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, January 28, 2011

Nancy Brown: CVD cost will triple in next 20 years

The cost to treat heart disease in the United States will triple by 2030, according to an American Heart Association policy statement presented by Nancy Brown on Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C. The statement calls for effective prevention strategies to limit the growing cost burden, which accounts for 17 percent of national health expenditures.

The projected $545 billion increase is due in part to an aging population, according to the report. Cardiovascular disease is more prevalent in people older than 65. Another cost factor is an increase in risk factors such as obesity.

"If there's a silver lining in these figures, it is that they are projections," Brown said. "Unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy environments have contributed to a tidal wave of risk factors among many Americans. Early intervention and evidence-based public policies are absolute musts to significantly reduce alarming rates of obesity, hypertension, tobacco use and cholesterol levels."
According to the statement, 36.9 percent of Americans already have some form of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and other conditions. By 2030 this is expected to reach 40.5 percent.

Paul Heidenreich, M.D., chair of the AHA expert panel issuing the statement, said the study didn't double count costs for patients with multiple cardiovascular conditions. Heidenreich added that the study "didn't assume that we will continue to make new discoveries to reduce heart disease." If our ability to prevent and treat heart disease stays where we are right now, he said, the projected cost increase will occur just through demographic changes in the population.

Watch video clips from Nancy Brown's Natl. Press Club presentation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Minnesota's Freedom to Breathe Act Under Attack!

Less than a month into the 2011 legislative session and the Freedom to Breathe Act has come under fire. Members of the Minnesota House have introduced a bill that would essentially repeal the Freedom to Breathe Act by allowing “smoking rooms” in bars and restaurants and allowing the dangerous secondhand smoke to return to the workplaces of thousands of Minnesota hospitality.

Tell Your Legislator to Protect the Freedom to Breathe Act and be sure to include a personal message on how you have benefited from the Freedom to Breathe Act.

With so many new lawmakers, many don’t know the harms of weakening the Freedom to Breathe Act, nor are they aware of the high level of bipartisan support of the law. 77% of Minnesotans support the law, with 41% strongly supporting it. Overwhelmingly, Minnesotans know that smoke-free restaurants and bars are healthier for customers and employees.

Tell your legislators to protect Minnesotans from the dangers of secondhand smoke! We can’t afford to go back; we must to protect Minnesota's health!

Thank you for your support on this important issue!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

U.S. seeks overhaul of school lunches

The following article appeared in today's Star-Tribune:

WASHINGTON - Schoolchildren would have to hold the fries -- and pick up more whole grains, fruits and vegetables -- on the lunch line under proposed new federal standards for school lunches.

The Agriculture Department proposal applies to lunches subsidized by the federal government and would be the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in 15 years. The guidelines are expected to be announced Thursday.

They would require schools to cut sodium in those meals by more than half, use only whole grains and serve low-fat milk. They also would limit kids to only one cup of starchy vegetables a week, so schools couldn't offer french fries every day.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new standards could affect more than 32 million children and are crucial because kids can consume as much as half of their daily calories in school. "If we don't contain obesity in this country it's going to eat us alive in terms of health care costs," he said.

It comes just a few weeks after President Obama signed into law a child nutrition bill that will help schools pay for the healthier foods. That law also will extend similar nutrition standards to foods sold in schools that aren't subsidized by the government.

Some school groups have criticized the efforts, saying it will be hard for already-stretched schools to pay for the new requirements. Vilsack says he understands the challenges, but said the changes are necessary. He compares obesity and related diseases like diabetes to a truck barreling toward a child, and says the new guidelines are like a parent teaching a child to look both ways before he crosses the street.

He said, "You want your kid to be able to walk across the street without getting hit."

American Heart Association State Policy Update

Minnesota’s new Legislature gaveled into session on January 4th. The American Heart Association is already hard at work advocating on issues that combat Heart Disease and Stroke. Issues like: childhood obesity prevention, stroke care, affordable health care access, reducing tobacco use, and CPR training. Our top priority will be increasing the price of tobacco products to decrease smoking, prevent kids from starting, and reduce future health care costs. We will also oppose any efforts to weaken the Freedom to Breathe Act – the tremendously popular law passed in 2007 that ensures we can all visit bars, restaurants, and other workplaces without exposure to second hand smoke.

This session presents some real challenges and opportunities as we face an unprecedented $6.2 billion deficit, major shifts in political power as Republicans now lead the majorities in the House and Senate, a new Democratic Governor, and more than 50 brand new legislators. The budget issues threaten many important health care programs across our state, but we will be specifically trying to protect the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) that provides local communities with resources to reduce obesity and tobacco use, leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

All of these new developments, new faces and new challenges bring with them many great opportunities and fresh ideas. The American Heart Association is more focused than ever and our policy priorities remain consistent with our goal of improving Minnesota’s Cardiovascular Health by 20% and reducing deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke by 20% by the year 2020. With your help, this laudable goal can be a reality. Stay tuned for regular updates and please TAKE ACTION when you receive an alert. Our success depends on you!

Take action today to urge the new legislature to make heart health a priority in the 2011 session.


Register Today: Heart on the Hill - April 7th at the Minnesota State Capitol. The American Heart Association joins the rest of the Raise It For Health Coalition to advocate for increasing the price of tobacco in Minnesota. Click here to register for the event (you must login to register).

In the coming weeks, we will begin organizing in-district meetings with key members of the Minnesota Legislature and may call upon you for assistance. Thank you for your continued support and partnership. We’re looking forward to working with you in 2011!

Take action today to urge the new legislature to make heart health a priority in the 2011 session.

Your Minnesota Advocacy Team
Anne Simaytis, Justin Bell and Rachel Callanan

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Send a Thank You Message to Governor Dayton for Giving Minnesotans Access to Affordable Health Care

On Wednesday, January 5, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Executive Order to trigger the "Medical Assistance Opt-In" for Minnesota. This Executive Order paves the way for up to 100,000 low-income Minnesotans to gain secure, affordable health care coverage in 2011. It also brings $1.2 billion in federal funds to Minnesota to support local hospitals and other healthcare providers, making Minnesota the first state in the nation to take advantage of the "Medical Assistance Opt-In" at this scale.

Send a Message of Thank Governor Dayton

For many years, the American Heart Association has been working hard to ensure that all U.S. residents have access to and coverage for appropriate and affordable quality healthcare. The Medical Assistance Opt-In is a follow through on the American Heart Association’s efforts to implement healthcare reform as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Opt-In is the next step in making healthcare meaningful, continuous, high-quality, administratively simple, and affordable both to individuals and society and ensures that barriers faced by individuals with pre-existing conditions are addressed. This Opt-In will help Minnesota expand access and include coverage for evidence-based prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease and stroke. In turn, countless lives will be saved due to the earlier treatment and screening for heart disease and stroke afforded by this Opt-In.

Please help us thank Governor Dayton for taking this important step to build healthier lives in Minnesota, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke!

Send a Message of Thank Governor Dayton

Governor Dayton's First Order of Business Expands Medicaid

From Public News Service-MN, January 06, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota's Medicaid program is being expanded to include 95,000 low-income residents.

In his first official action as governor, Mark Dayton signed two executive orders Wednesday to extend the coverage and bring the state more than $1 billion in federal funds. The action effectively scraps former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's August order barring state agencies from accepting the federal dollars.

Republican lawmakers warn the move will worsen the state's budget deficit. The expansion is expected to cost Minnesota $384 million in the next two years, and already is included in the state's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Advocates are encouraged by Dayton's action. Deborah Schlick, executive director of the Affirmative Options Coalition says the decision shows that the new governor understands the consequences of not providing health insurance to the state's most vulnerable populations.

"Because people still get ill, and they get seriously ill, and that becomes very expensive. And if there isn't health insurance for people, then somebody's going to pay. It's going to drain the resources that hospitals, that health plans use to provide health-care services to everyone in Minnesota."

Schlick says Dayton's action also consolidates the state's public health programs.

"We've gone from three public insurance programs to two, and that's good - it's effective, smart use of resources."

The governor's office estimates the Medicaid expansion will protect 20,000 health-care jobs across Minnesota.

Click here to view this story on the Public News Service RSS site and access an audio version of this and other stories: