increased emphasis on preventing disease and improve the delivery of care – all measures that will enable us to reduce soaring health care costs and relieve the stress and anxiety of patients who have run out of options in securing quality and affordable health care.

Senate passage of a health care reform bill is an important and necessary milestone; however, we recognize there are more hurdles to overcome in the weeks ahead. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be ironed out in order to complete this monumental effort and produce the strongest bill possible for meeting the needs of heart disease and stroke patients. The American Heart Association looks forward to working with House and Senate leaders to improve the final bill and see health care reform over the finish line early in the new year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What the Senate Health Care Legislation Means for Patients

The American Heart Association supports those specific provisions in the Senate's health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that make health care coverage more accessible, affordable and adequate for the 80 million Americans living with heart disease and stroke, including:
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from denying or dropping coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition;

  • Prohibiting insurance companies from charging women and those with pre-existing conditions higher premiums and limits the amount more that insurance companies can charge older Americans for their coverage;

  • Abolishing lifetime caps and unreasonable annual limits in insurance coverage;

  • Protecting families from medical bankruptcy by limiting out-of-pocket costs to $5,800 for an individual or $11,600 for a family. Low and moderate-income families would have lower caps on the amount they would have to spend for their out-of-pocket costs;

  • Requiring that essential categories of services be covered, including hospital and doctors visits, emergency care, preventive services, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative care;Requiring all private health plans and Medicare to cover preventive services with no deductible or other cost-sharing;

  • Requiring that health plan networks include an adequate number and type of providers; and

  • Requiring that consumers be given uniform, understandable information about their health plan coverage, costs, and quality.

The AHA believes that the many patient-centered provisions of the Senate legislation are a significant step towards meaningful health reform and encourages all Senators to support the key procedural votes needed to allow the Senate to pass its bill so progress can continue.

Tell your Senators to put patients first by voting "YES" on the three critical upcoming procedural votes by visiting http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/ today!

CDC Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program Receives Additional Funds in FY 2010

American Heart Association advocates played a key role in urging their representatives to boost funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program which helps states implement a Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program (HDSP), Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry, WISEWOMAN, and a broad surveillance system. In the FY 2010 Labor-HHS-Education omnibus bill, the HDSP program received $56 million or a 3.9 percent increase. CDC spends on average only 16 cents per person each year in the U.S. on heart disease and stroke prevention. Currently, CDC funds only 14 states for basic program implementation and 27 states and Washington, D.C. for capacity building (program planning). WISEWOMAN received $20 million or a 6.4 percent increase to provide increased resources to the 20 currently funded states. WISEWOMAN is a competitively awarded state-based heart disease and stroke screening and prevention program for uninsured and underinsured low-income women.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advocates Help Increase Heart and Stroke Research Funding

You’re the Cure advocates also helped to increase funding for the NIH for FY 2010. In the omnibus Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill signed into law on December 16, 2009, the NIH received $31 billion or a 2.3 percent increase. Within that amount for the NIH, the two institutes of particular interest to the AHA, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute received a 2.7 percent increase and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke received a 2.3 percent increase over their FY 2009 funding levels. NHLBI and NINDS conduct the majority of NIH-supported heart and stroke research, respectively.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

HEART for Women Amendment Introduced!


One of the staples of the American Heart Association's advocacy efforts has always centered on women and heart disease. We recognize that heart disease is the number one killer of women, but it is amazing to see how few people actually realize that and it is even more shocking to realize the right tools and supports are not in place to address this deadly killer. In the past our support has taken the form of an independent bill that we called the Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act. Many of you may know the bill and have supported its passage. As the healthcare reform debate continues to spark debate in Congress, we have learned that Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has taken the HEART for Women Act and adapted it be an amendment to the Senate's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590).

The AHA has joined with the Society for Women's Health Research and Women Heart, to support Senator Stabenow's amendment. In a letter to the Senator, our organizations recognized that "health care reform provides an opportunity for Congress to reduce the cardiovascular health disparities that women face" and we thanked the Senator for stepping forward for all American women. The amendment would expand to all 50 states the CDC's WISEWOMAN program and require the FDA to report safety and effectiveness data by gender, race, and ethnicity in order to shed new light on how drugs work among specific populations. These are exactly the kinds of advancements we need and we are urging the full Senate to support Sen. Stabenow's amendment. You can do your part by sending a message to your Senators today!

Regardless of our Senator's views on the overall Senate bill, we must let them know that we are counting on them to find common ground and support provisions that will have a real impact on the health of patients, such as the HEART for Women amendment.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Facts of Reform- Part One: Medicare

The American Heart Association is continuing to review the Senate health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, we know you’re hearing many confusing and contradictory claims about this legislation, and we’d like to serve as a resource to you in understanding the facts about health care reform.

Question: I’ve heard that the bill will cut Medicare benefits and deprive seniors of the care they need. Is this true?

Answer: Nearly half of all people who have heart disease or stroke are over age 60 so the American Heart Association clearly understands and believes in the need to protect Medicare. Our assessment of the Senate bill, relying on the various sources of objective analysis of its provisions, is that it would not cut Medicare benefits and would instead improve coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. For instance, the Senate bill would eliminate cost-sharing for preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, provide a new annual “wellness visit” for seniors, and reduce the coverage gap (or “donut hole”) in prescription drug coverage that many Medicare beneficiaries currently face. We’ve advocated for each of these improvements in the Medicare program.

Unfortunately, however, Medicare is growing at an unsustainable rate, and without any action, the Medicare trust fund is projected to become insolvent in 2017. The Senate bill therefore attempts to slow down the rate of growth of Medicare by reducing Medicare spending by about $500 billion over 10 years. According to the Medicare actuary, this will extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by up to 5 years. In addition, even with these savings, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that Medicare spending per beneficiary will still increase by 6% every year under the Senate bill.

1. The Senate bill accomplishes the Medicare savings in three major ways:
It reduces Medicare’s current overpayments to the private health insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans. According to the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare payment policy, Medicare Advantage plans are overpaid, on average, by 14 percent, compared to traditional Medicare fee-for-service. By paying Medicare Advantage plans rates that are closer to what is paid for fee-for-service, Medicare will save $118 billion over the next 10 years.

2. The bill saves nearly $200 billion over 10 years by reducing the annual pay increases that hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers receive. But even with this savings, Medicare providers will still receive a slight increase in their reimbursement rates each year.

3. The bill saves about $100 billion over 10 years by reducing waste and inefficiency in Medicare and improving the quality of care that Medicare beneficiaries receive. Medicare currently pays based on the quantity of care delivered, rather than rewarding the quality of care. For example, the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare policy has estimated that nearly 18 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are hospitalized need to be re-hospitalized within 30 days. By encouraging the provision of better follow-up care and helping to prevent the need for re-admissions, the Senate bill would save $7 billion over 10 years.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Healthcare Reform on the Move


The American Heart Association is encouraging lawmakers to maintain the momentum for meaningful healthcare reform by beginning Senate debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as soon as possible. Learn what CEO Nancy Brown has to say about the issue at: http://bit.ly/1WlnZY

Do you know where your Senator's stand on the issue? The Senate is expected to vote within the next 24 hours on whether to proceed with debating health care reform. Tell your Senators it's time for the discussion to happen. http://heartsforhealthcare.org/

Monday, November 9, 2009

Statement by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on Passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act in the U.S. House of Representatives


AHA CEO Nancy Brown says U.S. House passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act reform bill brings us one step closer to accessible and affordable care for millions of Americans by enhancing coverage, promoting preventive care and improving delivery of care. To read more of Nancy's statement, visit: http://bit.ly/3T3ddk

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Video: Advocates in Action on Capitol Hill

Nearly 70 heart and stroke advocates from across the country urged lawmakers to fix the broken healthcare system by making sure health reform legislation will help prevent disease and expand access to affordable, quality care for all.



For other American Heart Association Advocacy clips, check out our YouTube channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/AmHeartAdvocacy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

100,000 Calls for Health Care Reform


The American Heart Association is joining with other national organizations to launch a massive Day of Action to make sure Congress passes meaningful health care reform by the end of the year.

Our goal: Get 100,000 calls made to Congress TODAY to urge that meaningful health care reform gets passed this year.

Will you make your call right now? We’ve made it easy. Just follow the steps below:

1) Dial this toll-free number: 1-877-854-4327 and press 2 to talk to an operator, who will automatically patch you through to your elected officials.

2) When a staff member answers your call, you can say:
  • My name is [Your Name] and I am calling from [Your City and State].

  • I stand with the American Heart Association in urging all members of Congress to vote “yes” on meaningful, affordable health care reform this year.

  • 80 million Americans are living with heart disease, stroke or other cardiovascular disease today and they need health care reform that ensures that health care is accessible, affordable, and adequate.

Thank you for making this important call today!


PS- If you can't get through to your Members' offices, that just means the Day of Action is working. Simply call back again later... it's never too late to make your voice heard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month--A Chance to Save Lives

October is many things. It's the month we honor Christopher Columbus, the month we dress up and ask that age old question, "trick or treat" but it is also Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness month. So what does that mean? It means we have a chance to raise awareness about a condition that affects approximately 166,000 Americans each year. It is an opportunity to advocate for a simple device and some basic training to make a difference to the 95% of people who suffer from sudden cardiac arrest and do not make it to medical treatment in time.

The Josh Miller HEARTS Act would establish a grant program to help schools purchase automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and provide for training in CPR and AED use. The bill was prompted by the tragic death of a 15-year old high school student who suffered sudden cardiac arrest at school. It recognizes the importance of providing schools with the equipment and training necessary to save the lives of children and adults in the community as part of an overall medical emergency response plan. For every minute that passes without CPR, the chances of survival from SCA decrease by 7-10%. But the good news is that survival rates more than double when CPR and defibrillation can be quickly applied. By providing access to AEDs and proper training, we have an opportunity to make a real difference in someone's life.

Please act now and urge your Senators to co-sponsor the Josh Miller HEARTS Act. It has already passed through the US House of Representatives and now we need the Senate to support and move this important legislation. We can do it with your help! Let's make this October a life-saver!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great News, We're a Finalist!


You may remember that last year the American Heart Association won PR News' Nonprofit Award for our You're the Cure on the Hill 2008. Well, we just heard some great news--we are a finalist for the 2009 award for our FIT Kids Act Press Event that took place March 19, 2009. We are honored by this recognition and will keep you posted on the outcome.

Though the event was only one day you, the advocates have taken the enthusiasm generated and turned that in to progress. Through your time and dedication we now have 113 co-sponsors to the legislation. We could not do it without you. Thank you and keep up the great work!

Send a Fax for Reform!

Heart disease and stroke can affect people of all ages- and so can the broken health care system. Under our current system, children with severe congenital heart defects sometimes surpass lifetime insurance coverage limits when they are just toddlers, leaving their families struggling to pay for the care they need. Last week, the American Heart Association ran this ad in several of the Capitol Hill publications to help raise awareness about the health care coverage issues patients face- and we need your help to keep that message going into your Members’ offices.

Download and print this ad today and fax it to your legislators- or you can drop off a copy at the district offices closest to you (please note: you can find their contact information by visiting their websites). Include a note letting your legislators know why health care reform matters to you and urge them to vote “yes” for meaningful health care reform THIS year.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Healthcare Hostages Dying For Reform


Nearly 70 heart and stroke patients, doctors and volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, September 30 for the American Heart Association’s Congressional Lobby Day Fly-In to push for meaningful healthcare reform. Advocates, young and old, from across the country urged their representatives to fix the broken healthcare system by making sure the legislation will help prevent disease and expand access to affordable, quality care for the insured and uninsured. ABCNews.com spoke with several survivor-advocates and AHA CEO Nancy Brown to learn more about the event and what it’s like living with chronic conditions and covering the
high cost of treatment.
(photo courtesy of the Neary family)

To read the ABCNews.com article, view Healthcare Hostages Dying For Reform at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/heart-patients-dying-health-care-reform/story?id=8701910.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Make a Call for Health Care Reform

The AHA has set-up the Hearts for Health Care hotline to help connect you to your legislators, so you can speak up for meaningful health care reform. Simply call 1-877-854-4327 and select 2 to be connected to a live operator. They will patch you right through to your lawmakers.

If you’ve never called Congress before, don’t worry – it’s easy! When a staff member answers your call, you can say:

  • My name is ________ and I am calling from _________.
  • 80 million Americans are living with heart disease, stroke or other cardiovascular disease today and they need health care reform that ensures that health care is accessible, affordable, and adequate.
  • I stand with the American Heart Association and its American Stroke Association division in urging all members of Congress to vote “yes” on meaningful, affordable health care reform THIS year.
  • Thank you for passing this message on to my legislator.

All of us have a very real stake in Congressional decisions about health care reform—and making this quick call can make a big difference!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Health Care To-Do List for Congress


To help Congress stay focused on putting the patient first as they address health care reform, the American Heart Association has created a health care to-do list of eight common-sense reforms that would bring adequate, affordable health care to heart disease and stroke patients, and those at risk.

Visit http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/ today to send your representatives on Capitol Hill a copy!





Thursday, September 10, 2009

Heart Association CEO Comments on President's Address

Statement by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on President Obama’s Address to Joint Session of Congress on Health Care Reform

(Washington, September 10, 2009) -- The President has reminded us that health care reform is not about politics, it’s about real people who wake up each day hoping that a medical emergency won’t throw them into bankruptcy. We all agree that the current health care system is not working well for the insured, it’s not working well for the underinsured and it’s certainly not working for the uninsured. That’s why we’re pleased the President has brought the debate back to where it started – focusing on the needs of Americans who cannot access affordable, quality health care. We cannot forget the children with congenital heart defects who surpass their lifetime insurance coverage limits before they’re toddlers, we cannot forget the families who lose their homes because of high out-of-pocket medical expenses to treat a chronic illness, and we cannot forget those who go without needed, even lifesaving care because they can’t access or afford insurance. Their stories must be the reason why Congress must continue in their efforts to find common ground and pass meaningful health reform this year. We urge Congress to not lose sight of the goal we all share - to build upon what works in our health care system and fix those parts that are broken and simply unsustainable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Childhood Obesity Report

Statement by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on Recommendations in New IOM Childhood Obesity Report

September 2, 2009

The American Heart Association commends the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council for recommending a solid array of meaningful community actions in their new report Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Overweight children have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. With childhood obesity rates on the rise nationwide, our youngsters have substantially greater risks for developing and dying from chronic illnesses such as heart disease and stroke in early adulthood. But we can play a critical role in helping our children live longer, healthier lives by reaching them where they live and play through increased physical activity and improved nutrition. The American Heart Association is committed to continuing our advocacy effort and the contributing role we have at the state and community level to implement many of the report’s recommendations such as advancing menu labeling legislation, implementing safe routes to school, improving nutrition and physical activity in before-and-after school programs, increasing access to healthy and affordable foods, and making changes to the built environment that increase availability of walking and biking trails and recreational facilities. By making comprehensive policy and environmental changes, we can dramatically improve the health and well-being of our children and reduce their risk for chronic diseases. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be applauded for sponsoring this study and providing a framework for a national call-to-action. For more information visit, www.americanheart.org/obesitypolicy

(IOM report) Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity: http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3788/59845/72798.aspx

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Health Care Reform Questions Answered- Part 3

There are lots of rumors flying around and plenty of misinformation available regarding the health care reform proposals currently before Congress. Today's questions address some of the confusing things you may have been hearing.

Q: Will health care reform lead to a “government takeover” of health care or result in “socialized medicine,” as some claim?
A: No. The bills before Congress preserve our nation’s current employer-based private health insurance system, with public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid continuing to be available as a safety net for older and low-income Americans. The “government takeover” concern is largely based on the public health insurance option that may be available as a choice under some of the bills. It’s very important to note, however, that each person, not the government, would decide whether a private plan or a public plan is the right plan for him or her – if the public plan choice is available at all.

Q: Will health reform lead to rationing of care, as some have said?
A: No. This concern is based on provisions in the bill that authorize “comparative effectiveness research.” This is research that evaluates which drugs or other treatments work best for different medical conditions and different patients. The American Heart Association supports this research because it will provide doctors and their patients with more and better information to help them decide the best course of treatment. Ultimately, however, doctors and patients − not insurance companies or the government −will decide what treatment is best.

Q. I’ve heard claims that health care reform will deny older Americans end-of-life care. What is this about?
A. Nothing could be further from the truth. The House health reform bill includes a provision that would provide reimbursement to physicians who provide counseling to Medicare patients about the care they choose to receive if they have a living will or an advance directive. These consultations are not mandatory, occur only upon the request of the patient, and in fact are designed to make certain that the patient’s wishes come before those of insurance companies or hospitals.

Stay tuned for answers to more questions over the next few weeks. In the meantime, share your questions with us by commenting on this post!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Your Health Care Reform Questions Answered- Part 2

Thank you, Barb, for posting your questions and personal experience in response to our last post about Health Care Reform. We will address questions today regarding the affect on those who have coverage now and funding for health care reform. I would encourage others to share their questions as well, by commenting on this post.

Q: Will I be able to keep my current health insurance coverage if I want to?
A:
Yes. If you currently have health insurance coverage and you like that coverage, you’ll be able to keep it. We recognize, as does President Obama and Congress, that most Americans who are currently insured receive their coverage through their employer and two-thirds of them are satisfied with that coverage.

Q: Will the health care reform bills mean that I will pay more if I have good coverage now?
A: The goal of health care reform is to make health care more affordable for individuals and families as well as for our nation. Americans pay more for our health care than any other country, in part because we are covering the uninsured in a very inefficient way after they get sick and seek care at an emergency room. Some estimate that individuals with insurance pay up to $1,100 more per year through higher premiums and taxes because of uncompensated care received in public hospitals and emergency rooms.

Q: I’ve heard that health reform will cost at least $1 trillion – is this true?
A
: The $1 trillion cost that has been reported in the media is the cost over a 10-year period (an average of $100 billion a year). It is also important to note, however, that Congressional budget rules require that the health reform bills be fully paid for so that they won’t add to our national debt. The cost estimate also doesn’t take into account the private savings that would result from health reform through such provisions as improved care coordination and a greater emphasis on preventing disease. Finally, we need to consider the cost of delay and inaction. Without reform, costs are projected to continue to escalate, 16 million more Americans are projected to lose their coverage over the next decade, and millions more will have their out-of-pocket health costs rise substantially.


Stay tuned for answers to more questions over the next few weeks. In the meantime, share your questions with us by commenting on this post!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Your Health Care Reform Questions Answered!

The health care reform debate can be confusing– the current health insurance system is very complex and there are several different bills to reform it. Many people are left with questions about the different proposals and just what the bills mean for them.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be answering some of the most frequently asked questions about health care reform on this blog. We'll address basic questions about the impact of health care reform for heart and stroke patients as well as questions about specific proposals. First up...

Q: Why does the American Heart Association support health care reform?

A: We believe that the bills before Congress, while not perfect, will make care more available and affordable for the millions of individuals with heart disease and stroke who are uninsured or have inadequate coverage. The bills preserve what works in our current healthcare system; include an important and long overdue emphasis on preventing illness; and will help to improve the quality of care that everyone receives. The bills also make sure that individuals are protected from insurers that evade their obligations to pay for needed care.

Stay tuned for answers to more questions over the next few weeks. In the meantime, share your questions with us by commenting on this post!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Urging Congress to Fund the Fight Against Heart Disease and Stroke

American Heart Association President Dr. Clyde Yancy has released a statement urging Members of Congress to increase funding for heart disease and stroke research, treatment and prevention programs.

In response to recent action in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Dr. Yancy expressed concern that the funding levels approved for the National Institutes of Health will not allow researchers to explore promising new scientific opportunities. While the Heart Association was pleased with the funding approved for CDC's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program and the WISEWOMAN Program, we were disappointed that the subcommittee provided no funding increase for HRSA’s Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program.

A conference committee will work out the final funding levels since numbers differed in the House and Senate, and Dr. Yancy urged "conferees to boost funding levels to help sustain and expand critical heart disease and stroke research and prevention programs that will benefit all Americans and future generations."

Read Dr. Yancy's full statement in the AHA newsroom.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A note from AHA President- Dr. Clyde Yancy

Yesterday, one of many anticipated “AHA Chats” was convened to discuss topical issues in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Health Care Reform was the topic of the day. We were delighted that well over 300 AHA volunteers and advocates called in to participate. As highlighted by Nancy Brown, we are at the cusp of a potentially momentous time in the evolution of health care in this country. The President and Congress are committed to enacting some iteration of health care reform this calendar year. This puts not only Congress but also all stakeholders on an aggressive schedule to review, comment and contribute to the process.

Several topics were reviewed and are worth reiterating now; as an organization, the AHA believes that health care reform that does not result in health care that is as good as or better than the currently available care for most Americans would not represent progress. As an organization we early on staked out the six principles of health care reform that we believe should guide the shape of any program that emerges: everyone in America should have meaningful, affordable health care coverage; preventative benefits are a necessary and important part of health care coverage; all US residents should receive high quality care; health care disparities on the basis of age, gender, race/ethnicity must be eliminated; medical research is an important part of health care reform; and the healthcare workforce should reflect the changing needs of the country.

The AHA Advocacy office and our AHA health policy experts have been working tirelessly to “keep us in the loop”. Both the Senate and the House are developing versions of health care reform. Certain components of health care reform are represented in most, if not all of the pending bills and many of those components are consistent with our AHA policies. These include the elimination of pre-existing medical conditions; the ability to keep already adequate health insurance; extra assistance for low and moderate income families to acquire affordable health insurance and support for small businesses to provide health insurance to all employees. A recently proposed novel strategy creates an “Exchange’ which would represent a portfolio of insurance products from which individuals may select the plan best suited for them and their families. The Exchange would foster competition between the different plans and would create a pool that could be accessed by small and moderate businesses that might not otherwise have the leverage to negotiate coverage rates and benefits. A publicly funded option may be another component of this Exchange and though there is much debate about a ‘public option’, much of that debate needs to be held in abeyance until the details of any public option plan emerge. We anticipate that most proposals are consistently removing lifetime maximal benefits and will insure that once individuals have become sick, health insurance coverage will not disappear.

Clearly there are contentious issues in this debate. The public option being just one of those, employer mandates being another and most recently the possibility of taxing health insurance benefits has emerged. The AHA as a volunteer health organization that has a patient centric approach has not taken a position on any of these issues per se. Our approach has been to follow the process closely and to support the best solutions that achieve our 3 “A”s; affordability, accessibility and adequacy of health care.

The Q & A today was enlightening and brought a personal context to the debate. We heard stories of children with complex heart disease who are underinsured, stroke victims unable to fully participate in rehab programs and victims of heart disease and stroke who are passionate about the incorporation of prevention in any health care reform program. We heard the stories and resonate with the need. The feedback we received today serves to galvanize our efforts even more. Participating in the health care reform process is on the AHA radar screen and will remain an active focus for the AHA and the American Stroke Association in 2009 and beyond as needed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Healthcare Reform- Share your thoughts

Right now, President Obama is hosting an online town hall on healthcare reform. Also today, AHA CEO Nancy Brown and AHA President Clyde Yancy will host a call with You're the Cure advocates to discuss AHA's role in the healthcare reform debate, and how you can have a voice in the discussion.

Please sign our petition in support of healthcare reform that makes healthcare available, affordable and adequate for everyone. We also invite you to share your story. How has the broken healthcare system impacted you or your family? How can reform help you?

Join the discussion on Facebook!
Visit our You're the Cure fanpage and become friends with Paper Doll Katie. Both pages will keep you up to date on AHA's healthcare reform efforts and give you a place to engage in the dialogue.

And, you can leave your comments here as well. We want to know what you think!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Join the National Discussion on Healthcare Reform

President Obama is inviting you to share your questions on healthcare reform. Then, during an online town hall Wednesday at 1:15 pm Eastern, he'll answer some of the most popular questions.

More information in available on the White House Blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/A-National-Discussion-on-Health-Care-Reform/

You can help ensure heart disease and stroke patients have a voice in the discussion!

Submit your question through YouTube, Twitter or Facebook:

Then, participate live in the President's online town hall Wednesday, July 1 at 1:15 pm Eastern. You can access the town hall at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

We'd love to know what questions you're asking... leave a comment here and tell us what issues you hope the President will address during his town hall.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The White House Signing of the FDA Tobacco Bill

Today, we have a guest post from AHA CEO Nancy Brown. Enjoy!

"I was honored to join AHA President, Dr. Timothy Gardner, Government Relations Manager Derek Scholes, and dozens of our public health partners at the White House yesterday when President Obama signed the FDA Tobacco Bill.

It was a great privilege to join our public health partners in celebrating over a decade of work to further this important legislation. I can’t think of another piece of legislation that has the support of over 1,000 public health organizations who worked tirelessly to advance this cause. The American Heart Association remained at the forefront of this fight with key partners, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

The significance of this legislation on the health of Americans can’t be emphasized strongly enough. I am grateful to our You’re the Cure Advocates, and American Heart Association staff and volunteers across the country who have devoted so much time and energy to make this day a reality.

I’ve had several people ask – “so what was it like to be at the White House”? The signing celebration was actually in the Rose Garden, which is as beautiful in person as it is on television. The President was joined by Vice President Biden, and over a dozen key Members of Congress who were there smiling broadly as the bill was signed. President Obama made a very passionate speech about the importance of the bill, the lives it will save, and the savings to our healthcare system we will realize because of improved public health. He even commented on his own use of tobacco, which began when he was a teenager. Check out the photos posted below of the signing ceremony.

Following the ceremony, we joined other AHA DC-based staff at a celebration party hosted by the American Cancer Society. There, I was able to share my thoughts on the significance of this bill to the AHA, our mission, and the public we serve. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, the volunteer chairman of the board of the American Lung Association, and Matt Myers, CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids also talked passionately about the impact this bill will have.

It was such an honor to represent all of the AHA volunteers and staff on such a significant day. I will remember this day always.

As an interesting aside, I asked our two former CEO’s recently to reflect upon their visits to the White House as well as on the decade long fight for FDA regulation. Both Cass Wheeler and Dudley Hafner have been blogging and twittering about their experiences over the years in the fight for FDA regulation of tobacco products. Dudley shared with me yesterday that he visited the White House three times when he was CEO: Once with President Reagan, and twice for visits with President Clinton, all to talk about the importance of and need for strong public policy in the area of tobacco control. Cass also had several opportunities to visit the White House during his tenure as CEO, and he even ran a short race with President Clinton early in his years as CEO…

Thank you again for all of your work to advance this critical piece of legislation that will truly change the health of Americans."





CEO Nancy Brown at the White House

On Monday, American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown and AHA President Timothy Gardner were in the White House Rose Garden as the President signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. You can read Nancy Brown's statement on the momentous occasion below. She is seen in this photo from CNN shaking hands with President Obama just after he signed the bill.

Nancy Brown's Statement:
"Today, President Obama signed landmark legislation that will have a dramatic impact on the health of all Americans as we fight to reduce death and disease from tobacco use. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act will force the tobacco industry to abandon a destructive business model that kills more than 400,000 Americans each year. No longer will Big Tobacco be allowed to deceive children and adults with misleading claims about hazardous products. No longer will tobacco companies have free reign to launch shameless advertising campaigns targeting children in hopes of addicting a new generation of smokers.

We commend the Administration and Congress for enacting legislation that will turn the tide in our battle to save lives and significantly reduce the smoking rate among children and adults. Too many lives have been cut short by the cycle of addiction. Nearly one-third of heart disease and stroke deaths are linked to tobacco use, the nation’s leading preventable cause of death. We’re pleased that the tobacco industry will now be held accountable for a health crisis that’s largely the result of irresponsible marketing campaigns and deceptive business practices. With this new law, we are in a stronger position to provide lifesaving information to consumers and keep cigarettes out of the hands of children."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Smoke-free Society?

From former American Heart Association CEO Dudley Hafner...
"What is a smoke free society? In 1987 or thereabouts, Surgeon General Everett Koop challenged the AHA, ACS and ALA to deliver a smoke free society, but more specifically he challenged our organizations to graduate a smoke free class of high school seniors by the year 2000. With the passage of the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” who is to say that we can’t someday reach that goal. Maybe it is a little over reaching. However after languishing around a 26% smoking rate for the last several years I suggest that with the new FSPTC act, continued aggressive education and public policy we could see a smoking rate as low as 5% in a generation or two. Any bets?"

The President is slated to sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law tomorrow(Monday) afternoon! What a remarkable day for the tobacco control movement! Visit http://www.heartprescription.org/ to thank lawmakers for passing this life-saving legislation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Reflections from Cass Wheeler

"One of the most significant things to happen to the tobacco control movement was in the mid 90s when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation decided to enter the fray and was willing to make a multi million dollar financial commitment annually over many years. This funding resulted in the formation of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and a broader coalition. It was also in the 90s that Mississippi filed suit against the industry to recover costs they had incurred in Medicaid payments as a result of tobacco use. Other states began to follow suit resulting in the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the tobacco industry and the largest financial transaction is the history of the world—236 billion dollars. It was in the spring of 1998 that parts of the MSA , including FDA regulation, were discussed on the floor of the US Senate for 4-5 weeks. This was the longest debate in the Senate since civil rights legislation in the 60s. FDA regulation lost by 2 votes in the Senate.

The next phase was the FDA looking at the statutes and determining that they actually had authority to regulate anything that altered the state of the body and that nicotine did exactly that. Of course, the industry filed suit and it ultimately went to the Supreme Court and the industry won by a 5-4 vote with the court stating that Congress needed to grant the FDA authority. So, since we were thwarted at the federal level we took the fight locally, advocating for clean indoor air laws at the local and state levels and fighting for increased excise taxes. Many of you have been a part of these victories and you changed the landscape and created a tipping point. As these laws became more prevalent, it became easier to make our case in Washington. Nothing happens at the federal level without a strong grassroots movement and that’s what you provided. It wouldn’t have happened had you not changed the environment locally and then made your voice heard in DC. What you do locally makes a huge difference.

The single greatest cause of preventable death in the U.S. is tobacco use—440,000 deaths a year. Now for the first time in the history of this country we have a level playing field and no longer will we allow the industry to prey on our kids and addict them. Remember, 88% of current smokers became addicted as underage youth and the industry’s own documents indicate that they implemented strategies to market to kids as young as 11. That will now come to an end and each of you has been a part of making the world a better place. My thanks to all of you."

Stay tuned for more from former AHA CEOs Cass Wheeler and Dudley Hafner over the next few days...

While we look ahead to the President's bill signing on Monday, take a moment to thank Members of Congress who voted to pass this life-saving legislation. Visit http://www.heartprescription.org/ to send your email.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Rest of the Story from Dudley Hafner...

Following on yesterday's post... here's more from Dudley Hafner.

"In the early eighties the landscape changed.

The health agencies learned to work together. The staffs became more skilled and were sought after by Congressmen and their staff for advice. A few victories came our way such as higher tobacco taxes, restrictions on advertising and improvements in cigarette warning labels. But the big prize was escaping us, FDA control of tobacco. The idea was first put forward by Scott Ballin who at the time was a legislative staffer in the AHA Washington office. The idea was embraced by staff of all three organizations but got little traction on the Hill. In fact we were not getting much forward movement until two very significant events occurred. The first was the studies on second hand smoke which made clear that non smokers were victims and deserved protection. And the second was Robert Wood Johnson’s decision to invest in the anti tobacco movement. Here the American Heart Association played a significant role. Our organization at RWJ’s request pledged the first seed money that created “Tobacco Free Kids”. In turn AHA approached ALA and ACS to become active participants. With ACS and AHA pledging funds RWJ then invested several million dollars over a multi year period. Robert Wood Johnson next created the Smokeless States Program which also required the close co-operation of the major voluntary health organizations plus some additional agencies such as state and county health departments, county medical societies and Non Smokers Rights groups. I chaired the Smokeless States Group for 8 years and watched as many small and large successes began to impact public attitude. Victories in point of sale, carding, clean indoor air, tax increases were having an effect. Smoking rates which had started at a slow decline in the late 1960s were now at about 26% down from a high of over 50%. However, smoking rates now appeared to have leveled off. We seemed to be down to the hard core addicts, certainly not the smoke free society that Dr. Everett Koop had as a goal.

But it depends were you sit. The Tobacco Industry was seeing declining consumption, fewer friends willing to speak up in Congress, increasing onerous regulations at the state and community level, and increasing law suits. In December of 1996 Matt Myers of “Tobacco Free Kids” received a call. The States Attorney Generals wanted his guidance in working through a settlement with the major US tobacco companies. Matt contacted the leadership of ACS, AHA and the AMA and for the next five months we served as an advisory group to the discussions. It was obvious that the health community was badly divided on the proposed settlement. This dissension affected the outcome in Congress a few months later. I retired near the end of 1997 and don’t have the details leading to the two vote loss in the Senate in 1998 which would have given FDA control of tobacco. I know that AHA leadership nearly pulled out a miracle. AHA, along with ACS and AMA almost healed a fractured health community, brought the mostly hostile Tobacco Industry to an embarrassing stand still and came close to winning the support in a Congress that had been happy to leave things just the way they had been for the last 200 years. Thanks to determined leadership on the part of the AHA and others- what started as Heart staffers’ concept in the late 1980s finally became a reality in 2009. Congratulations to all who worked so hard the last 11 years to get what we missed in 1998. Thank you for a healthier America. "

Stay tuned for more from former AHA CEOs Dudley Hafner and Cass Wheeler over the next few days...

While we look ahead to the President's bill signing, take a moment to thank Members of Congress who voted to pass this life-saving legislation. Visit http://www.heartprescription.org/ to send your email.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reflections from the long road to tobacco regulation

As we wait for President Obama to sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, it would be impossible not to look back over the years and decades of work that led to this historic victory.

Two former American Heart Association CEO's, Dudley Hafner and Cass Wheeler, have agreed to share their reflections on this blog. Both men were instrumental in tobacco control efforts and I think you'll enjoy their insiders' perspective.

Dudley Hafner: "In 1964 my boss and I could have flown to Los Angles for a meeting of the American Cancer Society (my first employer in the health community). Instead we took the train from San Antonio to LA so that we could isolate and study Surgeon General Luther Terry’s newly released report titled “Smoking or Health”. The committee and the report had literally been under armed security until its release the week before. Until this report we had only a few giants such as Alton Oshsner to encourage us to attack the Tobacco Industry and its defenders in Congress and in state capitals. Now we had the science needed to start building programs. Unfortunately, it was not until 1980 that the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association realized and accepted their organizations responsibility to go outside traditional community education and research to become fully engaged in the legislative/political process. Up until that time it was considered unseemly for volunteer organizations to be out front on legislative issues. "

Cass Wheeler: "What an amazing accomplishment that we finally have tobacco regulated to the same level as orange juice, but it’s been a long time coming and a hard fought battle. The fight actually began in the 1960s when the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association recognized the adverse health affects of tobacco use. Our primary tool at that time was education, and we launched a full scale anti smoking educational program is schools across the country. It was in the late 60s that tobacco ads were prohibited on television. The fight went on in this David and Goliath fashion for many years. Our approach was to save one life at a time. That began to change in the late seventies, as I recall, when it was demonstrated that a significant increase in excise taxes would reduce consumption particularly among youth. So, we recognized that we could affect behavior change with something other than education, and advocacy became another arrow in our quiver. In 1980 we recognized that we needed to formalize our partnership with the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association and thus was born the Coalition on Smoking or Health and our first director was Matt Myers who is now the CEO of Tobacco Free Kids. We learned a lot about working together and trying to speak with one voice. "


Stay tuned for more from Cass and Dudley over the next few days...

While we look ahead to the President's bill signing, take a moment to thank Members of Congress who voted to pass this life-saving legislation. Visit http://www.heartprescription.org/ to send your email.

Friday, June 12, 2009

FDA Regulation of Tobacco Headed to the President!!

The US House of Representatives today passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act 307-97!

On the heels of yesterday’s Senate passage, this vote clears the way for the bill to go on to President Obama for his signature. Though no date has been set for that signing, the President has indicated his support and that he will indeed sign the bill. Speaker Pelosi suggested on the floor today that it could occur next week.

This is a monumental victory for public health advocates!

The bill will:
  • restrict the flood of advertising aimed at enticing our children into a lifetime of tobacco addiction
  • require the tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products
  • require stronger and more prominent warnings about the health risks of smoking
  • help reduce the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke caused by tobacco use!
  • finally put tobacco products under the same scrutiny as mac n' cheese, make-up, dog food, and nearly every other consumer product on the market!

You can send an email to thank supportive lawmakers at http://www.heartprescription.org/!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

US Senate Approves FDA Regulation of Tobacco

In a historic vote, the US Senate today passed legislation that would finally give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing. The vote was an overwhelming 79-17 in favor of the legislation! This is a remarkable victory!

Dedicated advocates have been working on this legislation for more than a decade, and today, a major hurdle was cleared. Many thanks to all of you who have written, called, emailed and met with your Senators on this important issue over the years. Please take a moment to savor today's victory!

Read AHA CEO Nancy Brown's statement on today's historic passage.

Despite alarming statistics about the death and disease caused by tobacco use, the tobacco industry has remained largely unregulated for far too long. This bill will finally allow the FDA to restrict the tobacco industry's deceitful marketing practices aimed at enticing our children into a lifetime of tobacco addiction. The bill will also require tobacco companies to disclose the ingredients in their products, and it will require larger, stronger warning labels- among many other provisions.

Tobacco addiction brings with it a significant increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke. About 150,000 Americans die every year from cardiovascular disease caused by smoking. This bill will finally help us reduce the toll of tobacco on American families.

We applaud the US Senate on today's passage of this life-saving legislation. The bill passed today still must be reconciled with the House version passed earlier this year, and then it will go on the President for his signature. President Obama has said he'll sign the bill when it is passed, so stay tuned for updates.

We look forward to celebrating that moment with all of you! Today, we send thanks and congratulations your way!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

House Passes the Josh Miller HEARTS Act

Today, the US House of Representatives passed the Josh Miller HEARTS Act! This step forward was in large part thanks to the You’re the Cure advocates who contacted their legislators to urge their support.

The Josh Miller HEARTS Act was prompted by the tragic death of a 15-year old high school student who suffered sudden cardiac arrest at school. It recognizes the importance of providing schools with the equipment and training necessary to save the lives of children and adults in the education community as part of an overall medical emergency response plan through the establishment of a grant program.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon, so stay tuned for opportunities to act to help see it through the Senate and on to final passage.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Senate to Consider FDA Regulation of Tobacco

Committed public health advocates have been working for more than a decade to secure FDA authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing. With the US Senate slated to consider legislation this week that would grant the FDA that authority , we're closer than ever before to seeing this become a reality!

Did you know that more than 3,500 kids smoke their first cigarette EVERY DAY? It's time for Senators to act on behalf of America's children, protecting them from tobacco use and the increased risk of heart disease and stroke that comes with it.

With your help, this bill has already passed the House of Representatives this year by a huge majority. If we can persuade the Senate to pass it- Congress will be very close to sending the bill to the President for his signature.

Support from advocates like you has gotten us this far. Now, help us cross the finish line! Contact your Senators today and ask them to vote YES for our kids!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

AHA/ASA CEO Speaks Out for Affordable Healthcare Coverage

The buzz in Washington D.C. and in the media is all about Congress working towards introducing healthcare reform legislation as early as this May, 2009. As our nation’s leaders develop plans to fix the country’s broken healthcare system, AHA/ASA will be working to educate decision makers throughout the process.

On May 7th, AHA’s CEO Nancy Brown was able to share the concerns of the organization in a published letter to the editor in The Hill. Nancy said “At the American Heart Association, we hear hundreds of different stories from patients who suffer from heart disease and stroke. But there is one common denominator: the high costs of care. Rising health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays, combined with caps on specific services and limits on lifetime benefits, make it nearly impossible for anyone with a long-term or catastrophic illness to survive both financially and physically.”

To read more from Nancy’s published letter visit the full article at http://thehill.com/letters/long-or-catastrophic-illness-insurance-often-not-enough-2009-05-06.html . We welcome your comments in response to the post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's National PE and Sport Week!

It's National Physical Education and Sport Week... and we have a challenge to issue to you! Do your part to promote a healthier generation of Americans by taking action in support of the FIT Kids Act today! And don't forget to urge your friends and family to do the same. The more noise we can make about the need for regular, quality physical education for our kids, the harder it will be for Congress to ignore.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Help Support You're the Cure

You've been reading on this blog all about our You're the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day. It is a remarkable, inspiring event, but it is just one part of our advocacy program. Our work continues year round, delivering our message to lawmakers in Washington DC, your state capitols and local communities. Patients and caregivers count on our advocacy efforts to help pass policies that save lives from heart disease and stroke. But, all these efforts can be expensive.

With your help we can keep the pressure on and make an impact, but we need your support today.

Many of you email, call and meet with your lawmakers on our many policy priorities. In addition to your strong voices, will you consider making a donation to the American Heart Association? It's because of the generous contributions of volunteers like you that AHA is able to have a strong presence in State Houses across the country and on Capitol Hill.

Let me share some examples:
• The tools needed to enable the timely delivery of messages to lawmakers costs about $2 per advocate per year. Just this past year our You're the Cure advocates sent more than 350,000 messages to Congress alone.
• It costs on average $5 to send a paper petition to lawmakers.
• And the cost for a patient to come to Washington D.C. to meet face-to-face with Members of Congress and their staff during Lobby Day typically exceeds $1,000 a person for basic travel and lodging costs.

In order to ensure that the AHA is able to continue to conduct an effective advocacy program dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, we need your generous donations today. Donate today to help AHA achieve our mission of building healthier lives!

The donation site is easy to use and allows you to give an amount of your choosing. Make your donation today!

We appreciate your support!

More from Lobby Day... Meet Terri and Shayna Turner

Lobby Day was indeed an amazing experience, with incredible advocates from all across the country. As our important work continues after Lobby Day, we want to continue to introduce you to fellow You're the Cure advocates who are fighting for heart disease and stroke patients. Today, meet... Terri and Shayna Turner from Arizona.

Terri and Shayna just attended Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. and Terri shared their story with us.
My story begins with the unexpected death of my 49 year old sister from a massive heart attack. She had fallen very ill the night before and by the next day, before her lab results came back, she had left us to be with the lord. Why? That question would never be answered as the doctor had canceled the autopsy.
A year and a few months later, Mom leaves my 2 brothers, other sister, and me to greet our older sister; massive heart attack, once again no warning. I had already started asking questions after my sister's death, and continued on that path only to repeatedly be told, “You are young and healthy, and your cholesterol is fine”.
A few years later I receive a phone call from one brother, that our older brother had died while snow blowing; no warning signs, he was 53. I really began asking questions and asked the doctors to do more. I was told there is really nothing more to do, that they could not explain what was going on…my other brother and I obviously figure out that some kind of genetic heart disease must run in our family. We were brought up with very healthy eating habits and physically active. I am a vegetarian.
A few years later I receive a phone call from my sister-in-law; my other brother died of a massive heart attack while driving home; he was 54, once again, no warning signs.
Shayna and I have no choice but to stand proud, head and shoulders above the crowd, as we face our losses. Shayna and I feel we have been left behind to help others who face life’s trials with heart disease, just as we are.
As the baby of the family, I find it incredibly hard to comprehend why a person should have to go through this before being heard. I later found out that a simple blood test, covered by insurance, would have detected the very rare, but not unknown genetic heart disease that has struck our family.
I took it upon myself to have my 11 year old daughter tested although so many people said she is “too young”. We both see the same specialist of heart disease and genetics. We take daily medications and continue to exercise and watch what we eat. Shayna is also a vegetarian.
Shayna and I are survivors with what took their lives all too soon…our fight is one against a very rare genetic heart disease of which there are only about 40 known cases world wide.
In our life faced with heavy burdens and many challenges, we choose to be for a cause for the cure together. We strive to have great experiences in life, and along our journey in life we are on a mission to keep our family’s legacy alive by doing any and all things possible to send out a loud and clear message toward the importance of funding for research into heart disease.
Why should my 15 year old daughter have to live with the thoughts of passing this disease on to her children? She is already facing each and every day with the fear of losing her mom. I continue on my journey of beating this for her through my actions and words… we are going to beat this and that is why funding for research is so important and definitely needs to continue. We dream that our story is such an important reminder that even in challenging financial times, the need for supporting important causes does not go away. Without the ongoing support of volunteers and donors, lives will be lost, sometimes all too soon… we would like to keep our mission on the path of awareness and continue to move forward with this mission as advocates. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure that lifesaving research and programs can continue to benefit families affected by heart disease and stroke today and tomorrow.
The hurt and loss we carry inside is a burden that we get through by faith, it does not make it go away, but we choose to focus on living our life each and every day and to always follow our dreams… when one part of our journey ends we remember that it is not the end, but instead another beginning. When one discovery is found, it can lead to the discovery of one, or many other leads to a cure.
We have to look at life with a new purpose, what better purpose than to advocate with all the wonderful people who work for the AHA. We will take our time when we reach a crossroads; we will be mindful of each step we take, otherwise we may get off track. We strive to keep our ideas exhilarating, but won’t translate that feeling into speed, but instead translate it into dedication and perseverance…
Terri and Shayna are survivors and passionate advocates for the American Heart Association. Stay tuned for ways you can join them in fighting for those affected by heart disease and stroke.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Michelle Ballasiotes' Lobby Day story

From Michelle Ballasiotes, Pediatric Stroke Survivor and Youth Advocate of the Year, 2009:

This is my third year going to Washington DC for Lobby Day and it just keeps getting better and better. There is nothing like seeing your friends from the past years! We got there on Sunday and stepping off the elevator to go to dinner I ran into so many familiar faces: Joe Goldzweig (my favorite funny friend from Illinois), Sarah Anne Voyles (Youth Advocate of the Year for 2007), Sarah Exley (mom of a pediatric stroke survivor from Wisconsin) and others! I went to Lobby Day this year with Amber Boatright and her mom, Brenda Boss. Amber is a stroke survivor too. She had her stroke 3 days before her senior year in high school. We went down to the hotel lobby to meet 2 more mothers of young stroke survivors, Jessica Spear and Erin Grady. Our now very large group all went to dinner together. We got to talk about why we were at Lobby Day and some of the moms asked me questions about their kids, because their kids are all younger than I am. It was a great feeling to know that I was helping someone.

Monday was meeting day. I went to "Your Voice in the Media" and the speaker, Sarah Exley was amazing, as always. I got to help greet people at the door for the Survivor's Luncheon which was fun. I liked hearing the speakers: Sarah Exley again and a 10 year-old boy who had been through many heart surgeries. His speech was good because he feels just like I do. He wants to be treated like a normal kid. Next, I was at the Youth Advocate Training and we got lots of good instruction for Capitol Hill. The best part was it was fun. I give two thumbs up to Sarah Anne Voyles and Lee Storrow for leading the group.

After the youth training, we went to "Hook, Line and Sinker" training. Jessica Spear (this is her first Lobby Day and she is very passionate) went up on stage for a pop quiz on what to do at the Congressional meetings. She did great. I thought the meeting was helpful for what exactly to say on the Hill. We got to break out into our State meetings and go over who goes where and at what time. We also role played a practice meeting. Everyone was crammed full of information after all of the day's meetings!

Tuesday morning finally came. I had a yummy breakfast before I had to go up on stage to get my Youth Advocate of the Year award. I was very nervous at the last second, but my mom said I did fantastic. She is usually honest with me, so I believed her. Very quickly after the breakfast, we had our first meeting on the Hill. It is so enjoyable for me to tell my story, listen to others and amaze the Congressmen with all of the Youth Survivors from Georgia this year. I think we got most of them to do the very important asks. I went to 5 meetings, sometimes the member was there and sometimes we met with their aide. I liked meeting with all of them because I feel like they were listening to us.

Going to Lobby Day is so exciting, emotional and powerful all at once. I feel like I belong and that everyone understands my situation, even though I am a lot younger than most everyone else. I would love to do this forever and ever because I know that together, we can make a difference!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thanks for a Great 2009 You're the Cure on the Hill!

It was another banner year for You're the Cure advocates who came together in Washington, D.C. advocating for increased funding for heart disease and stroke research and prevention efforts as well as asking for meaningful healthcare reform. Approximately 450 advocates representing all 50 states were able to meet with lawmakers and share their stories as survivors, caregivers, professionals, and researchers. In fact, advocates took part in 354 meetings on the Hill and they dropped of materials to additional offices too.

By now you have made the trip home and have recouped after your hard work. Results are just starting to come in: so far Congress has received more than 10,200 messages from You're the Cure advocates about this year's top issues. Members are adding their support to the funding letter to the President and signing on as co-sponsors of bills addressing heart and stroke issues. Watch for updates on your efforts in the e-newsletter and from your local advocacy staff.

Let's keep the pressure up and secure even more heart and stroke champions on Capitol Hill. Don't forget to contact the offices you met with and ask for their support. Spread the word and ask friends and family to visit http://www.yourethecure.org/ to take action. And work with your AHA/ASA staff partners to share your experience with the media. There has already been some great coverage across the country, and the media is a great way to keep our issues in the spotlight.

Congratulations and thank you for all you do as a You're the Cure advocate. As you take some time to reflect on your experience in the nation's Capitol- the meetings you had, the new friends you made, and the training you received- don't forget to share your thoughts on the blog. We'd love to hear about your personal experience. Leave a comment below or email your own post for this blog directly to yourethecure.americanheart@blogspot.com.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The First Day is Done

We've finished our first day at the Federal Lobbying event. What a whirlwind time, full of educational sessions and socializing with advocates from all 50 states!

Tomorrow should be a success with the enthusiastic group of people, young, middle aged and older. Can't wait to see how it all turns out!

Many thanks to the American Heart/American Stroke Association for all their hard work.

Ann Moser, Carlisle, PA

First Lobby Day

This is my first visit to Lobby Day and I hope it won't be my last. All of the new information that I have heard has been astounding. The people that I have encountered have been miracles. It is so interesting to hear from all of the survivors. It was so much fun meeting advocats, like myself, from my own state. I look forward to our visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Wear Red FOr Women!!!!
Kimberly Fox

First time @ Lobby Day!

This is my first time at Lobby Day and I'm so very excited and honored to be involved in a movement that can and will change lives with all of our help. I am a two heart attack survivor and proud of it. I'm here because I wanted to add my voice to the millions of other voices out there that fit my category. I'm in the group of people who suffer heart attacks but don't fit the criteria for the risk factors. On lobby day I intend to push for funding for more genetic research. To all who have made this a memorable experience for me God Bless and keep up the good work. HAPPY LOBBY DAY!!!

Tracye Isaac

Lobby Day Update

Just finished the Social Media Workshop & met really great people @ the Survivor's Luncheon!

Survivor Luncheon

It was twelve years ago that I had my first of three strokes at age 21! I am here today to share my story of survival and meet with other advocates and legislators who have come to DC for the American Heart and Stroke Association! This is my ninth year attending You're the Cure on the Hill, and I am annually surprised and excited by the energy and passion of all the people here. My favorite event is the Survivor Luncheon that will take place today. It started as an event with 50 folks, and now hosts about 200 survivors and caregivers. It gives us all a chance to meet one another and compare notes on our experiences. The luncheon also gives us ideas to bring back to our communities as so many advocates do awesome activities in their own location. What an amazing day to understand that all of us are here today! I am a proud stroke survivor, advocate and mom! Thank goodness I am here :)

Lisa Deck
North Attleboro, MA
Stroke Survivor and Advocate

People with Heart

Just arrived in DC with the Am. Heart Assoc. folk and everyone has been wonderful. Met a couple of kids, which is great. Wish now I could've brought my own 15-year-old for the great experience of meeting people with such a love of life, and enthusiasm for sharing their stories, a drive to find cures for diseases that some of us have never even heard of. I've learned more about what a precious gift is life and each other. Meetings with government reps await us and we will all be involved in the reform and evolution of our government's committment to healthcare reform - tune in and get involved yourself!

Leslie Gregory, PA-C
Right To Health

Friday, April 17, 2009

You're the Cure on the Hill Advocate Spotlight: Stephanie Dempsey

I can't believe it's almost here- You're the Cure on the Hill 2009! We continue to share stories of advocates who will be joining us in Washington D.C. to ask Members of Congress to prioritize healthcare reform and fund heart disease and stroke research and prevention programs. Today, meet... Stephanie Dempsey from South Carolina!

Stephanie Dempsey is 37 years old and a heart disease survivor from Varnville, South Carolina. In November of 2000 at the age of 30 she underwent quadruple bypass surgery for severely blocked arteries due to high cholesterol. Over the past seven years Stephanie has had placement of multiple stents and in September of 2007 she once again had to undergo bypass surgery.

Stephanie’s heart disease is hereditary and has impacted all of the women in her family. Stephanie’s only sister died at the age of 28 from heart disease. Her mother, who is 63, underwent quadruple bypass, and her grandmother died in 1997 from heart disease.

Stephanie’s story is powerful. It is one that demonstrates heart disease can affect women at any age. For the past several years, Stephanie has been an enthusiastic volunteer for the American Heart Association. She serves as a Red Dress Ambassador for a local hospital and actively seeks out community groups to educate women about the impact of heart disease. In addition to her outreach in her community, Stephanie is a passionate You’re the Cure advocate and has attended AHA’s federal lobby day for the past three years.

Stephanie goes through rigorous treatment for her disease, but she is always a trooper and shows up when she is needed. She knows she is making a difference, and she calls being an AHA advocate her job.

Stephanie’s experience helps to show why the American Heart Association and its volunteers are advocating for more research, education, and screening to help prevent and cure heart disease, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease, the No.1 killer of women in South Carolina and the United States.

Stay tuned for a few more You're the Cure on the Hill advocate profiles before we all arrive in D.C. Monday...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You're the Cure on the Hill Advocate Spotlight: Emily Block
















We're just a few days away from You're the Cure on the Hill 2009. We continue to share stories of advocates who will be joining us in Washington D.C. to ask Members of Congress to prioritize healthcare reform and fund heart disease and stroke research and prevention programs. Today, meet... Emily Block from California!

From Emily:
It is rare that a twenty-year-old can say that she has learned to read and walk twice in her life, but I can. I have had three strokes that have dramatically changed my life. When I was nineteen, I had heart surgery and at twenty I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a little known and debilitating cardiovascular and neurological condition that is pushing the limits of research. I have had a challenging journey that is both frustrating and amazing, as I have seen both the limits and the strength in myself and others.

I have personally benefited from past research and current American Heart Association programs and I would like to help expand support for the programs that might help others like me in the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for the American Heart Association and participating in San Luis Obispo’s Heart Walk. Participating in the American Heart Association’s Congressional Heart and Stroke Lobby Day will be a wonderful opportunity that will allow me to take my commitment for the fight against heart disease and stroke to the next level.

Stay tuned for more You're the Cure on the Hill advocate profiles throughout the week...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You're the Cure on the Hill Advocate Spotlight: Michaela Gagne

As You're the Cure on the Hill 2009 approaches, we continue to profile some of the remarkable advocates who will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers on behalf of heart and stroke patients. Today, meet... Michaela Gagne from Massachusetts!

As a student at Durfee High School, Michaela was a top scholar-athlete and graduated in the Top 10 of her class of 500 students. She was a three-sport varsity athlete, participating in basketball, soccer and track and field. During her senior year, she was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, a genetic cardiac condition that is especially dangerous for athletes because of the way it causes a response to stress on the heart. Michaela did not let her diagnosis slow her down, in June 2006 Michaela was named Miss Massachusetts. Given her experiences with Long QT Syndrome, combined with an exemplary positive outlook relative to a life changing event, Michaela used her profile as Miss Massachusetts to highlight her platform, women and heart disease. Michaela has been selected by the American Heart Association to serve as an official National Go Red for Women spokesperson. She has taken this role very seriously by being a compassionate speaker willing to share her story at Federal Lobby Day as well as a special HEART for Women Act briefing in Washington DC. Michaela also continues to make the public aware of sudden arrhythmia death syndromes and their lethality, and is a dedicated advocate ensuring that Automated Cardiac Defibrillators (AED’s) are mandatory in public schools throughout Massachusetts. Michaela has been an outstanding champion for the placement of AED’s. AHA could not ask for a better spoken, compassionate and dedicated advocate for the cause. Michaela was an instrumental advocate for Kayla’s law, requiring all health clubs to have AED’s in Massachusetts. Michaela’s background in education has given her insight in helping with the placement of AED’s in schools.

Stay tuned for more You're the Cure on the Hill advocate profiles throughout the week...

Help Deliver Our Message

Even though you may not be coming to Washington, D.C. next week, you can help create an outcry for healthcare reform. Just visit http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/ and send a message to your lawmakers.

Lack of health insurance and barriers to accessing quality care pose tremendous problems for patients who have difficulty affording essential treatments. Insurance policies with high premiums and practices that penalize those with pre-existing conditions create a challenging and expensive reality for heart disease and stroke survivors. That is why the American Heart Association is working to achieve a meaningful reform that serves the best interests of patients. And we need your help!

With 45 million Americans uninsured -- many of them with heart disease or stroke or at-risk for cardiovascular disease -- our patients have a big stake in health reform. Add your voice to the many You're the Cure advocates fighting for meaningful healthcare reform.

Don't waste another minute! Take action at http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/ today, and urge family and friends to do the same.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You're the Cure on the Hill Advocate Spotlight: Melanie and Nolan Domrase


We are just one week away from You're the Cure on the Hill 2009. Excitement is certainly building here in Washington D.C. as we look forward to greeting advocates from around the country. This week, we continue to profile the advocates who will soon share their stories with our nation's lawmakers. Today, meet... Melanie Domrase and her son Nolan from Michigan!
Nolan was born on May 8, 2007 at 41 weeks gestation via c-section after turning breech at 39.5 weeks. He weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces and was 22 inches long. I had a completely uneventful pregnancy and birth other than him flipping at the last minute. He was the most beautiful baby I had every seen. I studied him intently. I noticed that Nolan immediately rolled to his left side after birth and that his right eye never opened. The left-side issue never concerned me in the hospital, but I had a doctor called in because I thought he was perhaps blind on the right side. The doctor came in, opened his lid, shined a light in, shut his lid and said, "No, he isn't blind." and left. Later, we would realize that his left side preference and closed right eye were obvious indicators of Nolan's fetal stroke. He continued to be left-side dominant and have a weak right eye, as well as a little asymmetry. We would position him on his right side after he fell asleep to round out his head for cosmetic reasons. Around six months at his well baby visit, I mentioned the left side dominance again to the doctor and he said not to be worried, but to come at 8 months, instead of 9, for the next well baby visit. At about 7 months my son was playing in the living room and two major things happened. One was that he made a movement with his right arm that sent chills down my spine. Later I will explain why. Two was that he tipped over on his right side, never tried to catch himself, fell on his face and continued to play with his left hand while laying on his face. He wasn't even aware he was on his face! The movement with his right arm scared me to death because I knew that movement. My father suffered a stroke at home, in the middle of the night, when I was 15 years old. His rehabilitation was a family affair and I learned a lot from the experience, especially about movement. Looking at my son was like looking at my father. I immediately called the doctor and went in the next day. I took Nolan's clothes off, set him on the table and said, "My son is moving like he had a stroke." The doctor looked at me like I was crazy. I didn't know children could have strokes, let alone in utero. I tried to convince myself that wasn't it because I would know if my son suffered a stroke after birth, especially after my previous experience. It's a serious event. The doctor sent me to a physiatrist. The physiatrist sent me to PT/OT, for a neurological evaluation and for an ultrasound. The physiatrist called me immediately after the ultrasound and said that they found something on his brain and to get to a neurologist as soon as possible. Nolan was already in PT and OT and the therapists agreed that he moved like he had a stroke. It is a very distinguishable movement. The neurologist did an evaluation and ordered an MRI and EEG. She confirmed that he suffered a fetal stroke in the second trimester of my pregnancy. Her prognosis was very good for Nolan; however, he continued to fall behind quickly developmentally. My husband and I decided to just go for it. Nolan has had between 4 and 7 sessions of physical, occupational and speech therapy per week since his diagnosis. We have done everything in our power to center our lives around his affected side. Nolan went from literally not knowing the right side of his body existed to using both hands and feet almost equally, crawling, walking and now almost running. He continues to amaze us with his intelligence every day. He has learned to sign because of his language delays. We are very hopeful for Nolan's future and we continue to work with him in every part of his life every day. All of the pain I endured as a teenager with my father's stroke, which led to his eventual death six years later, has become so clear to me. Had my father not suffered that stroke, I would not have been able to diagnose my son so early. My father suffered so that my baby could survive. Who knows how long Nolan would have gone undiagnosed had I not been through this with my father. As strange as it sounds, my own story amazes me sometimes. It's a miracle to me the way things have come full circle and I am thankful for it. I thank God every day for Nolan's stroke. I wouldn't want my life any other way.
Stay tuned for more You're the Cure on the Hill advocate profiles throughout the week...