Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Take this Quiz for a Healthy Future!

  • Do you want to stop 44,300 kids in Minnesota from smoking?

  • Do you want to help 19,500 adult smokers in Minnesota quit, and save the lives of 19,300 Minnesotans?

  • Would you support legislation that would generate $91 million for Minnesota and save our state over $960 million in health care costs?

  • Would you support legislation that invests in disease prevention such as cancer and heart disease and increase access to affordable health care?

  • Would you support legislation that invests in disease prevention such as cancer and heart disease and increase access to affordable health care?

  • Would you support legislation that does all of the above by raising the price of tobacco by $1.00?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you support the Act for a Healthy Future!

In these difficult economic times, policymakers are looking for ways to save money and generate revenue. The American Heart Association, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, has a bold proposal that will do both: Act for a Healthy Future!

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Minnesota. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of heart disease-- and the most preventable! Minnesota spends more than $2 billion each year in health care expenditures directly caused by smoking. While a pack of cigarettes is priced at a little more than $4.00, each pack of cigarettes generates $8.85 in health care costs.

Act for a Healthy Future would increase the tobacco tax by $1 per pack and would:
Generate revenue for important prevention programs
Reduce smoking, especially among youth
Encourage more smokers to quit
Reduce tobacco-related health care costs in the future

Learn more about Act for a Healthy Future!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Letter to the Editor in St. Cloud: State must tax smokers what habit actually costs

St. Cloud Times
March 29, 2009
Letter: State must tax smokers what habit actually costs
By Bob Johnson, Executive Director, Central Minnesota Heart Center and AHA volunteer

For years the Central Minnesota Heart Center has been focused on the management and prevention of heart disease. Part of that work involves cessation programs to stop tobacco use and yet the problem persists.

Dr. Allen Horn, Smoke Free Communities Coalition, has it right in his March 13 Your Turn. The cost of tobacco use is too high and it impacts all of us. In Minnesota, 5,500 of our mothers, fathers, grandparents and other family members are lost each year to tobacco-related illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. This deadly habit brings with it a hefty $2 billion health care price tag that we cannot afford.

As we dig ourselves deeper into a state deficit, it’s all too much for Minnesota to bear. We need to take action to better our financial situation and increasing the tobacco tax is a great start.
A new bill — Act for a Healthy Future — was introduced on Thursday at the Legislature and a tax increase is included.

According to Horn, smokers pay a little more than $4 per pack, while the rest of us are left paying $8.85 in health care costs! Why not make the cost of cigarettes hurt as much financially as it does physically? It all makes sense. We will save lives by discouraging people from taking up the habit in the first place and by helping people quit while they still have a chance.
Improving the health and financial well-being of this state is an obvious win-win.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Toward a Healthy Future: A Proposal to Take On Cancer and Heart Disease

Health consumers groups’ plan aims to save lives and health care costs through screening, access to care and investment in upstream prevention.

ST. PAUL, MINN – March 26, 2009 – Representative Erin Murphy today introduced the Act for a Healthy Future, a bold and budget friendly chronic disease prevention plan from the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, to take on Minnesota’s leading killers from lung and colon cancer to heart disease and stroke.

The plan proposes a $1 increase in the state’s tobacco tax and investment in a evidence-based cancer and heart disease prevention approaches while preserving health care eligibility for thousands of Minnesotans. The Act for a Healthy Future plan would raise an estimated $90-120 million per year and will:

· Empower almost 20,000 smokers to quit and prevent 44,000 kids from ever starting.· Save more than 19,000 Minnesotans from dying premature tobacco related deaths.
· Save an estimated $960 million in long-term health care costs to treat tobacco related disease.
· Provide preventative colorectal cancer screening for over 1000 Minnesotans without adequate insurance.
· Enact the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act to screen 15,000 uninsured women for their risk of heart disease.
· Invest $250,000 in implementing Minnesota’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention plan and leverage $1.2 million in federal funds.
· Invest $24 million annually to the Statewide Health Improvement Program. Created last year as part of health care reform, SHIP will implement local evidence-based strategies for reducing obesity and tobacco use.
· Contribute at least $65 million annually to the State’s Health Care Access Fund to preserve health insurance coverage for 28,000 premium paying Minnesotans.

According to Rachel Callanan, Senior Advocacy Director for the American Heart Association, “Rep. Murphy’s bill will save lives and health care costs for Minnesotans. Act for a Healthy Future confronts our State’s two leading causes of death by addressing the need for affordable treatment, early detection and by addressing behaviors that can lead to chronic disease.”

David Arons, Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society, explains that meaningful health care insurance and coverage is a critical component of the plan: “Without adequate coverage people don’t have access to critical, potentially life-saving, screenings that can prevent these diseases and avoid the notably higher costs of treating them.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Billboards Across Twin Cities Show Benefits of Phy Ed

When you drive around the Twin Cities this month, you might notice some new billboards. As part of the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids media campaign, billboards have been created and placed across the metro area (see above). See posting below for a close-up look at the image.
This media campaign is an attempt to raise awareness around the connection between quality physical education programs and higher academic achievement. With budgets being squeezed, school districts across the state are cutting physical education programs. However, research has shown that students who participate in quality physical education have higher academic performance.

Keep your eyes open for these awesome billboards!
I-94 and I-394, International Market Square, Minneapolis
4th Street S, downtown Minneapolis
E Hennepin and 5th Ave. N, downtown Minneapolis
35E and Maryland Ave., St. Paul
E 7th Street N, downtown St Paul

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Unveils New Webpage!

Now is the time to act so our kids can have a healthy future! Childhood obesity has almost tripled since 1980 from 6.5 percent to 16.3 percent. Obese children have a higher likelihood of becoming obese adults, which contributes to many life-threatening diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. This could be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents!

Visit the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids webpage today!

On the site, you will find:
Tools and Resources for Parents, Schools, and Kids
More about the Minnesotans For Healthy Kids Coalition
Learn about Policy Goals to Foster Health
Ways to Get Involved

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do you know someone who is living healthier?

We want to recognize people who have made changes that will impact their quality of life and improve their health. No change is too small, every accomplishment is significant!

Nominations for the Lifestyle Change Award can be submitted by friends, co-workers or relatives, and individuals can nominate themselves.

Click here to submit a nomination!

The individuals who have made the most signficant changes to their lifestyle will be honored at the Twin Cities Start! Heart Walk on April 25th.

Senator Torres-Ray Receives 2008 Legislator of the Year Award!

The American Heart Association recognized Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-36) with the Legislator of the Year Award at its annual Heart on the Hill event, March 11, which took place at Concordia University, St. Paul. The association honored Torres Ray for her leadership in heart disease and stroke prevention.

According to the American Heart Association, Sen. Torres Ray led the charge last year on health care reform as co-chair of the Health Care Access Commission’s Public Health Working Group which secured $47 million over two years in the new Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

“This was the single greatest investment Minnesota has ever made in tackling obesity prevention and curbing the use of tobacco through community-based initiatives,” said Rachel Callanan, Minnesota senior advocacy director with the American Heart Association. “Not only will lives be saved through this measure, but significant cost savings will also be realized.”
This year, Sen. Torres Ray is the chief author of the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act which would provide as many as 15,000 low-income women with the heart disease risk screenings they need to take charge of their health. She has also helped champion legislation to strengthen physical education in Minnesota schools.
Sen. Torres Ray is the first and only Latina elected to the Senate in the state of Minnesota. She was elected in 2006 by 81 percent of the vote. She has been a strong advocate for low income people, children, and immigrants. Before being elected to the Senate, she worked in social services for 18 years voicing concerns about health and education disparities at all levels of government. She received her undergraduate in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota and her master’s degree in Public Affairs from the Humphrey Institute.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Minnesota Advocates Share their Hearts with Legislators

On Wednesday, March 11, about 150 advocates participated in the 2009 Minnesota Heart on the Hill. These dedicated advocates traveled from across the state (from Two Harbors to Rochester) and braved ice, wind and below zero temps to lobby their legislators about the importance of heart disease and stroke prevention. Advocates attended workshops and trainings in the morning and were energized to meet with their legislators in the afternoon. On this one day, nearly 70% of the legislature learned about these issues directly from an AHA volunteer and constituent in person!

Advocates asked their legislators to support heart disease and stroke prevention through the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act (SF 473/HF 504), Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit (SF 432/HF 499) funded by a $1.00 increase of the tobacco tax. Advocates also asked legislators to establis statewide standards for quality physical education program (SF 61/HF 439).

Couldn't attend? No problem! You can still contact your legislator and let them know you support these prevention efforts!

Participate in MN Heart on the Hill - from your computer!

Check out these photos from the exciting day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Legislators Show Support for Women’s Hearts

A survivor, a Senator and a cardiothoracic surgeon provide heartfelt testimony!

The Women's Heart Health Promotion Act (SF 473) moved one step closer to securing more funding! On March 9, the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee voted to pass this important bill! It now moves to the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Committee.

The American Heart Association had two great testifiers inform the committee about how investing in prevention saves lives and dollars. Natasha Fleischman, a cardiac arrest survivor and WomenHeart volunteer, shared her poignant story about experiencing sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 33. She emphasized the importance of women of all ages better understanding their risk factors and how to address them.

Dr. Mary Boylan, a cardiothoracic surgeon from St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, also appeared in front of the committee and provided information about how prevention of heart disease and stroke can make significant impacts on the health of Minnesotan women and can reduce death, disability and save in health care costs. She emphasized that 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented, but women must be made aware of their risk factors with simple tests. She also emphasized the cost-effectiveness of this program, citing research that preventing just 14 women from hospitalization of heart disease pays for the program.

The Women's Heart Health Promotion Act provides funding to invest in early detection and management of risk factors by increasing funding to the state program that provides screenings for low-income and uninsured women. This program currently screens about 1,000 women. We could increase this to as many as 15,000 to truly make an impact and save lives with the Women's Heart Health Promotion Act.

Thanks to all the advocates who sent letters in support of this bill to their Senators! And thanks to our chief author, Senator Patricia Torres-Ray (62)!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Two State Legislative Victories This Week!!!

Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Funding Moves through the House
On Wednesday, March 4, the House Public Health Finance Committee listened as experts testified about the benefits of funding the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit at the Minnesota Dept. of Health (HF 499).

Dr. Jackie Huebsch, Senior Research Fellow, HealthPartners Research Foundation, presented research that demonstrates the huge impact made by preventing heart disease and stroke. Dr. Russell Luepker, Mayo Professor of Public Health, University of Minnesota and a member of the AHA State Advocacy Committee, provided information about the prevalence of heart disease and stroke across Minnesota and how the plan developed by the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Steering Committee could be put into action with an increase in funding.

Because of these great testifiers and letters from grassroots advocates, the committee members agreed to consider including this important funding in the House Public Health Omnibus bill! Thanks for your help!

Next steps: working with our Senate champions to secure Senate committee hearings and ensuring this funding is included in the House Public Health Omnibus bill. We will keep you posted!

Physical Education Bill is Gaining Momentum in the House
On Thursday, March 5, our physical education bill (HF 439) made its next move in the House Education Finance Committee. Again, we had impressive testifiers who made a persuasive case for the importance of strong physical education programs statewide: Dr. Marc Manley (Blue Cross/Blue Shield), Jack Olwell (PE teacher, Farmington) and Dr. Steven Geis (principal, Farmington).

There are some general concerns in the legislature regarding additional obligations placed on school districts. The Minnesota School Board Association testified to this point. The American Heart Association reiterated that this bill does not cost the state at all and that most school districts already require a half credit phy ed graduation requirement and meet the proposed standards.

Because of these awesome testifiers and letters from grassroots advocates, the committee members agreed to consider including this important policy in the House Education Finance Omnibus bill! Thanks for your help!

Next steps: working with our Senate champions to secure Senate committee hearings and ensuring this policy is included in the House Education Finance Omnibus bill. We will keep you posted!

You can watch a video of the committee hearing (click on the first link and fast forward to the 1-hour mark)

Learn more about each of these key policies:
Heart Disease and Prevention Funding
Quality Physical Education can address Childhood Obesity