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!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Federal Lobby Day Attendee Shares Her Thoughts

Jo DeBruycker is a dedicated volunteer for the American Heart Association. She serves on the Minnesota State Advocacy Committee, traveling from Willmar, MN and helping represent those outside the metro area. She recently attended her sixth American Heart Association Congressional Lobby Day, You’re the Cure on the Hill, this year. Below she shares her experience:

Lobby Day was a wonderful opportunity to see American Heart Association friends from the past as well as meet new people who share the passion of a healthier America! I was so impressed with the Members of Congress and their staff and the level of knowledge about the key heart issues. Having done this in the past, I was struck how some issues remain on our agenda that have been there prior but we have added new concerns that are broad, encompass all American citizens and it was exciting to lend my voice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AHA's policies move forward in the Legislature: Learn More!

We’re in the home stretch of the 2009 Legislative Session which is slated to end May 18. The Legislature is passing their omnibus appropriations and revenue bills and appointing conference committees to iron out the differences between House and Senate bills. Several American Heart Association policy proposals are still in the running despite a tough legislative session and historic budget deficit.

The Senate heard your call for stronger physical education in our schools. SF 61 is included in their omnibus education bill. Despite passing the physical education provisions in the House two years in a row, the House did not include stronger physical education in their bill this year, leaving schools and districts open to cutting back their programs while childhood obesity remains a growing problem. We will need you to again call on legislators and the governor to ensure our kids get the quality physical education they deserve!

The Women’s Heart Health Act (HF 504) is funded at $100,000 in the House health and human services omnibus bill. This new funding will complement the federal funding Minnesota receives to provide heart disease risk screenings for low-income, uninsured or underinsured women. The average cost of hospitalization for a cardiac event is $108,000 so preventing just one woman from a cardiac event will pay for this program.

Act for a Healthy Future (HF 2194/SF 1990) is an ambitious American Heart Association proposal to raise revenue for important prevention programs including the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), our Women’s Heart Health Act, heart disease and stroke prevention funding and health care access. The revenue source is a $1.00 increase to the cigarette tax, which alone would save thousands of lives by reducing smoking. Hearings were held in the House and Senate, but the revenue source and spending items were ultimately not tied together in current versions of the omnibus bills. Thanks to advocates like you contacting legislators, the House did include a 54 cent increase to the cigarette tax in their omnibus tax bill. While disappointed that this revenue source will not go toward funding the lifesaving and cost saving prevention programs in Act for a Healthy Future, there are tremendous health benefits to increasing the price of cigarettes. We will need you to contact legislators and the governor in the coming weeks to ensure this popular revenue source makes it into law—72% of Minnesotans favor this increase!

Legislators need to hear from you! Thank you for contacting your policy makers to ask them to support the American Heart Association’s life saving policy proposals!

Rachel Callanan
American Heart Association Senior Advocacy Director

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kids Love Giant Shoe and Physical Education!

On Saturday, April 25, hundreds of kids showed their love for physical education by signing a giant shoe at the Twin Cities HeartWalk. American Heart Association advocacy volunteers educated HeartWalk attendees about the state of physical education in Minnesota and how to make it better!

A giant thank you to these advocacy volunteers!
Mark Olson
Dawn Ahola
Anne DeCleene
Julie Maul
Kris Maul

You still have time to donate to our life-saving mission! Help us continue to fight for stroner physical education and other important policies!

Click here to make a donation!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Captiol Hill Gets the Message: Research, Prevention and Healthcare Reform NOW

Minnesota Advocates visit Members of Congress in DC

April 20-21, eight volunteers from Minnesota traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with their federal lawmakers for the American Heart Association’s Congressional Lobby Day, You're the Cure on the Hill 2009, to build support for health reform and boost funding for research and prevention programs to fight cardiovascular diseases.
These Minnesotans joined 465 other advocates from all 50 states to ask lawmakers to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to make funding to fight heart disease and stroke a top priority. Advocates also urged Members of Congress to pass meaningful healthcare reform that is adequate, affordable and accessible for all Americans this year.

Minnesota advocates began the day meeting directly with Senator Amy Klobuchar, sharing survivor stories highlighting the importance of research, prevention and healthcare reform. In the afternoon, advocates met with their Representatives. Check out pictures of our advocates in action!

Dr. Raymond Gibbons, Rochester, Mayo Clinic
Dr. Todd Miller, Rochester, Mayo Clinic
Dr. Mary Boylan, Duluth, St. Luke’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates
Dr. John Wheeler, Maplewood, survivor and retired physician
Julianne Seiber, Arden Hills, Ramsey County Public Health
Mark Olson, Minneapolis, survivor and Chair of the State Advocacy Committee
Jodi Rohe, St. Cloud, CentraCare Foundation’s BLEND coalition
Jo DeBruycker, Willmar, Affiliated Community Medical Centers

All Minnesota Members of Congress need to hear from you too! Tell your Member of Congress to support research, prevention and healthcare reform NOW!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breaking News: Tobacco Tax Increase will generate $168 million

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!

Act for a Healthy Future (HF 2194/SF 1990) is a bold proposal of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society that will raise the tobacco tax by $1.00 and reduce the incidence and mortality of Minnesota's two leading causes of death: heart disease and cancer.

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 that YOU PAY!

Tell your legislator to Act for a Healthy Future!

Act for a Healthy Future would increase the tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack and provide needed funding for important disease prevention programs and health care access initiatives including:

-- Generate around $168 million dollars!
-- $64.5 million in revenue, and the largest dedication of funding, could be deposited in the Health Care Access Fund to restore MinnesotaCare eligibility to 28,000 parents that was eliminated in Governor Pawlenty's budget recommendations.
-- $23.5 Million for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) would provide grants to local communities to implement strategies to reduce obesity and tobacco use.
-- $2 million for a Colon Cancer Screening Demonstration Project will provide colon cancer screenings to low-income uninsured Minnesotans and position Minnesota to receive possible 3 to 1 federal matching dollars.
-- $750,000 each year for the Women's Heart Health Program that would provide heart disease risk screenings for approximately 15,000 low-income uninsured women across the state. Providing screenings to this high-risk population could help reduce the $405 million in estimated health care costs if left untreated.
-- $250,000 to leverage $1.2 million in federal funding to implement the Minnesota Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Plan. Implementing the state plan will improve cardiovascular health and reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke, which amounts to $2.1 billion in hospital costs annually.

Learn more about Act for a Healthy Future!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The HeartWalk is personal to me

You probably don’t know this. My work at the American Heart Association is professional..…and personal. In 1975, my Grandpa Snyder died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 57. I was born in 1976. When I was six, my Grandma Lindemann died of stroke. I never had the chance to know either of these grandparents and share our lives together. My work at the AHA is important in many ways, but especially so that my nieces, nephews and children can know their grandparents and celebrate many wonderful occasions with them. We all know someone who has suffered from heart disease or stroke.

The Twin Cities Start!HeartWalk raises money for important American Heart Association programs like advocacy, cultural health and other health education. The money raised also funds important research to find cures for heart disease and stroke.

Because you are a You’re the Cure advocate, you understand the importance of legislative advocacy and the impact we have made on creating a more heart-healthy state. Please help us raise $1,000!

Click here to make a donation!

Because of the American Heart Association advocacy team and advocates like you, we have saved thousands of lives through the equipping state patrol cars with AEDs (automatic external defibrillators), reducing smoking rates through a tobacco tax, reducing exposure to secondhand smoke with the Freedom to Breathe Act and educating elected officials about other policies that will make our state heart-healthy.

The Twin Cities Start!HeartWalk will take place on Saturday, April 25 at Harriet Island in St. Paul. You are not obligated to attend the HeartWalk if you donate. However, you are welcome to join in the walk or help out at the advocacy booth that day.

For more information about donating or volunteering, please contact me at or at 952-278-7921.

AHA volunteer's letter published in Star Tribune: Schools need to push physical education

Schools need to push physical education
Star Tribune, 4/15/09

The Star Tribune April 9 editorial, "The battle of the bulge is being fought by the preschool set," was spot-on. This problem is not caused by all of us making poor decisions; we've collectively created an environment that encourages too much "energy in" and not enough "energy out."

Right here in Minnesota, our economy lost $1.3 billion in obesity-related medical costs in 2003. If this trend continues, it's projected that obesity-related problems, including cardiovascular disease, will cost an extra $1 billion in 2010.

These statistics are overwhelming. But there is something simple we, as Minnesotans, can do to stop our spiraling obesity epidemic -- both for the sake of our health, ours kids' health and the health of our economy.

As the editorial states, obesity can be controlled by instilling lifelong, healthy habits in our children, starting with physical education and activity. Since our children are in school for much of the week, it only makes sense to include physical education as an important part of their curriculum.

Since 2003, Minnesota is one of only three states not to have PE standards, and, as a result, it is one of the things on the chopping block for school curriculums in these recent years of budget cuts. Further, research has shown that students who participate in quality physical education have higher academic performance.

A bill that would establish statewide standards for physical education and reinstate a half-credit graduation requirement has been introduced in the Legislature every year since 2003, yet fails to be made law. Why? Because we haven't told legislators that it is a priority.

So tell your legislator. It is a win-win for kids, schools, families and the physical and financial health of our state.


A Healthy Future may be in our Midst!

Greetings everyone. I wanted to share some good news this week.

Our ambitious proposal to provide funding for the prevention of heart disease and stroke has passed two committees of the legislature this week! Act for a Healthy Future is a bold proposal of the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society that will reduce incidence and mortality of Minnesota’s two leading causes of death: heart disease and cancer by investing in proven disease prevention, improving access to affordable health care, and reducing obesity and tobacco usage.

This legislation will increase the price of cigarettes by $1.00 per pack and increase the price of other tobacco products by a comparable amount. Tobacco-related illnesses kill 5,500 Minnesotans each year and cost the state an estimated $2.06 billion in health care expenditures annually.

The bill would fund the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit at Minnesota Department of Health, launch a new state Women’s Heart Health program, and create a permanent funding source for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) which was funded for only two years to reduce obesity and tobacco use in Minnesota, among other important health goals.

Senate File 1990 (Sen. Scott Dibble) passed the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division on April 14th and will now be sent to the Tax Committee. House File 2194 (Rep. Erin Murphy) was heard in the House Taxes committee and was held over for possible inclusion in the House omnibus tax bill (this is the process for all bills being seriously considered to be passed in the House). Both hearings went very well with the public health benefits to increasing the price of cigarettes as the dominant discussion.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

Thanks to all of you who have contacted legislators on this issue! Let me know if you have any questions.

Rachel Callanan
Senior Advocacy Director

Representatives Demonstrate Commitment to Women’s Heart Health!

Because of your letters to your legislators, the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act is one step closer to becoming a reality!!!

Earlier this month, on April 6, Rep. Karen Clark included $100,000 for the Women’s Heart Health Promotion Act (HF 504/ SF 473) in the House Public Health and Housing Omnibus bill. With the budget environment this year, this is wonderful news and speaks to the importance of the prevention of heart disease for underserved women across the state!

The funding is for one year (2010) and is structured as a pilot project. Rachel Callanan, Sr. Advocacy Director, testified the next morning in Rep. Clark’s committee to thank the committee for their support and to explain the economic benefits of funding these screenings based on some great research by the Office on the Economic Status of Women.

This is a great victory for our bill given the deficit and the fact this concept is new this year. We will keep fighting for the funding on the Senate side and work to keep it in play during conference committee. Stay tuned for more updates!

Thanks for all your help!

Friday, April 10, 2009

AHA volunteer's letter published in Rochester Post Bulletin!

Higher tobacco tax is win-win
Rochester Post Bulletin
Sat, Apr 4, 2009
By Kathy Zarling

As a cardiovascular nurse who cares for individuals with heart disease, I witness firsthand how tobacco wreaks havoc on people's lives every day. Usually, by the time I see a patient, a lot of damage has been done. It's devastating both to the patient and to the families who watch their loved one suffer.

Each year, 5,500 Minnesotans die from tobacco-related diseases like heart disease and stroke. What's so tragic about these deaths is that these diseases are largely preventable. And, one of the best ways to prevent them is to avoid tobacco use.

This week, Rep. Erin Murphy, DLF-St. Paul, introduced the Act for a Healthy Future at the Minnesota Legislature. This act would reduce tobacco use in Minnesota by making cigarettes more expensive and less accessible to young people, thus deterring them from taking up the deadly habit in the first place.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the increase would prevent 44,300 kids from becoming addicted smokers. It would also help 19,500 adult smokers in Minnesota quit.
Equally as important, this act would raise funds for both the health care access and disease prevention that is desperately needed in this state. The act proposes a $1 increase to the tobacco tax, which would raise approximately $91 million per year.

This $91 million will save lives through investing in five important programs:
• The Health Care Access Fund
• The Statewide Health Improvement Program
• The Colon Cancer Screening Demonstration Project
• The Women's Heart Health Promotion Act
• The Minnesota Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Plan.

Here's how the money would be divided:
More than half of the funds raised each year for Minnesota's Health Care Access Fund would be used to continue the health care coverage of 28,000 uninsured Minnesotans. These families would lose their coverage under Gov. Pawlenty's proposed budget plan.

Nearly a quarter of these funds would go to the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and would be used to provide local community grants to implement strategies for reducing obesity and tobacco use.

A total of $750,000 each year would go to the Women's Heart Health Promotion Act to pay for heart disease risk screenings for approximately 15,000 low-income uninsured women across the state. Providing screenings to this high-risk population could help reduce the $405 million in estimated health care costs if left untreated.

A total of $250,000 would be used to implement the Minnesota Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Plan. Implementing the state plan will improve cardiovascular health and reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke, which amounts to $2.1 billion in hospital costs annually.

A total of $2 million each year would fund a Colon Cancer Screening Demonstration Project that would provide free colon cancer screenings to low-income Minnesotans who are uninsured.

This Act for a Healthy Future proposes wise investments in Minnesota's future. Considering that smoking costs each and every taxpayer of this state $8.85 per pack in higher health care costs, regardless of if they themselves are smokers, I think an increase to the cost of cigarettes is a fair measure.

With this act in place, Minnesota's future will look brighter. Fewer Minnesotans will be smoking, more will have access to health care and prevention programs, and our citizens will be leading healthier and longer lives. It's a win-win all around!

Kathy Zarling of Rochester is a volunteer for the American Heart Association.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Senate Includes Phy Ed In Education Bill!

Because of letters from advocates like you, the full Senate showed its commitment to healthier and smarter kids by including stronger physical education in the Senate Education Omnibus bill! The Senate’s version of the Education Omnibus bill includes policies that will create statewide standards for physical education and reinstate a half credit physical education graduation requirement.

Thank your Senator for supporting stronger phy ed!

Next steps: The House Education Finance committee is still deciding whether to include policies that strengthen physical education in their education omnibus bill. Right now, they most likely will *not* include stronger phy ed. Have you asked your Representative to lobby the the House K-12 Finance committee members to ensure stronger physical education moves forward?

Because the Senate and House Education bills will be different, a conference committee that includes House and Senate members will decide what policies will be included in the final education omnibus bill. Stay tuned for an opportunity to contact the conference committee members to urge them to include stronger phy ed in the final bill in a couple weeks!

Your letters to your legislators matter and work! Thanks for all your help!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Start!Walking Day Kicks off at Harriet Island!

Start!Walking TODAY!

The facts are clear! Walking is one of the best ways to improve your health and protect your heart! Hundreds of Minnesotans kicked off the Third Annual National Start! Walking Day at Harriet Island in St. Paul today!

Heart disease is this country's No.1 killer. But by exercising for as little as 30 minutes each day you can reduce your risk. That's what the Start! Movement is all about:
Walk more.
Eat better.
Live a longer, healthier life.

Hundreds of Minnesotans kicked off the Third Annual National Start! Walking Day at Harriet Island in St. Paul this morning! Now is the time for YOU to jump on board. Join them in the Start! Movement, get walking and start taking a more active role in your health!

Don't Forget:
Sign up today to participate in the Twin Cities HeartWalk on April 25, 2009, at Harriet Island!
Click here to make a donation and join our e-team!

For more information about the Twin Cities HearWalk and how you can ride Metro Transit FREE, please visit

Check out some media coverage of Start!Walking Day at Harriet Island!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thousands of Minnesota Women Closer to Accessing Heart Screenings

Women's Heart Health Promotion Act Passes House Committee

On Wednesday, April 1, the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee listened as experts testified about the benefits of the Women's Heart Health Promotion Act (HF 504) and screening uninsured and under-insured women for heart disease.

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. Judine Pattinson, from the NorthPoint Health/Wellness Center in Minneapolis, shared her experience as the Director of Community Outreach whose clinic currently screens women for heart disease and the dire need to expand this program.

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!

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.

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