Wednesday, June 30, 2010

American Heart Association’s Successful Federal Advisory Committee Appointments

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.

New Health Insurance Resources Launch July 1st

Have you or a loved one had a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or other pre-existing medical condition and been without health insurance coverage for at least six months? If so, you may be eligible for a new insurance program, called Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans, that was created by the new health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, and begins in many states starting July 1st.

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, 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

AHA Volunteers in Action!

Recently, AHA You’re the Cure advocate Scott Kneser testified in front of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee about the importance of funding for the National Institute of Health.
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

AHA Past President Gardner attends White House Ceremony

AHA Immediate Past-President Timothy Gardner, M.D. stood up for heart disease and stroke patients young and old at the White House on Tuesday. The ceremony highlighted important regulations to implement provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will help protect Americans from medical bankruptcy.

“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

Let's Celebrate!

Let’s celebrate! Today is the one year anniversary of the signing of historic legislation which gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products. Starting today tobacco manufacturers will no longer be able to label cigarette packages as “light”, “low”, or “mild”.

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.

FDA Tobacco Implementation and State/Local Anti-Tobacco Highlights

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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Healthy Kids?

Do you know how many kids are struggling with childhood obesity in the U.S.? Or what percentage of schools provide physical education? I think you’ll be shocked to learn the answers .

Right now, Congress is working on the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, which is a big opportunity to improve nutrition and physical activity in our nation’s schools. So, we must do our part to urge our legislators to act now and make the health of our kids a priority.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

NC State Lobby Day a Success!

On June 2nd, 30 You’re the Cure advocates in North Carolina descended upon the General Assembly in Raleigh to share an important message to their legislators- investing in measures to improve the health of our citizens will save the state money and insure a healthier North Carolina.

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 1st, 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.

The day of the event, the Heart 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!

Monday, June 7, 2010

American Heart Association and EPA Host Briefings on the Dangers of Air Pollution and Health

The American Heart Association, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, held two informational briefings to educate congressional staff, media and others about the effects of air pollution and how it can contribute to cardiovascular disease. “Breathe Cleaner, Live Longer,” held May 21 on Capitol Hill, was the first seminar. Association volunteers Arden Pope, Ph.D., and Robert Brook, M.D., discussed their pollution study that appeared in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Their study linked air pollution, cardiovascular disease and death, and they discussed how people with high cardiovascular risk should limit their exposure. The second seminar, “Air Pollution –A Matter of the Heart,” held at the EPA building June 7, revealed facts and statistics on polluted air and its link to cardiovascular disease. Presentations were conducted by several EPA senior scientists and other environmental health science experts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Deliver a Lunch Tray to Your Legislators!

Right now, your Members of Congress are in their home districts for Memorial Day recess (May 31st-June 4th), and you can help keep the pressure on Congress in our fight for healthier kids.

All across the country, advocates are "serving-up" lunch tray petitions to their Senators and Representatives, to urge them to pass the Child Nutrition Act this year- and we need you to join in the action! Make sure your legislators are receiving this important message by following the steps below:
1) DOWNLOAD and PRINT your lunch tray petition!
2) PERSONALIZE your petition with a note and your contact information
3) DELIVER a copy of the petition to your Senators and Representative by dropping-by their district offices (you can find the office closest to you by visiting your Members' websites)- OR by faxing a copy into their offices.
4) REPORT BACK to let us know you have delivered your lunch tray petition
5) SHARE this message with family and friends and urge them to deliver their petition too

The health of our kids is too important to accept inaction on the Child Nutrition Act this year. Thank you committing to make this important delivery during the recess period!

WI Passes Bill to Help Educate Students about CPR and AEDs

On May 10, 2010, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed a piece of legislation that requires school boards and school operators to provide high school students instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), cardio-cerebral resuscitation (hands only) and information on automated external defibrillators (AED). This life saving legislation will be in effect beginning the 2011 school year.

You’re the Cure advocates were fully engaged in support of the bill, sending nearly 500 messages into their legislator’s offices! Advocate Mike Uttech of Green Bay, WI, played a crucial role in securing leadership for the bill. Mike knows the importance of CPR and AED education, having suffered cardiac arrest while on a treadmill at his local health club. Mike’s life was saved by lay rescuers using CPR and an AED. Thanks to their efforts, he recovered well enough to attend a Green Bay Packers football game three days later! Jack Simono, another You’re the Cure advocate and survivor from Two Rivers, WI, also stepped up to help secure leadership for the bill in the state legislature.

At the public hearing for the bill, Mike Uttech shared his story and was joined by yet another You’re the Cure advocate, Jill Rasmussen, a director at a YMCA , who’s considered a hero for saving a life on a racquetball court with CPR and AED.

You’re the Cure advocates were instrumental in the passage of this crucial legislation. Congratulations to Wisconsin for this outstanding success to help get high school students the education they need to save lives!

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, June 22 marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s historic signing of the bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products. The signing of this legislation was an incredible moment after more than a decade of work among You’re the Cure advocates and others, and it’s only fitting we should celebrate!

Many of the provisions of the new law take effect on this one-year anniversary. Larger, stronger warning labels will now be required on smokeless tobacco packages and advertisements. Misleading health claims like ‘light’, ‘low’, and ‘mild’ will be prohibited on smokeless tobacco and cigarette products. Several provisions aimed at deterring children from tobacco use also take effect on June 22nd. Selling tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 becomes a federal violation for the first time, and there will no longer be sales of cigarette packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes.

As of June 22nd, America’s kids will be better protected from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and the cardiovascular effects that could come with it. It’s truly a day to celebrate. Happy Anniversary!