Thursday, March 19, 2009

NFL Players Join AHA in Support of FIT Kids

It's game time for the FIT Kids Act! On March 19th, players from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins joined AHA representatives, legislators and other advocates to support and announce the reintroduction of the FIT Kids Act at a news conference on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol . Check out some pictures from the event:

Bill sponsors Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) ask area school kids if they like being active. The response: "YES!".

American Heart Association You're the Cure advocate Dr. Robert DiBianco (right), joins Senator Harkin, Representative Kind, and Representative Wamp, in support of FIT Kids.

After the conference, players led a group of nearly 100 area schoolchildren in a series of physical activities as part of NFL PLAY 60, which encourages kids to get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

AHA Volunteer Leaders Brief National Press on Advocacy Priorities

Earlier this week top American Heart Association volunteers briefed members of the media about the Association’s main legislative priorities including objectives for health reform legislation and increased funding for medical research. National reporters attending had a great dialogue with volunteers and in many cases wrote articles for their respective publications noting the work of the American Heart Association.

What was discussed? The group talked about AHA’s objectives for healthcare reform which include effective prevention strategies, adequate and affordable coverage, and changes in treatment that would promote high quality and cost-effective care for heart disease and stroke patients. Research is another important way the association intends to address the cardiovascular crisis that lies ahead. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invested a mere 4% of its budget on heart research and less than 1% on stroke. These disproportionately low levels of funding for the No. 1 and No. 3 causes of death will severely limit efforts to find new ways to prevent heart disease and stroke and reduce death and disability. AHA’s President, Timothy Gardner told reporters that “We have a responsibility to urge lawmakers about the issues that concern our patients, particularly as they confront their health care challenges in this tough economic climate, time is not on our side.” To learn more about the briefing read the press release or check out the article in the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another Step Forward for FDA Regulation of Tobacco

This afternoon, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act! This legislation would finally give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing.

The legislation is now clear for a vote by the full House of Representatives. We are hopeful a House vote will occur in the next few weeks.

Just a few weeks ago, we blogged about another committee's passage of this bill. We're thrilled Members of Congress are moving this legislation forward.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Message from AHA President Dr. Timothy Gardner

Dear You’re the Cure advocates:

I had the great privilege to attend the White House Summit on Health Reform and be involved in what appears to be a major effort at true Health Care Reform.

I had the opportunity to speak with several members of Congress, including Senators Specter, Hatch, Whitehouse and Mikulski, and other attendees, including Dr. Nancy Nielsen, President of the AMA and Dr. Jeff Harris, President of the American College of Physicians. The panelists included congressional leadership and representatives from the business, health care and labor communities. The discussion included most of the major challenges in healthcare reform including troublesome coverage issues, costs problems, prevention, comparative effectiveness research, individual and employer mandates, regional differences in care, perverse incentives, inadequate workforce and public versus private options for universal coverage.

President Obama closed the Summit with his pledge to work with all of those present to achieve a sustainable reform of our Health Care System.

Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke is the mission of the American Heart Association. The current healthcare crisis in the United States – which has been exacerbated by the economic situation - threatens this mission. Individuals who lack health care coverage – and those who are underinsured – are far less likely than their insured counterparts to receive appropriate and timely medical care and as a consequence, suffer worse medical outcomes.

The American Heart Association is positioned to be a strong leader in healthcare reform as we continue to strive for meaningful, affordable healthcare coverage for all. As patient advocates and supporters of quality healthcare, we believe that effective prevention strategies and the application of evidence-based guidelines must be key elements in order to improve quality of care and reduce costs.

Our advocacy work continues to be guided by AHA’s key principles for reform:
  1. All residents of the United States should have meaningful, affordable and high quality health care coverage.
  2. Preventive benefits should be an essential component of meaningful health care coverage, and incentives should be built into the health care system to promote appropriate preventive health strategies.
  3. Race, gender and geographic disparities in health care must be eliminated.
  4. Support of biomedical and health services research should be a national priority, and inflation-adjusted funding for the National Institutes of Health must be maintained and expanded.

Moving forward, the Association will continue to work with President Obama and Congressional leadership to craft proposals that will benefit all Americans including the more than 80 million individuals who suffer from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Timothy J. Gardner, M.D.
American Heart Association President

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

House Committee Passes FDA Regulation of Tobacco!

Today, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, legislation that would give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing. The bill passed with a vote of 39-13.

Members of Congress have an opportunity with this bill to protect America's children from deadly tobacco addiction and end the deceptive marketing practices of Big Tobacco. More than 960 health, children's and faith groups have signed a letter indicating their support of the bill.

Nearly identical legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but the Senate failed to bring the bill up for a vote despite broad bipartisan support. Today's action was a great step forward, and we're hopeful the 111th Congress will quickly attend to this unfinished business.

Ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor this legislation and work for its quick passage. Visit today!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Heart Month Success Stories

American Heart Month was a time of great activities all across the country. See the highlights here!

· MA – Celebrating the 6th annual Go Red for Woman event at the Massachusetts State House legislators showed their solidarity in the fight against heart disease and stroke. Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo & the Caucus of Women Legislators supported Heart Month.

· NY – The AHA held a briefing on women and heart disease for the New York City Council Women’s Caucus. Survivors and professionals shared stories and gave presentations on heart disease and associated risk factors. Both presentations were followed with recommended policy solutions for New York City.

· NYC – The NYC Council Women’s Caucus presented the AHA with a proclamation declaring February Heart Month. Advocates and Go Red for Women spokespersons shared their personal stories with the Council during the ceremony, helping to raise Council Members’ awareness that women are at risk.

· NV – In Nevada, legislators were encouraged to wear red in honor of National Wear Red day. Many proclamations were received across the state.

· AR – The Arkansas Legislature, their staff and state officers prepared for National Wear Red Day with a reception in the Rotunda of the AR State Capitol Feb. 4th. Wear Red Day Resolutions passed the House and Senate, encouraging all Arkansans to Wear Red Feb. 6! Legislators were presented with Red Dress pins and encouraged to wear red on Friday.

· OR – Multnomah County in Oregon approved menu labeling rules during Heart Month, which will go into effect March 12!

· ND – Achieved passage of a Go Red resolution in the state legislature. Legislators wore red on Feb. 5 and 6th! And, AHA Day at the Capital included a Go Red display and special legislative luncheon, with 1st Lady Mikey Hoeven present to greet legislators.

· MT – Montana held a Go Red for Women event held in Montana’s Capitol Rotunda 2/14/09. The Go Red event was a huge success with a Rotunda full of red dresses and ties!

· KY – February 10th brought nearly 60 YTC volunteers to the KY Capitol to advocate for more physical activity in schools and an increase in the KY cigarette excise tax, one of the lowest in the country (this was doubled after Lobby Day!) And, the Bravehearts (a Congenital Heart Defects group) were presented with a proclamation declaring February 14th as Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day in KY.
· AL – To kick off Heart month and the Capitol going red this year, a celebration was held Feb. 5, at the State Capitol in Montgomery. State Sen. Vivan Davis Figures, professionals and survivors, were among those sharing their experiences at the event.
· MN – Feb. 6th, the Rally at the MN Capitol Rotunda drew a red-clad crowd to celebrate the introduction of the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act. The bill provides free heart disease screenings for as many as 15,000 low-income, uninsured or underinsured women. The celebration included speeches from advocates, the chief authors of the legislation, and even a flamenco dance performance by Zorongo, a local dance troupe.

· IA – About 75 advocates traveled from across the state for Heart on the Hill (from Sioux City to Elkridge) to show their support and commitment to heart disease and prevention funding and maintaining the support for the state’s tobacco cessation program. On this one day, 43% of the legislature learned about these issues directly from an AHA volunteer and constituent in person!

· WI – The Wisconsin State Capitol went red from February 5th through the 19th. AHA also hosted free heart disease and stroke screenings in the Capitol Rotunda. AHA facilitated a capitol seminar on women and heart disease where a survivor presented on “A Busy Women’s Guide to a Healthy Heart.”

· CA – In California, there was a “sea of red” at the Capitol on February 5th. The California Legislative Women’s Caucus cosponsored “Wear Red Day at the Capitol” to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

· RI – The American Heart Association hosted its annual Leading Ladies of Rhode Island event Feb. 5 at the State House. Advocates joined Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, members of the RI Caucus of Women Legislators to raise awareness of the #1 and #3 killers of women. Immediately following the event, the House and Senate passed resolutions declaring February 6, 2009 “National Wear Red Day” in RI and the State House dome was illuminated in red! The Leading Ladies ran throughout the month of February on Capitol TV.

· LA – The Louisiana Governor’s Mansion went RED for Heart Month! The Mansion was light up with red lights for the entire month of February. Also First Lady Supriya Jindal spoke at the New Orleans and Baton Rouge GRFW luncheons and on 2une In, the morning show on WBRZ-Baton Rouge, which was hosted live from the Governor’s Mansion on Go Red Day.

· UT – In Utah, we held our 6th and largest Lobby Day to date on Wear Red Day where we raised awareness around Women & Heart Disease and also advocated for a Tobacco Tax increase and AED legislation.

· TX – Texas had a wonderful event entitled “Love Your Hearts Lobby Day” in Austin on February 17th. 15 volunteers from around the state participated and visited over 40 offices advocating for legislative issues including a statewide 100% smoke free air law and a physical education bill that will define “Physical Education” for the first time in Texas statute.

· VT – February 4th Vermont held its first ever Survivors Go Red Reception at the VT State House in Montpelier. The reception was attended by many legislators and covered by one of VT’s primary news stations! Two survivor speakers presented, one who is a heart survivor who had a heart attack 7 years ago at the age of 26; and another 38 year old stroke survivor who had a stroke just 8 months ago! Both shared their stories and asked our legislators to support our primary 2009 campaigns which are AED Good Samaritan legislation and protecting funding for our Tobacco Control Program.

· NM – Volunteers came in full support in the halls of the Santa Fe capital, dressed in red! They were there in numbers both in the House and Senate when Wear Red Day Proclamations were read on the floor. The AHA group was then asked to come down on the House and Senate floor by the sponsors of AHA legislation, as guests to be recognized by house speaker. YTC advocates also met with personal district house and senate legislators to encourage them to support our priorities.