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!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Legislative Session Ends: Look at the Difference You've Made!

You Did It!

Thanks to thousands of emails, hundreds of personal contacts with legislators, and our successful annual "Heart on the Hill" Day in which nearly 200 of you met personally with your legislators at the Capitol, we made significant progress on preventing heart disease and stroke this legislative session in Minnesota. You can be proud that your voice made a difference!

Statewide Health Improvement Program preserved despite threatened cuts! While our state faces a historic $4.6 billion deficit for the coming biennium, the Legislature maintained its monumental $47 million investment in healthcare reform by fully funding an investment in local obesity prevention and tobacco control programs. These new resources could save 5% in healthcare costs by 2015 and is the cornerstone of the 2008 healthcare reform that you helped achieve.

Women's Heart Health Act advanced! Significant groundwork was laid to establish a state program to promote heart disease screening for women across Minnesota. While ultimately the funding we requested for the program was not provided, we were able to advance our bill significantly this session! Thanks to the wonderful testimony of our experts and survivors who successfully made the case for the Women's Heart Health Program, the House passed funding for the program. We laid the groundwork for future passage by putting a spotlight on the issue with media coverage at the Wear Red Day Rally at the Capitol.

Physical education was tagged out at home plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sometimes a great policy supported by the most compelling facts does not make it through the legislative process. That is the case with the physical education legislation put forth again this year by the American Heart Association. Thanks to your urging, the Senate passed our bill. But despite our best efforts, the House conferees would not pass the Senate's language on physical education.

Clean Air was protected and momentum builds to increase the price of tobacco! Thanks to your groundswell of support, legislators heard your call to keep our smoke free law strong despite two amendments that threatened to weaken it. Legislators also heard your push to increase the tobacco tax. The American Heart Association in partnership with American Cancer Society led the charge (Act for a Healthy Future) to propose a $1 increase which would save 19,300 lives and prevent 44,000 kids from ever picking up the habit. Though the House passed a 54 cent increase this policy did not pass the Legislature, but the growing momentum increases the chance of passing this law next year.

American Heart Association's CPR standards will be the model for Minnesota schools! The Minnesota Legislature passed and Gov. Pawlenty signed a bill into law that requires school districts providing CPR/AED training to follow American Heart Association standards, or nationally recognized evidence-based instruction including psychomotor skills. Minnesota law does not require that CPR/AED instruction be provided in schools so this is a first step towards that goal. This legislation provided the opportunity to raise the visibility and highlight the importance of teaching CPR and AED use in our schools. .

Next Steps

Your legislators have returned home and will be holding town hall forums and legislative update meetings in your district. Show up and thank those who supported our efforts. Ask legislators to prioritize these policies when the Legislature reconvenes Feb. 4, 2010!

More Information:
-View a more detailed version of the 2009 Minnesota Legislative Wrap-up.

Thank you for joining in the fight to prevent heart disease and stroke in Minnesota! We will be calling on you over the summer and fall to keep these lifesaving policies in policymakers' priorities as they prepare for the 2010 session.

Rachel Callanan
Senior Advocacy Director--Minnesota

Thursday, May 28, 2009

AHA Staffing Update

Dear You're the Cure Advocates,

Thank you for your dedication to the American Heart Association! Your advocacy has led to many significant successes in the battle against heart disease and stroke over the past few years. For this reason, we felt it was important to communicate changes that recently occurred in regard to our local staffing structure.

Like other businesses and nonprofits, the American Heart Association is feeling the impact of the current economic situation. As a result, the Midwest Affiliate has had to make some very difficult decisions. In mid-May, after instituting many other cost-savings measures we also had to implement a reduction in workforce.

Included in the staff cuts was the Minnesota/Iowa grassroots director position, which was held by Bethany Snyder. If you had the opportunity to work with Bethany it will not surprise you to know how valued she was within the American Heart Association. Bethany leaves the organization in very good standing.

Despite the loss of this position, the American Heart Association remains committed to our grassroots advocacy work in Minnesota. Thanks to our amazing volunteers, we will continue to be a strong voice in Minnesota on policies that will help us achieve our compelling mission. We appreciate your patience as we work through the challenges presented with our reduction in staffing. Please know we value your partnership and look forward to maintaining our relationship and working together to advance our shared goals.

If you have any questions or need to reach me, please feel free to email me at or call at 952-278-7915.

Best regards,
Rachel Callanan, JD Senior Advocacy Director--Minnesota

American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate
4701 West 77th Street Minneapolis, MN 55435
Tel.: (952) 278-7915 Fax: (952) 835-5828

Monday, May 11, 2009

May is Stroke Month- Get Your 2009 Soul Food Cookbook

The power is in your hands to prevent and overcome stroke, and the American Stroke Association will provide the information and tools to support you every step of the way. Power To End Stroke is an education and awareness campaign that embraces and celebrates the culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles of Americans. The Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi Pharmaceuticals Partnership is a National Sponsor of Power To End Stroke movement.

Join the Power To End Stroke movement. Registration is FREE, and you will receive a monthly e-Newsletter to help keep you in the know about stroke and its risk factors. Take the first step towards reducing your risk for stroke by signing up now!

Sign up today and get your 2009 Soul Food Cookbook!

For more information, please visit:

AHA volunteer's letter published in the Winona Daily News!

One of our stellar advocacy volunteers and Twin Cities Board Member, Dr. Russell Luepker, just had a commentary piece published Friday in the Winona Daily News and on MinnPost, the online news source. Check it out!

Winona Daily News
Friday, May 8, 2009
Tobacco tax increase will save lives, save money [opinion]
By Drs. Bruce Peterson and Russell V. Luepker

It’s getting to crunch time at the Capitol, and the air is thick with talk of which, if any, taxes to increase. The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association offered the bold Act for a Healthy Future plan to increase the state’s tobacco tax by $1 and to dedicate the funds to cancer and heart disease prevention, and ensuring Minnesotans have access to life-saving care. While many Minnesotans support the ideas in our plan, legislators did not fully embrace it.

Of course we’re disappointed that there were so many health benefits left on the table, but it’s still important for the governor and the Legislature to increase the state’s cigarette tax as proposed within the House tax bill.

Cancer and heart disease are Minnesota’s leading killers, taking thousands of Minnesotans every year. Many of these deaths and the billions of dollars spent treating these diseases are preventable. Increasing the state’s cigarette tax will save lives and save tobacco-related health care costs without increasing the budget deficit. That’s a healthy step forward for all Minnesotans.

Smoking is the single biggest cause of lung cancer and myriad heart diseases and conditions. About 5,500 Minneso-tans each year die because of smoking. The proposed 54-cent tobacco tax increase alone would help 9,700 Minnesota smokers quit, prevent 22,000 kids from starting and save 9,600 lives. A 75-cent increase mirroring the governor’s 2005 Health Impact Fee would save even more lives, 14,400, and prevent more than 33,000 kids from taking up smoking. While the Health Impact Fee helped drive smoking in Minnesota to historic lows, 630,000 adult Minneso-tans continue to smoke. There is clearly more work to be done.

Some will balk at tobacco tax increases saying we simply want to punish smokers, take away freedoms or live others’ lives. None are true.

Most smokers want to quit smoking, but can’t. Increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes is a scientifically-proven prevention strategy that helps price-sensitive smokers quit and prevents thousands of kids from ever starting. With the free services available to help Minnesotans quit smoking, every smoker who chooses will have the opportunity to succeed.

We all pay the price for smoking when we lose family members, co-workers, employees and neighbors to smoking-related cancers and heart diseases. Recent polls tell us Minnesotans overwhelmingly support raising the tobacco tax because they understand the human costs and how our state’s businesses, taxpayers and working families pay the price of smoking in public and private health care premiums driven higher treating diseases a higher tax could prevent. In all, private and public health care providers pay more than $2 billion a year treating tobacco-related disease. These costs are passed on to all of us as health care consumers and taxpayers.

Small businesses struggle under heavy health care burdens, and taxpayers’ dollars are better spent in ways other than treating diseases that can be prevented. Even with the proposed 54-cent increase in our state’s cigarette tax, the price of a pack of cigarettes would fall well short of the $8.85 that same pack costs taxpayers and businesses in smoking-related health care spending. Over the long term, a 54-cent price increase would save $480 million in health care costs, and a larger increase would save more lives and more money.

Although times are tough, we cannot afford to keep our heads in the health care sand, arguing that behaviors like smoking don’t have human and economic consequences. It’s time to be forward-looking and fair to all Minnesotans. Raising any tax is an understandably tough choice for legislators and the governor, but raising the tobacco tax is the right choice for Minnesotans. By making this choice, our leaders at the Capitol can take an important step forward to help ensure the long-term physical and fiscal health of our state.

Bruce Peterson, M.D., is an oncologist and chairman-elect of the American Cancer Society Midwest Division Board of Director. Dr. Luepker is a cardiologist, a member of the American Heart Association’s Minnesota Board of Directors and a Mayo professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

Winona Daily News
MinnPost, the online news source

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Federal Lobby Day Attendee Shares His Story

Attending the American Heart Association’s 2009 Congressional Federal Lobby Day, You’re the Cure on the Hill, with volunteers from across the nation was only a beginning. First, it was an opportunity for me to act on my personal commitment to make a heart-healthy society the norm for generations to come. As a heart attack survivor I was able to share my story so that policymakers know that the laws they pass can and do make a difference. They need to hear from all of us that the funding they give to important initiatives like the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support research and prevention is changing American lives. In this time of tight budgets we have to remind them that sustained funding for the NIH and CDC are needed to ensure the future health of the nation.

I was fortunate to meet with members of our legislative delegation either in person or through key legislative aides. They all want to hear from constituents about issues that are important and should be addressed this session. Once they reach the beltway they often feel isolated and are actually excited to hear from people back home.

If you are reading this blog you are likely already interested in heart-health and promoting a healthy lifestyle. So I am asking you to make your own beginning and do three things:

* Become a part of the You're the Cure network and act on the action alerts you receive.
* Tie your action to your story, a family members' or a close friend or colleague.' story. We have all been touched by heart disease or stroke.
* Get out of your comfort zone and share your story with neighbors, colleagues and anyone who may listen. You never know you may inspire someone to take action!!

Mark Olson
Chair, American Heart Association State Advocacy Committee