Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Good news to report from Capitol Hill! On December 9th, Congress passed the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010, which will allow stroke patients on Medicare to continue to get the therapies they need for another year, without facing arbitrary caps on coverage.
Thank you so much to our advocates for their quick action to ensure Members of Congress knew that therapy must be protected for these 4.4 million patients!
The exceptions process that was extended puts the power in the hands of patients and their doctors to determine the amount of therapy needed to recover from their stroke, rather than having their care determined by a pre-set limit.
As we celebrate this victory, it is also critical to understand that we still have a fight ahead of us. This extension of the exceptions process will only last until December 31, 2011, so we will need your help to continue to push Congress to pass a permanent fix for the therapy caps issue.
Thank you, advocates, for standing-up for stroke patients- and congratulations on this important win!
Monday, December 6, 2010
The legislation, which passed by a vote of 264 to 157, will give our kids a healthy start in life with access to nutritious meals and more opportunities for physical activity during the school day. All of us here at the American Heart Association strongly believe a healthier school environment will nurture academic achievement and reduce childhood obesity rates. With one in three American kids and teens overweight or obese, our youth are at greater risk for high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, both of which are risk factors for heart disease! Teaching kids to eat well and stay fit must become a priority not just at home, but in our schools and communities.
We can all be proud that the final bill contains provisions that will help ensure a healthier school environment for our kids, including removing junk foods from schools, strengthening school wellness policies, and increasing funding for more nutritious school lunches.
Find out how your Representative voted, then join us in thanking supportive Representatives for their vote by sending a quick message!
Well done, advocates!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
- Missouri can celebrate two hard-fought smoke-free victories this year. Voters in Fulton, MO and Jefferson City, MO made it clear that smoke-free air is important to them by passing strong ordinances in both communities. These victories are important steps in ultimately helping Missouri join the ranks of smoke-free states in the near future. The expectation is that these victories will lead to more local wins, and to eventually carry over to the state level, where advocates are focusing their efforts on educating Missouri legislators on the many benefits of smoke-free air.
- The city of San Angelo, Texas became the 34th city to become a smoke-free community. With over 61 percent voter approval, this city will now provide a comprehensive smoke-free work place ordinance for over 92,000 residents. You’re the Cure advocates were critical to the local campaign and many thanks go to board members, Dr. Michael Blanc for a compelling editorial to the local paper, Lisa Burger for co-chairing the local coalition, Joyce Gray for going door to door and local Corporate Market Director Frann Smith who kept the team engaged on the effort and helped guide the Coalition and You’re the Cure advocates!
- South Dakotans went to the polls Tuesday, November 2, and said YES to a comprehensive smoke-free law. The campaign found widespread support and You’re the Cure advocates were engaged on a Smoke-free South Dakota Facebook page, which reached thousands of supporters during the campaign. The law took effect on November 10, the day after the state’s official election canvass. You’re the Cure advocates were instrumental in both the 2009 legislative effort and during the 2010 campaign. Passage of this smoke-free law represents more than 812,000 lives protected in South Dakota.
Daniel was born with critical aortic stenosis and atrial septal defect (ASD) and was only 36 hours old when he went into congestive heart failure and was life-flighted to Tulane University Children’s Hospital in New Orleans for open heart surgery. Noah was also born with ASD, ventricular septal defect (VSD), and a bicuspid aortic valve. However, thanks to the advances in the diagnosis and treatment of their conditions, they are both healthy, young boys today.
Monday, November 15, 2010
As a cardiologist, all too often I see the medical consequences of being obese. Increasingly youngsters now require daily medications to reduce the growing risk of vascular disease produced by obesity. Medications and diagnoses that used to be reserved for adults are now being used in children of younger and younger ages. The rampant rise in risk associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and "so-called" adult onset (type-2) diabetes are translating into more heart disease, at younger ages. What's more, the psychological and emotional problems associated with obesity compromise the "joy of life" of many kids and reduce their ability to learn and excel in school.
The statistics are frightening. Childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled in the last 30 years going from four percent to nearly 20 percent in 2008. And obesity-related diseases cost nearly $168.4 billion a year or 16.5 percent of national spending on medical care —a growing price tag this country simply cannot afford. Fewer children are taking part in simple physical activities such as swimming, bike riding, or even walking for short distances. Sedentary behavior coupled with access to high-calorie foods and beverages in school cafeterias and vending machines only exacerbate the problem.
A new study from researchers at the University of Illinois found that calorie-rich beverages, particularly high fat milk, are still widely available in schools. This is in contrast to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine which urges elementary schools to offer only water, 100 percent juice in 4 ounce servings, and one percent skim milk products outside the school meal program. The bottom line is that students have easy access to high-calorie beverages in environments where they spend most of their day. More emphasis must be placed on initiatives to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from schools and teach youngsters how to eat sensibly and stay active.
Thanks to a landmark agreement between the beverage industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a non-profit organization founded by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation, we're making progress. There has been an 88 percent decrease in total beverage calories shipped to schools between the first half of the 2004-05 and 2009-10 school years. This is a step in the right direction, but it's only one step. Now there's an opportunity for Congress to strengthen standards for most schools in the country.
Comprehensive nutrition education and increased opportunities for physical activity in schools have proven successful in preventing and reducing obesity. But in order to build a healthy and productive future for kids, our nation's leaders must step up to the plate and pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation, which has already been approved by the U.S. Senate, is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would help strike out childhood obesity by improving the nutritional quality of school meals, removing junk food and calorie-rich drinks from vending machines and strengthening school wellness policies. Not only will these provisions help boost children's health, but research shows that kids who are introduced to healthy foods and physical activity early in life have a greater chance of adopting healthy behaviors into adulthood. Healthy, active kids also learn more effectively and achieve more academically.
The promise of today's youth is in our hands and we must band together to ensure swift passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The U.S. Senate has already passed the measure, so the U.S. House of Representatives has the opportunity to send the bill to the President when Congress reconvenes this month. As children continue to weigh in at alarming levels, let's tip the scales in favor of initiatives that will get them back in shape and make the school environment a place that promotes healthy lifestyles with physical as well as academic rewards."
Watch her story.
Over the years, Eliz has embraced her passion for helping other women through her work as a national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, super-star fundraiser, Wisconsin Advocacy Committee Chair, published author, award winning blogger, and founder of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative. In addition to the accomplishments just mentioned, she also played an important role in many state advocacy initiatives including the Smoke-Free Indoor Air Act, the Farm-to-School Act - increasing healthy foods available to school children and much more.
She certainly has had much to celebrate. But today, Eliz Greene will celebrate three very special things. She will celebrate her daughters’, Grace and Callie’s 10th birthday, she will celebrate her 10-year anniversary of being a dedicated volunteer with the American Heart Association and she will celebrate her 10-year anniversary of being a heart attack survivor. A few days ago at a speaking engagement Eliz said “I know this experience happened to me for a reason and I walked away knowing it was my duty to educate other women”. Eliz, we cannot thank you enough for making it your mission to help us in this fight.
Join You’re the Cure advocates like Eliz to ask your senators to vote for the Heart Disease Education, Analysis and Research and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act - legislation that aims for meaningful advancements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Ask your senators to vote for the HEART for Women Act.
Friday, November 12, 2010
During her presentation, Dr. Piña provided an overview of some of the more severe types of CVD, explained the symptoms patients with CVD may experience, and discussed the different tools that can be used to measure how CVD affects a patient’s ability to function normally. She also recommended that the SSA add several forms of severe CVD such as certain forms of advanced heart failure and certain forms of congenital heart disease to the agency’s “compassionate allowances” list. The compassionate allowances list includes medical conditions that are so severe that they prevent patients from working and performing normal day-to-day activities. The SSA uses the compassionate allowances list to quickly identify individuals with serious medical conditions who will likely qualify for disability benefits, shortening and simplifying the disability application process for these individuals.
The SSA will take the information it learned at the hearing to determine what forms of severe CVD should be added to the compassionate allowances list.
For more information about the hearing or the compassionate allowances process, see http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/.
Monday, November 8, 2010
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown says the large amount of adults who smoke in the United States reinforces the need to implement strong anti-tobacco legislation across the country at the local, state, and federal levels.
As tobacco’s financial and health implications continue to plague many communities, the AHA urges elected officials to support increases in tobacco taxes, provide adequate funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, pass and protect comprehensive smoke-free air laws, and ensure implementation of FDA regulation of tobacco. These measures have proven successful in states with the lowest smoking rates.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
In recognition of their contributions to raising awareness of SCA through the media, Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper of Forbes and David Epstein of Sports Illustrated received awards from the Coalition. Congresswoman Betty Sutton was recognized for her championship of H.R. 1380, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act. This legislation – which passed the House in June - authorizes the Department of Education to provide funding to local schools for the purchase of AEDs.
Brian Buck, a 30-year-old SCA survivor, told his story about suffering SCA while playing soccer. Fortunately, Cheryl Victoria, the coordinator for exercise physiology and fitness services at the ConocoPhillips Wellness Center, responded quickly and effectively to the emergency using an AED and CPR. Buck regained a pulse and was taken to a hospital where he received therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment that cools the body to prevent organ damage. He has since made a full recovery. The event culminated with CPR training lead by Dr. Becker.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the United States and the second-leading cause of death in the world. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. Find out what you can do to Act Now by using American Heart Association and American Stroke Association tools and resources at www.powertoendstroke.org/tools-risk.html.
The World Stroke Organization also wants you to Act Now by taking on these six challenges to lower your stroke risk:
- Know the risk factors for stroke that you can do something about — high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol — and work to keep them in a healthy range
- Be physically active and exercise regularly
- Adopt a healthy diet.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now
- Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action
Monday, October 25, 2010
$5 can provide resources for one of 200,000 You're the Cure volunteers to encourage their local, state, and federal lawmakers to make changes on important issues such as menu labeling and state health programs.
$10 can make it easier for people to find AEDs in public places. This donation covers the costs of placing nine identification stickers in public places, directing people to these devices that can save someone's life. Congress mandated the public placement of AEDs in response to AHA lobbyists.
$15 can reach 100 African-American or Hispanic individuals with heart disease and stroke prevention information, and encourages them to participate in Search Your Heart, our cultural health program.
$30 can educate two healthcare providers via webinar about Get with the Guidelines -- Outpatient or any of our programs that continually improve clinical care.
$40/month for a year sends a doctor or scientist to the International Stroke Conference to learn the latest advancements in the treatment and prevention of stroke.
Every donation, big or small, helps the AHA work towards its mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown Supports Efforts to Ensure Health Coverage for Children with Pre-Existing Conditions
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program saves lives by educating Americans about heart disease and stroke and helping them control certain risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol. It also helps improve emergency response and quality of care for heart disease and stroke patients.
Learn more and take action today at http://www.capitolconnect.com/yourethecure/takeaction.aspx.
Friday, October 8, 2010
- Increased funding for the school meal programs to help improve nutrition standards
- Restrictions on the junk food sold in cafeterias, snack shops, and vending machines
- Guidelines to strengthen local wellness policies that establish the nutrition and physical activity goals of school districts
Support the Child Nutrition Act and help it get passed when Congress reconvenes after the November midterm elections! Contact your representative today through www.capitolconnect.com/yourethecure/fastaction.aspx?AlertID=17866.
Monday, October 4, 2010
- Putting up-to-the-minute research into doctors' hands so they can better prevent and treat heart disease among patients
- Groundbreaking pediatric heart and stroke research to help save the lives of the 36,000 babies born with heart defects each year
- Getting live-saving information to those who need it most--information that can save a life, like how to eat better, how to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack, and how to talk to a doctor about critical health choices.
The American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk has a new website that now makes it easier to find cities and nationwide teams. This site also hosts a community team page with heart health information, provides opportunities to share personal health stories, and sends fun e-cards to friends and family. Visit now at http://www.startheartwalk.org/!
The American Heart Association recommends regular physical activity in order to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sign up for a Heart Walk today and don't forget to visit the You're the Cure booth!
Friday, October 1, 2010
The American Heart Association is pleased to announce that former Chairman of the Board Neil Meltzer has been selected to serve as a member of the National Health Care Workforce Commission.
But what is the National Health Care Workforce Commission and what does it do? The commission was created under the new health care reform law and acts to ensure that we have an adequate and well-qualified health care workforce to meet the current and future health care needs of all Americans.
Neil Meltzer has proven to be a valuable You're the Cure champion, advocating for the interests and needs of health care consumers and patients, including those with heart disease and stroke, throughout the congressional debate on health care reform. In this new position, Melzer will have the opportunity to continue his work on behalf of all You're the Cure advocates!
Want to read the complete press statement? It's available at www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=1131.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Now, the husband and wife team work together to promote education, research, funding and support for programs to put heart disease and stroke at the forefront of public awareness. “We didn’t realize how widespread heart disease and stroke are, or the breadth of its consequences to people of all ages and backgrounds. Our hope is by telling Rob’s story and actively participating in activities that promote awareness, we can contribute to the efforts of the AHA/ASA to significantly reduce the occurrences of many of these preventable conditions,” said Kristine.
Together, Rob and Kristine have traveled to their state capital and to Washington, DC to meet with their elected officials. Most recently, they met with Representative Jim Matheson while he was home for August Recess to discuss issues including nutrition in schools, women’s heart health, and funding for research- and thanks to their efforts, the Congressman agreed to cosponsor the HEART for Women Act!
“Contacting our legislators has been especially interesting and much easier than we would have imagined. Both locally and in Washington, our lawmakers have been receptive to our requests for their time and their support. Constituent input is important to them and they do listen.”
Keep up the great work Rob and Kristine! Thank you for all you do!
“Lame duck” sessions occur when Congress reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections. Some lawmakers who return for this session will not hold a seat in the next Congress, therefore, they are informally called "lame ducks".
This year, the “lame duck” session convenes on November 15th. That means lawmakers will have about six weeks to pass legislation before the session ends in December. Any bill that is still pending at the end of a congressional session dies, forcing lawmakers to start from scratch, reintroducing it at the start of a new two-year term, which begins in January.
The American Heart Association will be particularly focused on moving the HEART for Women Act through the Senate and the Child Nutrition Act through the House during the "lame duck" session to complete the work on those bills. We'll be calling on advocates like you to push Members to act before time runs out.
The campaign started at a local Go Red for Women event, where Boise Mayor David Beiter, shared his experience with an AED. During a council meeting, an individual in the audience went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, an AED placed in city hall was used to save this person’s life. After sharing his experience, Mayor Beiter got 300 participants at the event to sign petition postcards to state legislators, showing their support of this life-saving legislation.
Brad Dixon, the chair of AHA’s Idaho State Advocacy Advisory Committee, led the volunteer effort to meet with key legislators on the committees who would decide this bill’s fate. Using his experience as an attorney and a You’re the Cure advocate, his expertise was invaluable to shaping and moving the legislation.
Congratulations Idaho You’re the Cure advocates on the passage of this critical legislation!
Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
September 23rd marks the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law- and for the 81 million Americans living with heart disease or stroke, and the millions more at risk, it is definitely a date to take note of. That's because a number of new health care protections, which will help improve patients' access to affordable care, will take effect that day.
Do you know what this means for you?
If not, you're not alone. That's why the American Heart Association is here as a resource for patients and their families. As an informed consumer, it is critical for you to understand what's changing and what options are available to you in order to access and afford the quality care you need and deserve.
By visiting our website, www.heartsforhealthcare.org, you will find:
1. Information about the patients protections taking effect this week, such as:
- Eliminating lifetime caps on coverage and restricting annual limits
- Prohibiting coverage denials to children based on pre-existing conditions
- Allowing young adults (under age 26) to remain covered under their parent's plan
- Providing preventative services for free under new health plans (and in Medicare starting January 1)
- Prohibiting insurance companies from rescinding coverage if you get sick
2. A series of short videos featuring AHA experts who answer your fellow volunteers' questions about the health care law and the new protections mentioned above.
3. Links to other resources to provide you with additional information and tools to learn about the protections and options available to you.
The American Heart Association has long recognized that ensuring patients have access to the care they need is critical to our mission of building healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. We hope you will seek out the information you need to learn about how the new law will affect you, so you can take full advantage of these new consumer provisions and patient protections.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
1. Download and print a copy of the AHA's Child Nutrition Act ad.
2. Write a personal message on a cover sheet for your fax, including your name and address.
3. Fax the ad to your Representative (you can find their fax number on their website).
4. Let us know you faxed the ad by reporting your action!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By sharing your personal story about the new health care reforms that have benefitted you or your family, you can help educate your fellow heart disease and stroke patients about the new coverage options and protections that may be available to them as well.
- Do you have a child with a pre-existing condition who is now eligible for coverage?
- Have you encountered problems with lifetime caps in the past- which are now prohibited?
- Are you a young adult (under 26 years old) who can now stay covered under your parent’s plan?
- Have you put off preventative care in the past because you couldn’t afford it?
- Are you or someone you know enrolled in the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan?
- Are you a senior who has recently received a rebate check to make it easier to purchase prescription drugs?
- Have you had your insurance policy cancelled after you got sick, which is now prohibited?
If you fit any of the profiles above, let us know! Your story won’t be used without your consent, but as opportunities to share patient stories come up, whether it is on the web, through the media, or at events, we’ll be able to reach out to you to discuss your interest in helping further.
It’s important that all consumers know about the new protections afforded to them in their dealings with their insurance companies. The following insurance reforms are among those that take effect starting with health insurance plan years beginning on or after September 23rd (for many Americans, this will be January 1, 2011):
- Children under age 19 can no longer be denied insurance coverage because they have a preexisting medical condition;
- Health insurance plans can no longer cancel coverage when an individual becomes sick (except in rare cases of fraud);
- Young adults without their own employer-provided health insurance are able to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26;
- Lifetime caps on insurance coverage are prohibited;
- Annual dollar limits on coverage are being phased out, beginning this year. For plan years beginning after September 23rd, 2010, annual dollar limits lower than $750,000 will be prohibited;
- New private health plans and some existing health plans are required to cover evidence-based preventive screenings and services at no additional cost to the consumer;
- New private health plans and some existing plans are prohibited from requiring individuals to get prior approval before seeking emergency care at a hospital outside of their plan’s network and they can no longer charge higher co-pays or deductibles for emergency care received at an out-of-network hospital; and
- New Preexisting Condition Insurance Plans are available in every state to provide health insurance to individuals who have a preexisting medical condition and have been uninsured for at least six months.
The new videos launched by the American Heart Association provide more information about many of these new provisions of the law. In the videos, AHA CEO Nancy Brown, AHA President Dr. Ralph Sacco, AHA Past President Dr. Clyde Yancy, and AHA Chief Science Officer Dr. Rose Marie Robertson answer questions about these new protections. To watch the videos, visit http://www.heartsforhealthcare.org/.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The campaign, launched July 2010, is spearheaded by spokesperson Dr. James T. Willerson, and The Biggest Loser contestants Cherita and Victoria Andrews, a mother/daughter duo who successfully lost over 250 lbs combined because of their awareness about the importance of adopting healthier lifestyles. Houston DINEs believes that if residents, similar to Victoria and Cherita, are educated about healthier food options, they will be able to make healthier life choices.
You’re the Cure advocates have been contacting their city council members to raise awareness among legislators as well. Advocates recognize that city leaders can do a lot to promote healthy lifestyles and need to be part of the solution to combating obesity in Houston.
As the campaign continues forward, follow all of the latest news and tips on the Houston DINEs blog- http://www.houstondines.blogspot.com/
Keep up the good work Houston!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The articles, videos and photos in this interactive report provide an insider’s view of the remarkable work of our You’re the Cure advocates, volunteers and staff including those who met with lawmakers, testified at state capitol and congressional hearings and responded to alerts and calls to action with thousands of calls and emails to their representatives. Thanks to their tireless efforts, we have moved closer to our goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% and reducing death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by the year 2020.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Released this past spring, the Plan focuses on increasing physical activity in places where Americans live, work, learn and play through environmental and policy change. It unites professionals across sectors – in medicine and public health, transportation and urban planning, business, education and recreation – to help individuals integrate physical activity into their daily lives.
“The Plan aims to create a national culture that supports physically active lifestyles. Its ultimate purpose is to improve health, prevent disease and disability, and enhance quality of life,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “Most people know that physical activity is a key to good health. But getting moving is often easier said than done. The National Physical Activity Plan provides a roadmap to help put Americans on the path toward healthy living.”
The U.S. National Physical Activity Plan is comprised of recommendations that are organized in eight societal sectors. AHA is a co-leader of the Business and Industry sector of the implementation plan. Components of this part of the plan include:
Identifying and summarizing best practices and model interventions in the workplace, establishing the Plan as an industry leading “go-to” resource, and evaluate effective physical activity interventions in the workplace. The Business and Industry Sector will also develop and implement an integrated communications and outreach plan in order to engage, inform and inspire business and industry leaders to champion physical activity intervention best practices in their own organizations, throughout their industries, and in their local communities and the group will work on developing legislation and policy agendas that promote employer-sponsored physical activity programs while protecting individual employees’ and dependents’ rights. The AHA will also help support strategies in other sectors of the Plan. Communities across the nation are already taking action to make the healthy choice, the easy choice.
The American Heart Association has been driving efforts to increase physical activity in the workplace with the Start! Friendly-Fit Companies program. Now, more employers and workers are creating a healthier environment on the job to improve physical activity with comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Such programs boost productivity and reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs. The Start! program intends to reach out to other communities to start a legacy of physical activity for all Americans. www.startwalkingnow.org.
AHA also supports efforts to boost physical activity among children. The association strongly backs the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act, federal legislation that would ensure children are receiving quality physical education. This policy requires the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to make physical education a priority in the schools’ curriculum. Locally, AHA is aggressively pursuing state policies that would require that children receive physical education as part of a well-rounded curriculum.With more walking and biking paths, comprehensive workplace wellness programs and school and community partnerships, we can build physical activity into the lives of all Americans and dramatically reduce risk factors for chronic diseases. For more information on how to get involved please visit the National Physical Activity Plan web site: http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/.
Monday, August 16, 2010
But now that Members of Congress are beginning their August Recess, we need to make sure the House of Representatives doesn’t forget they have unfinished business on Capitol Hill- Passage of the Child Nutrition Act!
Our Representatives need to see that when schools and Congress are back in session this fall, millions of kids will be counting on them to take action to make cafeterias and classrooms healthier places.
So, help us show them! Deliver the Child Nutrition photo petition to your Representative today- either virually, or in-person. It's easy!
Thank you for doing your part to keep the health of our kids at the forefront of your Representative’s mind during August Recess!
Monday, August 2, 2010
-Increases the tax on other tobacco products - like cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco - from 46 percent to 75 percent of wholesale price;
-Increases the tax on snuff from $0.96 per ounce to $2.00 per ounce; and
-Imposes a tax on "little cigars" at a rate equivalent to the cigarette tax rate.
Numerous volunteers from throughout the state also helped secure this victory by writing letters to their local papers and calling their legislators to express their support for a high cigarette tax. Congratulations to New York You’re the Cure advocates for achieving this important legislative victory, and helping New York become the highest tax per pack state in the nation!
In mid-July, a House of Representatives subcommittee approved their version of the bill that sets funding levels for many of the programs important to the American Heart Association. A comparable Senate subcommittee and the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved their version of the funding bill last week. The full House Appropriations Committee has yet to take action. Eventually, Members from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be assigned to a conference committee to work out any differences between their two bills. That final negotiated bill will have to be approved by the full House and Senate before it can be sent onto the President for his signature.
It is expected that this process will not be completed until late 2010 or even early 2011, but there will be opportunities for you to continue taking action to help secure the highest funding levels for heart disease and stroke research, prevention and treatment programs. Though many of the proposed funding levels have not been made public, we do know that thanks to your help, the House Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee each approved $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health, which supports heart and stroke research. This is lower than the amount we requested, but in this challenging fiscal environment, it’s a step in the right direction. When the need arises to remind lawmakers that fighting heart disease and stroke must be a priority, you can expect to hear from You’re the Cure!
Sunday, August 1, 2010
During the past year, the American Heart Association secured the appointments of volunteers to several federal advisory committees to help address the needs of heart disease and stroke patients. These committees include:
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Effective Health Care Stakeholders Group, which develops evidence on the effectiveness and comparative effectiveness of different treatments and healthcare interventions of importance to the Medicare, Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance programs;
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee, which advises the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS on whether medical items and services are “reasonable and necessary” for Medicare coverage; and
- The Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which advises the FDA commissioner on the regulation of tobacco products. The committee reviews and evaluates safety, dependence and health issues relating to tobacco.
Friday, July 30, 2010
"The signing of Medicare forged a promise with older Americans -- that those who have contributed a lifetime to our national life and economy can enjoy their golden years with peace of mind and the security of reliable medical insurance," wrote President Obama in a Presidential proclamation issued today, which proclaims July 30, 2010 as the 45th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.
This year's passage of the Affordable Care Act represents another step forward for the Medicare program. The law ensures that Medicare beneficiaries will continue to receive their guaranteed benefits and will provide new benefits and lower costs, including closing the prescription drug coverage gap, eliminating co-pays and cost-sharing for most preventive screenings and providing greater coordination of care among providers.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
As a You’re the Cure advocate, Kenny has been involved in state and federal policy initiatives. He finds delivering public testimony the most fulfilling action to impact lawmakers. While the Texas Legislature was out of session last year, Kenny was able to provide written testimony to the House Education Committee in support of strengthening physical education standards in Texas. Kenny says, “being able to deliver our message in a variety of ways is helpful and rewarding to me as a volunteer.”
Kenny not only volunteers his time as an advocate, but also as a Power to End Stroke ambassador. In his role as an ambassador, Kenny proactively shares his story with others and strives to educate his audience on prevention of heart disease and stroke by highlighting resources available from the American Heart Association. This past year, Kenny had the opportunity to work with the Power to End Stroke Gospel Tour. AHA held auditions for the tour in each city, and the winner was allowed to open for Grammy award winning artist Kirk Franklin. Kenny tells us, “I had the pleasure of speaking at the auditions and sharing my story to all of the contestants – around 500. It was enjoyable to let the contestants know they were competing for more than just sharing the stage with Kirk; if they won they would be part of an event that would educate and improve thousands of lives."
What is the message Kenny wants to share with others? Getting involved is easy, convenient, and anyone can do it. Thank you, Kenny Taylor, for all you do as a volunteer for the American Heart Association!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It’s never too late to make better choices for health, and the American Heart Association has adopted a challenging new goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by 2020. The first step to improving your health is to know your risk, and the new preventive benefits made available by the Affordable Care Act will help ensure that more Americans have access to the screening and counseling they need to do just that. Among the screening tests and preventive services that will be required to be covered with no co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles are the following services aimed at preventing heart disease and stroke:
-Blood pressure screening;
-Tests to screen for high cholesterol and diabetes;
-Screening for obesity and counseling from health professionals to promote sustained weight loss;
-Counseling on the use of daily aspirin;
-Tobacco cessation interventions, such as counseling or medication to help individuals quit.
The new rules implementing these provisions of the Affordable Care Act were issued in July by the Obama Administration. For those covered by new health plans, these new benefits will start with plan years beginning after September 23, 2010 (for many Americans, this will mean that this new benefit will begin January 1, 2011). For Medicare beneficiaries, free coverage of these preventive benefits will begin January 1, 2011. Also beginning on January 1, 2011, Medicare will cover an annual, individually tailored wellness visit for Medicare beneficiaries.
To learn more about these new preventive benefits, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/law/about/provisions/services/index.html.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
July 13, 2010
The Honorable Barack Obama
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
We write to you today regarding the pending reauthorization process for Federal child nutrition programs that we are currently leading in Congress. The support you have provided along with the First Lady’s passion on this issue has been greatly appreciated. As our process moves forward, it is important to highlight the path ahead and the additional steps that must be taken to ensure a successful legislative outcome. To that end, we respectfully request your assistance in ensuring that a strong reauthorization is delivered to your desk for signature before the programs expire on September 30.
As you know, child nutrition programs were extended for one year last fall. Prior to, and since that time, our respective Committees have worked closely together and with your Administration in order to develop reauthorization legislation that mirrors many of your recommendations to address two of the greatest threats to the health and security of America’s children: hunger and obesity. This year represents our best opportunity to see those efforts enacted into law.
Additionally, since last fall both chambers have been actively engaged in a bipartisan fashion to move forward legislation and maintain political momentum for the reauthorization process. In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority of 221 members of Congress sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi in strong support of reauthorizing child nutrition programs this year. In the Senate, a bipartisan majority of 53 senators sent a letter to Senate leadership urging swift passage of the child nutrition bill that was unanimously approved by the Agriculture Committee at the end of March.
Despite strong support and the popularity of child nutrition programs, our respective chambers continue to face challenges to enacting reauthorization legislation, the biggest of which is time. There are precious few legislative work weeks available between now and September 30th. Given these circumstances, your assistance in making this legislation a top priority for your Administration and communicating that priority to the leadership in the House and Senate is absolutely critical to ensuring that both chambers are able to send you a full reauthorization this year.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who has been a forceful advocate for child nutrition within the Administration, put it best when he recently testified before Congress. “The bottom line from my perspective is that I can’t think of anything more important than getting [child nutrition] done this year…If we don’t do this this year, this is not going to get any easier. It’s going to get much, much tougher in the future.” We could not agree with Secretary Vilsack more, and Congress and the Administration must work collectively in order to pass the best bill possible and avoid another extension of current law.
Given the difficult political environment and partisanship within Congress today, child nutrition reauthorization represents one of our best opportunities to enact legislation that enjoys broad bipartisan support. Our children, and their families, deserve nothing less than our strongest leadership to see that bipartisanship passed into law. Through our combined efforts and with a strong push from you, we can maximize the likelihood of Congress passing, and you signing into law, this critically-needed legislation before the programs expire.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this important priority.
Blanche Lincoln & George Miller
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Advocates came from far across North Carolina to attend You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day. The event kicked off on June 1, with an afternoon training at the American Heart Association headquarters in North Carolina. Advocates heard from state experts on the topics they would be discussing with their legislators the next day. Peg O’Connell, director of the NC Alliance for Health Tobacco Committee, spoke on the importance of investing in an educational campaign to address stroke disparities in Eastern North Carolina.
Stroke is currently the 4th leading cause of death in North Carolina and for the first time since 2000, the number of stroke deaths increased in North Carolina between 2007 and 2008. Since 2008, North Carolina has run a media campaign that has shown statistically significant results in raising awareness about how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and get a patient immediate care.
Advocates used this information to ask the state legislature to continue to fund this incredibly important campaign. In addition, advocates spoke out about the need to test children’s fitness in schools and provide healthy foods in cafeterias. “I love Lobby Day!” says Yolanda Dickerson, a long-time You’re the Cure volunteer. “Lobby Day gives advocacy a face! It makes a difference to legislators when they meet advocates face to face.” On the day of the event, the association also sponsored a press conference at the General Assembly that honored “Heartsavers.” Heartsavers are ordinary citizens who performed CPR in a time of need and helped save a life. Thanks to all our volunteers in NC for all their hard work!
After introduction, You’re the Cure (YTC) advocates connected with advocates from the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (OAHPERD) as the key proponents for quality physical education. Together, advocates supported the bills with media advocacy, letters to the editor and even a press event, resulting in great coverage! Legislators heard loud and clear that the You’re the Cure network cared about this issue, including passionate testimony from Great Rivers Affiliate Board Chairperson Joe San Filippo and physical education teacher and YTC advocate Melissa McCarthy.
Opposition was fierce in the final days before the bill‘s passage. While there is always compromise with legislation, advocate support of the bill ensured a much stronger bill, and on June 18, Governor Strickland signed the bill into law. The bill sets standards for beverages and snack items sold outside of the school lunch program; addresses physical education and physical activity by requiring physical education teachers are certified in the area; requires the state to adopt performance indicators to further improve quality and to increase daily physical activity for students; and also requires aggregate Body Mass Index (BMI) reporting to monitor the trend of childhood obesity and evaluate the effectiveness of the bill.
Since its introduction, it has been an amazing journey. Dedicated Ohio You’re the Cure advocates made sure the bill maintained key elements in the fight against childhood obesity.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
“This initiative will have a dramatic impact on our ability to create community environments that promote physical activity and healthy eating as obesity rates continue to spiral upward in many areas of the country,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “This is an epidemic that must be addressed with community-based interventions that will make it easier for local residents to make healthier choices where they live, learn, eat and play.”
Using a strategic and technical assistance consulting model, the association will offer expertise in obesity policy prevention strategies to help communities lay the groundwork for a sustained initiative that will change environments beyond the goals of the CPPW program. Support will include an assessment of community activities, development of specific campaign plans, coaching and training sessions.
The CPPW program was launched last year to reduce risk factors, prevent chronic disease and promote wellness in both children and adults. This is the first federal government grant awarded to the American Heart Association. In order to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans, the association recognized the need to consider additional funding streams to support specific programs that will facilitate behavior change.
“The American Heart Association has successfully initiated policies and programs on the community level to combat obesity and this grant will supplement our efforts to reach a larger segment of the population,” said Brown. “We strongly believe that Americans can reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses with improved access to healthy foods and areas that promote physical activity.”
Thursday, July 1, 2010
You’re the Cure advocates and volunteers were on hand during the hearing to show support for the bill. Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Vice President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and member of the American Heart Association’s National Advocacy Coordinating Committee, testified in support of the bill. According to Dr. Sanchez, “The health of America’s children depends on a prescription for healthy food and more physical activity. This bill can play a significant role in improving the health of America’s children, reversing the childhood obesity epidemic, reducing the burden of diabetes, heart and other chronic diseases and demand for expensive medical care, and finally, improving the readiness, willingness, and ability of our future civilian and military workforce – to compete and defend our nation.”
Special emphasis was placed on the importance of military readiness during the hearing. Paul D. Monroe, Major General in the United States Army spoke about how the current obesity crisis crippled the ability of the military to recruit new soldiers. General Monroe stated, “Obesity is the leading medical reason young adults are not qualified to serve. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased dramatically in recent decades.”
You can play an important role in advancing this important piece of legislation. Click here to send a life saving message to your legislator that you support improved nutrition for America’s children!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Effective Health Care Stakeholders Group, which develops evidence on the effectiveness and comparative effectiveness of different treatments and healthcare interventions of importance to the Medicare, Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance programs;
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee, which advises the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS on whether medical items and services are “reasonable and necessary” for Medicare coverage; and
The Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which advises the FDA commissioner on the regulation of tobacco products. The committee reviews and evaluates safety, dependence and health issues relating to tobacco.
The exact terms and conditions of the coverage will vary depending on which state you live in. Enrollment in about half the states begins July 1st, with the remaining states beginning enrolling people in their plans later this summer.
Although these new plans may not be a feasible option for everyone, they could be a more affordable insurance option for individuals who’ve had difficulty getting coverage in the individual insurance market because of their medical condition. These plans are intended to provide transitional coverage to those who are currently uninsured until January 2014, when additional insurance options and assistance with paying premiums will be made available through state-based health insurance marketplaces called exchanges.
To help you learn more about these new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans or other insurance options that may be available to you, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new website, www.healthcare.gov. The new site is aimed at helping consumers navigate the maze of health care coverage options, both private and public, and better understand what the new health reform law means for them.
Monday, June 28, 2010
But for Scott, this isn’t just an abstract issue. For Scott, NIH funding and research helped save his life. Scott has a genetic heart condition and in 2005 went to the Mayo Clinic and I had a cardiac procedure called a septal myectomy that was done in order to improve the blood flow to his heart. Doctors implanted a cardiac defibrillator inside Scott. The procedure was possible because of government funding.
Here is some of Scott’s testimony.
“My battle with heart disease began in 1982, when I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy with Mitral Valve Prolapse and a heart murmur. In layman’s terms, the main pumping chamber of my heart was enlarged and I had a valve that did not close properly. This condition caused blood to leak from my mitral valve and diminished my blood flow, creating a decrease in my activity level.In 2005, I became more symptomatic and experienced increased fatigue during normal activity, like climbing stairs. My doctors determined that I needed a type of surgery called Septal Myomectomy. During this procedure, my surgeon went through my aortic valve and carved out the enlarged section of muscle on my septum, which separates my heart’s chamber, to improve my blood flow.Also, at this time, I had an implanted cardiac defibrillator placed in my chest to regulate my irregular heartbeats that were discovered during an EKG. This amazing device, a result of your investment in the NIH, keeps me alive by regulating my heart beat. If I have more than five consecutive irregular heartbeats, the ICD “shocks” my heart back into a normal rhythm. I can even hold a magnet over my ICD, which uploads data on my heart. This data is transmitted to my cardiologist via the telephone…
Despite these advances, there is no cure for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease remains our Nation’s No. 1 killer and stroke is still the No. 3 cause of death. Thanks to NIH research, there are survivors like me. But, to bring us closer to a cure, it is critical for Congress to increase funding for NIH heart research--now at only 4% of the budget--and stroke research—still at just 1% of the budget.”
You don’t have to travel to Washington DC to be an advocate like Scott- just click this link to send a life saving message to your legislator.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
“These regulations will provide needed relief to families and individuals who have to make heart-wrenching decisions as they consider treatment options for life-threatening conditions,” said Gardner. “These insurance reforms will remove barriers that prevented some children and adults with heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses from getting affordable, quality care.”
Some of the highlights of the new regulations:
- No Discrimination against Children with Pre-Existing Conditions.
- Eliminating Lifetime Limits on Insurance Coverage- Prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.
- Regulating Use of Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage
- No More Insurance Cancellations- Insurers can no longer cancel a person’s coverage because they become sick.
These new consumer protections will help ensure that health coverage is more affordable and available for heart disease and stroke patients.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Unfortunately, many tobacco manufacturers are still using deceptive techniques to imply that some cigarette packages are safer. The manufacturers of Marlboro are using colored packaging to reinforce the message that certain packages are “light”. The New York City Department of Health has released advertisements to educate the public about these deceptive techniques- Check it out here!
You’re the Cure advocates should be proud of the work that we all did to pass this historic legislation. There are still major hurdles ahead, and we should all still push for smoke-free air legislation and higher tobacco taxes. However, today take time to pat yourself on the back for this historic success.
Advocates and volunteers of the American Heart Association are making great strides to pursue a tobacco-free America. Since enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, many provisions of the law have been implemented. For example, in September 2009, candy flavored cigarettes designed to entice kids to start smoking were banned. In June 2010, the sale of tobacco products to minors became a federal offense for the first time. The law now prohibits cigarette manufacturers from making misleading health claims about their products, banning terms like “light” and “low tar” in their marketing. The association continues to shape implementation of the law through regulatory comments submitted to FDA officials.
The association advocates for providing funding and insurance coverage for programs to help tobacco users quit, and increasing cigarette taxes to discourage tobacco use. In the past year, the association has worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on expanding coverage of tobacco cessation counseling to all Medicare beneficiaries.
The association continues to find success in efforts to ensure everyone the right to breathe smoke-free air. Kansas and Michigan both passed strong smoke-free air laws that will cover almost all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Elsewhere, seven states have increased tobacco excise taxes to reduce the rate of smoking. The average state cigarette tax is now $1.42 per pack. Other state successes supported by the association include:
-New York passed legislation June 21 that will give the state the highest cigarette tax in the country. The new law adds $1.60 in state taxes to every pack sold starting July 1. The average price of cigarettes in New York City will be even higher, nearly $11 a pack.
-In South Carolina, the Legislature voted May 13 to override the governor’s veto and increase the cigarette tax from 50 cents to 57 cents a pack. This is a huge accomplishment for South Carolina, which has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation and had not increased it since 1977.
-In New Mexico, the cigarette tax was increased by 75 cents after the governor signed legislation to make cigarettes $1.66 a pack.
-Washington and Utah passed $1.00-a-pack increases in their cigarette tax.
-Hawaii raised its cigarette tax by 40 cents a pack.