Friday, July 30, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Medicare

Forty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, establishing the foundation for today’s Medicare, which provides more than 44 million seniors and people with disabilities with guaranteed health care benefits and higher quality care than ever before.

"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

Meet Kenny Taylor

Kenny is an active You’re the Cure advocate in Austin, Texas. As a heart disease survivor and successful businessman in the community, he is committed to helping others make positive changes in their lives and speaking out on their behalf. Kenny first experienced heart disease in 2003 when he suffered his first pulmonary embolism in, and then most recently in 2008. The latest embolism was more advanced because it actually led to the enlarging of the heart. The first organization Kenny turned to was the American Heart Association. "You’re the Cure is a message that resonates loud and clear with me, it’s a constant reminder that I control my destiny regarding my health and well-being. As a result of the resources and confidence that the American Heart Association has instilled in me, there are many positive life changes I have made,” he said.

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

New Preventive Benefits Coming Soon

If all Americans took the recommended steps to improve their cardiovascular health, the number of heart attacks could be cut by two-thirds and the number of strokes by a third. The American Heart Association encourages individuals to learn about Life’s Simple 7 steps to improve their heart health, But far too few individuals benefit from access to screening tests or counseling on adopting healthy behaviors. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act requires new private health insurance plans and Medicare to provide recommended preventive services for free, beginning soon.

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lincoln, Miller Call on President to Make Child Nutrition Legislation a Priority

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.) , Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor today sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to make child nutrition reauthorization a top legislative priority this year. Read the full text of the letter below...

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

You're the Cure in North Carolina!

On June 2, 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 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!

Ohio’s fight against childhood obesity

A year ago, top Ohio business leaders took notice of the problem of childhood obesity and joined forces with the American Heart Association to curb the trend. On November 17, two bills (one in each chamber) were introduced with bipartisan support. The Healthy Choices for Healthy Children campaign had begun in earnest.

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

AHA to Assist Communities Engaged in Obesity Prevention

The American Heart Association will help communities develop evidence-based strategies to combat obesity under the Department of Health and Human Services Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant program. The association has been awarded a grant to provide technical assistance to government-funded communities to improve health behaviors among local residents.

“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

Important Hearing on Child Nutrition

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on HR 5504, an important bill to improve the nutritional quality of meals in schools today. The bill insures that all school children receive healthy and notorious meals year round, not just on school days. On top of that, the bill also sets nutritional standards for food sold outside of cafeterias in our schools. Food sold outside of school hours or in vending machines on school grounds need to be held to the same nutritional standards that food sold in the cafeteria during lunch is.

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!