Thursday, March 31, 2011

Texas Youth Advocates Take on State Capitol

Twenty-eight students from all over Texas helped the American Heart Association advance its mission by supporting key legislative issues at the state Capitol on March 16. The youth-advocates began the day with "telling your story" training and an interactive role-playing exercise to prepare them for their meetings with lawmakers on issues including Smoke-Free Texas and trans fats in schools.

Following lunch with State Rep. Mark Strama and a performance by the Murchison Elementary "Hot Shots" Jump Rope For Heart team, the youth-advocates took to the halls of the capitol. They visited over 60 offices, including meetings with Rep. Myra Crownover, who authored of the Smoke-Free Texas bill and Rep. Diane Patrick, who authored a bill to limit trans fats.

"It was a highly successful day for the AHA and our mission," said Grassroots Coordinator Brian Bowser. "I believe it helped Smoke-Free Texas retain some of the momentum it accumulated earlier this month and gave a good spark to the trans fats bill that was just introduced. In addition it provided a great learning experience for the youth involved and gave many of them their first taste of civic involvement."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NC Advocates Share Their Story to Mark the 1-Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

Today, Kay LaVelle and Jill Morin, AHA advocates and Go Red for Women spokespersons from North Carolina, participated in a news conference at the State Legislature about the Affordable Care Act. Today’s event was organized by Rep. Verla Insko and focused on the provisions within the new law that help ensure women are able to access and afford the quality health care they need.

Kay and her daughter Jill told their moving story as heart survivors and the resulting concerns about their health insurance coverage. As small business owners, struggling to make ends meet in the tough economy, Kay and Jill have worried about how they would find coverage given their pre-existing conditions, if they lost their business. However, thanks to the protections in the new law, they now have the peace of mind that they would have coverage options.

Currently, those who have been uninsured for 6 months or more and have pre-existing conditions may be eligible for a new insurance program, called Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans. 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.

For more information, visit or

Friday, March 18, 2011

Advocate Spotlight! Libbie Hough

Libbie Hough, a You’re the Cure advocate from North Carolina, came to Capitol Hill on March 17th to share her story and urge Congress to preserve the Affordable Care Act to ensure children with heart disease and other pre-existing conditions have access to affordable, quality care.

Libbie’s 19-year-old daughter, Natalie, suffered cardiac arrest about 18 months ago in school, due to LongQT Syndrome, a life-threatening and usually genetic heart condition that unexpectedly claims thousands of lives every year, often with no symptoms or warning signs.

“We’re very appreciative of the peace of mind that the Affordable Care Act provides,” she said. “Thanks to the law, we are assured that Natalie can stay on our family’s health insurance policy until she turns 26 and other patients with pre-existing conditions now have options for affordable care. Before the law, affordable individual coverage for patients like Natalie with pre-existing conditions was essentially non-existent.”

Libbie was joined at the briefing by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other members of Congress, doctors, nurses, patients, and small business owners to mark the one-year anniversary of the law.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit and

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rep. Kind, Senator Harkin Reintroduce FIT Kids Act, Calling for More P.E. in Schools

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today reintroduced the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act), a bill to combat childhood obesity by strengthening physical education programs in schools throughout the country.

The FIT Kids Act, H.R. 1057, renews the emphasis on physical education in schools. The Act would work to ensure kids are active during the school day and are given opportunities that promote overall health and wellness. The legislation would engage parents and the public by requiring all school districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, including the amount of time spent in required physical education in relation to the recommended national standard. The Act would further ensure appropriate professional development for health and physical education teachers, fund research to examine the link between children’s health and their academic achievement, and recommend effective ways to combat childhood obesity and improve healthy living and physical activity.

“This bill gets to the simple truth: in order to develop a healthy mind, you need a health body,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. “Providing increased physical education in public schools will give every child an opportunity – regardless of their background – to learn healthy habits and get moving. We will see the benefits in their math and reading test scores, get to the root of the obesity epidemic, and get kids on a healthy path early in life. I hope that Congress can consider the importance of physical education in our schools when they take a closer look at education reform later this year.”

“To ensure that our kids will lead healthy and active lives, we need to help them develop good habits early on,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “This bill would combat rising rates of childhood obesity, which have become a pressing public health crisis that we must address. Kids who get more exercise throughout the day are more fit, more focused in the classroom, and get better sleep – also a welcome benefit for their parents! This bill empowers schools, teachers and parents to help improve our kids’ health.”

“With childhood obesity rates that have tripled over the last few decades, we must make every effort to help children reduce their risk for heart disease, stroke and other life-threatening illnesses,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association. “More than 80 percent of adults support daily physical education yet such programs have been on the decline in many school districts. The FIT Kids Act would help educate parents about the quality and quantity of physical education in their child’s school.”

“America’s children receive too little opportunity to be physically active, and that is a major contributor to the nation’s obesity epidemic, said Penny Lee, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund. “Lack of physical activity for children has a negative effect on our military preparedness, their ability to learn and their overall wellness. Now is the time to drill down on solutions which is what this legislation provides. It allows for more information to parents, educators and communities so they recognize the gaps in activity and have the opportunity to address them ­-- a major step in the right direction.”

“The National Association for Sport and Physical Education commends Senator Harkin and Congressman Kind on introducing the FIT Kids Act which will strongly support our common goal of increasing the quality and quantity of physical education opportunities in the U.S.,” says NASPE President, Lynn Couturier of State University of New York at Cortland. “Physical education, an essential component of a quality, well-rounded education, not only teaches students how to achieve and maintain lifelong healthy habits but contributes to their academic success.”

“We are proud to support Senator Harkin and Congressman Kind on their reintroduction of the Fit Kids Act,” said NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. “This legislation furthers our shared goal of eliminating childhood obesity and encouraging children to lead healthy lifestyles.”

The FIT Kids Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: The American Diabetes Association, The American Heart Association, National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Football League, Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, YMCA.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Affordable Care Act Programs Every Patient Should Know About

Did you know that March 23rd marks the 1-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law? Within 365 short days, critical patient protections have been implemented, making health care more affordable and accessible to many Americans.
However, despite the progress that has been made, many patients still don’t know about all of the options that may be available to them to ensure they have the coverage they need. Here are two important programs every heart disease and stroke patient should know about:

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans: If you or a loved has a pre-existing condition, like heart disease or stroke, and been without health insurance coverage for at least six months, then you may be eligible for a new insurance program, called Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans, that was created by the Affordable Care Act.

This program is available for children and adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who have been locked out of the health insurance market because of a pre-existing condition. However, the exact terms and conditions of the coverage will vary depending on which state you live in.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. In most states, the monthly premium for the standard option plan ranges from about $116 to $626.

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.
For information about how to apply, go to or call 1-866-717-5826 (TTY 1-866-561-1604).

Consumer Assistance Programs: Thirty states have received funding under the Affordable Care Act to create Consumer Assistance Programs (CAPs), which provide assistance to individuals experiencing difficulties with their health insurance. For instance, CAPs will help consumers who need help filing complaints or appeals with their insurance companies, answer questions about their rights and responsibilities with respect to insurance coverage, or help individuals sign up for coverage.

To find the CAP program in your state or other resources that may be helpful, please visit

Friday, March 4, 2011

New "Make the Move" Report Guides Implementation Efforts of the National Physical Activity Plan

The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) has established national implementation priorities in a new digital report, Make the Move, which provides an outline of short-term and long-term goals to implement policies, programs and initiatives to get more Americans moving. The report was developed by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), the national coalition charged with implementing the nation’s first ever National Physical Activity Plan.

The American Heart Association is a founding member of NCPPA helping to lead implementation efforts alongside the numerous national organizations involved in the initiative. The association is co-leading the Business and Industry sector of the National Physical Activity Plan to help increase physical activity and promote best practices in the workplace. The association’s Start! campaign is an example of how employers and individuals are promoting physical activity throughout communities and in workplaces. Start! provides individuals and companies with the tools and resources to be physically active and heart healthy. Resources offered by Start! include a local walking path finder, activity and meal tracker, tools to connect people in their areas, and grocery list builders to name a few.

The Start! campaign demonstrates the American Heart Association’s commitment to help people become physically active and healthy, working with the goal of the Plan. The Make the Move Implementation Report highlights other examples of local activities that support the Plan. In Ohio, a manufacturing company with limited access to technology took part in a Virtual Walk across the U.S. and 56 percent of employees participated, increasing overall wellness. Each employee was assigned a pushpin on a map that marked each company location across the country and using the pedometers they were given, employees tracked the miles they walked to see who could get to each location the fastest.

NCPPA President Laurie Whitsel states: “This is a great opportunity to begin collecting all of the exciting stories about the different ways organizations, communities, and passionate advocates are making the National Physical Activity Plan a reality and hearing how people across the U.S. are making physical activity a regular part of their day.”

Unite forces with American Heart Association and the NPAP to Make the Move in your business or at home today! Learn more at or to get involved visit

Thursday, March 3, 2011

News from the Hill: New Study Stresses the Importance of Constituent Communications

It is no surprise that with technology advancements come additional ways to reach and influence legislators. But you might wonder just how effective your online messages are in advocating for the issues you care most about.

According to Communicating with Congress: Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, a new study by the Partnership for a More Perfect Union at the Congressional Management Foundation, citizens have more power than they realize.

While traditional face-to-face interaction will never be beat, Capitol Hill offices report that the internet is a useful and effective way for constituents to relay information to their representatives. The study reveals, “What matters most is the content, not the vehicle”.

The most important thing to remember about communicating with Congress is that the most effective and impactful messages are ones that are personalized. Key pieces of information such as discussing the impact a bill will have on your state state or district, providing your reasons for supporting or opposing a bill, and including a relevant personal story will make your messages stand out.

Social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, are also becoming widely used methods of communication and Members of Congress are paying attention. Nearly two-thirds of Capitol Hill staff surveyed (64%) think Facebook is an important way to understand constituents’ views and nearly three-quarters (74%) think it is important for communicating their Members’ views.

State Spotlight! A Warm Reception for Arizona’s Halle Heart Children’s Museum

The impressive renovation to the Halle Heart Children’s Museum, the only cardiovascular health museum for children in the country, premiered with an unforgettable Arizona You’re the Cure legislative reception on Tuesday, February 22nd.

Attendees included more than 100 advocates, volunteers, and public officials, including Arizona House of Representatives Minority Whip Dr. Matt Heinz, Representative Jeff Dial, and House Health and Human Services Chair Cecil Ash, who is also the sponsor of House Bill 2157, Stroke Systems of Care.

During the reception program, attendees had the opportunity to hear from stroke survivor Maria Tapia, Phoenix Board of Directors President Dr. John Schaller, and Heart Ball Chair Julie Prusak, who were all able to stress the importance of the AHA’s mission, highlight current initiatives, and present the AHA’s legislative priorities for the year.

The reception also led to an outstanding opportunity. “Representative Dial was so impressed with the museum, the mission of the AHA, and our priorities that on Thursday, February 24, he invited staff and volunteers to the Arizona House of Representatives so he could recognize us from the floor,” says Tim Vaske, Director of Government Affairs in Arizona.

The successful legislative reception foreshadows the future achievements for the AHA and the Halle Heart Children’s Museum. The museum, now open to the general public and for guided tours, is a unique, fun, and educational part of the Tempe community.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Women and CVD: Reversing the Trend through Prevention

It is critical to make sure our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and all the other important women in our lives understand the very real dangers of heart disease – the No. 1 killer of women. Sadly, almost half of America’s women are unaware of their risk. As a result, they are less likely to receive the recommended care to treat or prevent this deadly disease. We must change that.

The good news is that women today have greater access to the kind of care that can help prevent heart disease.

In the past, the high price tag on even a routine doctor’s visit could keep women from detecting heart problems early. Now, thanks to the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, women who join new health insurance plans and those on Medicare can get free preventive care, including screenings that detect raised levels of cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

One of the best ways to take control of your heart health is by keeping track of these important health indicators. The health insurance reform law makes this easier than ever.

But prevention cannot stop at the doctor’s office door. Most of us know how important it is to eat right and exercise. But when we’re in a hurry, it can seem easier to get a burger from the local drive-thru than to prepare a healthy meal at home. After a long day at work, the couch may be more appealing than the treadmill. And these choices make a big difference: if you do just four simple things—eat right, be physically active, don’t smoke, and keep a healthy weight—you can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 82 percent.

Together, we are committed to helping women make these healthy choices. As part of the health law, we have redoubled our efforts to help state and local governments and community organizations reduce risks for heart disease, like obesity and tobacco use.

We’re supporting programs that bring fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where healthy food is hard to find or too expensive for low-income citizens. We’re making calorie information available on many restaurant menus and vending machines. And we’re working to increase the number of tobacco-free workplaces.

In addition, we are reaching out directly to women to make sure they have the information they need to live a healthy life. For example, access to emergency care within the first hour of a heart attack can help avoid lasting heart damage or death. But many women do not recognize the warning signs or symptoms of heart disease and delay seeking care.

That’s why, earlier this month, with the support of the American Heart Association, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and more than a dozen other groups, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat campaign. This program will help women recognize the seven warning signs of a heart attack and encourage them to call 9-1-1 as soon as any of these symptoms occur.

While government and health organizations have a responsibility to educate the public, we can’t solve this problem alone. The people who can help America make the biggest gains in the fight against heart disease are women themselves.

Women need to have frank conversations with our doctors about our heart health. You can learn more by consulting websites like,,, and These sites have everything you need to get started towards a healthier heart, from online profiles that determine your risk to healthy recipes and tips to keep your heart healthy. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease also provides on-line and in-person support networks for women living with heart disease.

For your own sake and for the people you love, take control of your heart health and make sure you’re treating your heart right. It’s the only one you’ve got.

-Nancy Brown
CEO, American Heart Association

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Why is America Still Smoking?"

Today Dr. Ralph Sacco and others joined U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin for a congressional briefing on the Tobacco epidemic – “Why is America Still Smoking?” The event was in response to the Surgeon General’s recently issued report that details the biological damage tobacco smoke wreaks on the body and how smoking causes cardiovascular disease and cancer, among other conditions.