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!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nationwide 2011 County Health Rankings explore the health of Minnesota counties

Rankings by University of Wisconsin and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offer a county-by-county snapshot of how multiple factors influence health Minnesota's counties are included in a report ranking the health of every county in each of the 50 states. The County Health Rankings, prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, ranks the overall health of counties by using a standard formula to measure how healthy people are and how long they live. Counties are ranked in two categories: health outcomes and health factors (also known as health determinants). Health outcomes include the rate of people dying before age 75, the percentage of people who report being in fair or poor health and the rate of low-birth weight infants. Health factors include health behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. The rankings, which launched nationwide last year, are designed to compare the health of counties within each state; they do not compare counties in one state with counties in another state. “The County Health Rankings help everyone see that much of what influences our health happens outside of the doctor's office and where we live matters to our health," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which collaborates with the University of Wisconsin on the rankings. “We hope this second annual release of County Health Rankings data will spur all sectors – government, business, community and faith-based groups, education and public health – to work together to find solutions and take action and implement programs and policy changes to improve health." The County Health Rankings are an additional tool that highlights the essential role of prevention across Minnesota. “The Rankings not only shine a light on the health of individual counties; they also demonstrate the need to include prevention in our health reform efforts," said Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to make reforms that will improve the health of all Minnesotans, and we must be sure to look at upstream disease prevention and health promotion at the same time we address other aspects of health reform." Local health departments in Minnesota already do extensive measurement of the health of their communities. Minnesota's Local Public Health Act requires local health departments to conduct a comprehensive assessment and planning process every five years in order to identify public health challenges and strategies for improving health. “Our local health departments already do an excellent job measuring the health of their populations, to help them understand what they do well and where they can improve," Ehlinger added. “This is one reason why Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states in the nation." The County Health Rankings are available for viewing at For a list of Minnesota's local health departments, see:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Parrot Head CPR Training

As some of you know, we have run into a specific roadblock in our work to get CPR training to all high school students in MN. That roadblock is that too many people think that CPR training is difficult and takes up to 8 weeks to complete anything significant. We of course know that with CPR Anytime people can receive quality CPR training in as little as 25 minutes!!

So, we have planned a massive public CPR training event at the State Capitol for the beginning of next session. We’re going to invite legislators, staff and the public and show everyone just how easy, fast as potentially lifesaving CPR training can be! To do this we needed to buy a whole bunch of CPR Anytime Kits in order to do the training for free. Enter our State Advocacy Committee Chair and Survivor Advocate Mark Olson! He belongs to the MN chapter of Parrotheads (Jimmy Buffet Fans) called St. Minnesomeplace - and they have a charity fundraiser every year. This year they are raising money to buy CPR Anytime Kits for our training!! We went to their fundraiser on March 26th to provide some free CPR training to their members to say thank you for supporting our work. We were very fortunate to be able to rely on our partners Gene Johnson and Ray Eiler from the MN Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivors Network, who not only provided the training, but set up appointments to provide CPR trainings at some of the worksites of the attendees.

Thank you St. Minnesomeplace! Thank you Mark Olson! Thank You MN SCA Survivors Network!

Friday, March 25, 2011

1-Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

The American Heart Association is a feature member of the Patient Advocacy Coalition (PAC) in Minnesota. The PAC is a group of Health Care organizations that focus on Access to Health Care for All.

On March 25th, PAC held a press conference to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by having patients and families with chronic disease tell real stories of how lack of access to health care hurt their families before the ACA or how they have already been helped by the ACA.

They told these stories to the press and to special guests Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Betty McCullum, Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Tom Huntley, Rep. Erin Murphy and MDH Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Mini-Day on the Hill for Health Equity

The American Heart Association in Minnesota is a proud member of the Health Equity Working Committee (HEWC). The group consists of neighborhood and community organizations that represent Asian, Latino, African, African American, Pacific Islander, Recent Immigrant and GLBTQ populations that are concerned about Health Equity and ending Health Disparities in their communities.

On March 23rd 2011, the HEWC held their first public event: A Mini-Day on the Hill for Health Equity. The purpose of the event was to provide leadership training to community members who wanted to know more about Health Disparities, what the State of MN is doing about them and how the legislative process worked. Despite a terrible late season snow/ice storm we saw more than 50 attendees and the group heard presentations from the HEWC as well as from 6 Legislators and 2 Department of Health Staff. Following the event 17 attendees met individually with their representatives to discuss the Health of their communities while others attended a hearing of the House Health & Human Services Committee.

The day was an unprecedented success as we were assured that a group like this had never assembled at the state capitol and the attendees are already excited for a full blown Health Equity takeover of the Capitol in 2012!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

American Heart Association Opposes Bill to Reduce Penalties for Selling Tobacco to Minors

Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler (pictured), cardiologist and American Heart Association State Advocacy Committee member, testified today before the House State Government Operations Committee on HF 962. The bill would reduce penalties for businesses who sell tobacco to minors. The proponents argued that it was too onerous to suspend a business's tobacco license if they sold to a minor--state law requires temporary suspension after the THIRD TIME THE BUSINESS IS CAUGHT SELLING TO A MINOR IN A 24 MONTH PERIOD.

Dr. Baechler argued: "There is absolutely no good reason to scale back the laws that keep tobacco out of the hands of our kids." Dr. Baechler went on to inform the committee, "Nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking while in their teens, or earlier, and two-thirds become regular, daily smokers before they reach the age of 19."

One third of current high school smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related causes. "In Minnesota that means over 18,000 of those 56,000 kids who are current smokers will die from smoking," said Dr. Baechler.

The bill passed the State Government Operations Committee, but was referred to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee where we have a further opportunity to highlight the harms of this legislation and hopefully ensure this misguided proposal is cut short.

Connect with Your Legislators on Twitter and Facebook!

Want to help post or tweet You're the Cure messages to your legislators? Check out this great resource! It provides a listing of lawmakers in Minnesota who have social media accounts. "Like" or "Follow" your legislators today!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tell Your Legislators to Fully Fund the SHIP Program for a Healthier Minnesota

Earlier this year, Governor Dayton committed to funding Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), keeping the vision for a healthier Minnesota. Now, it is time to tell your state legislators to do the same!

Tell Your Legislators to Fully Fund SHIP for a Healthier Minnesota

Minnesota is a leader in focusing on prevention efforts through legislation that passed in 2008. The Minnesota Legislature and Governor Pawlenty started SHIP in 2008; a program that promised to bring down health care costs by addressing obesity and tobacco use. By addressing these two primary preventable risk factors for heart disease, Minnesota could see a 3.8% decrease in health care costs by 2015 through the full implementation of SHIP. Who wouldn’t want to see health care costs go down by almost $2 billion by 2015?

The program is up and running in every county in the state and nine of Minnesota’s tribal governments promoting physical activity and access to healthier food in workplaces, schools and communities, and reducing tobacco use. But this program is in jeopardy. Please take one minute to help us keep this program going by following the link below to send your legislators a letter urging them to fully fund SHIP.

Tell Your Legislators to Fully Fund SHIP for a Healthier Minnesota

Your action today will ensure that many more Minnesotans live longer and healthier lives, children have a healthier start at life, and healthier food choices and opportunities for physical activity are available to every person in our communities.

Thank you for your continued support on this very important issue!

Follow this link to see what SHIP is doing in your community!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthier Heart

EAGAN, Minn. - Sometimes there's a big gap between perception and reality when judging your own health. According to a recent American Heart Association (AHA) survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans thought they were in ideal heart health, when in reality, less than one percent has an ideal profile. To help people get back on track to heart health, the AHA has developed an online assessment tool called "My Life Check." It provides an overall health score and an action plan for improvement.

Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Minnesota, and spokesman for "My Life Check," says a few steps can make a big difference in living a healthier life. He calls them "Life's Simple Seven."

"The four behaviors are: Don't smoke; maintain a healthy weight; engage in regular physical activity; and eat a healthy diet. The three clinical measures to be on top of: Managing your blood pressure; taking charge of your own personal cholesterol level; and being aware of your blood sugar level and managing that."

Geraghty says the steps are not expensive to take, and any healthy change can help you live a longer, better life. He suggests getting started online at "" and clicking on "My Life Check."

Geraghty says while tackling changes toward heart health may seem daunting at first, the website breaks it down into simple steps.

"When you go on, it walks you through - it's very intuitive, it's a very easy survey to take - and you get your scores, but you also then get direct feedback about things you can do, in each of the measures, to improve your scores."

That address link is

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Embracing the Local: MN Farm to School Programs See Dramatic Increase

Public News Service-MN

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota schools are embracing locally produced food, according to a new report.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) study shows a dramatic increase in Farm to School initiatives in Minnesota. A survey of 165 school districts - half those in the Minnesota - found that the number engaged in Farm to School rose from only 10 in 2006 to 123 in 2010.

JoAnne Berkenkamp, IATP's program director for local foods, says the initiatives promote healthy eating and educate students about how and where their food is grown. She says there are other benefits as well.

"It's also an economic-development strategy that is really aimed at supporting our local farmers and our rural economies. And it's a strategy for building community by engaging parents and farmers and the grandparents, and many other members of the community in what's happening in school food service."

Most schools rated their Farm to School programs as either "very" or "somewhat" successful, and would either continue or expand their efforts. Districts also incorporated a growing diversity of foods into their programs, with apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and squash topping the list. Berkenkamp says the most common challenges school districts face in adopting Farm to School include extra time and labor for food preparation, price and budgeting, and finding farmers from whom they can purchase food directly.

Greg Reynolds with Riverbend Farm in Delano encourages farmers to take the initiative in making those connections with schools. He got involved with Farm to School two years ago, and believes it's the next big market for small farmers. He also enjoys the satisfaction of knowing how his work impacts students' nutrition.

"When it's local, they eat more fruits and vegetables. And what the cook supervisors found was that they continue to eat more fruits and vegetables when the local stuff isn't in season. So it's really making a difference in their diet. They're eating better food."

Apples tend to be a common way to introduce Farm to School to children. But when the Orono School District started the program, says Kris Diller, who supervises the district's child-nutrition program, it decided to attract more students with honey and brought in a beekeeper.

"He brought in samples of his beehives, and he brought in his beekeeper's suit and his helmet, and explained to the kids how he goes and collects the honey. And then the students all got samples of his honey. And then, one of the days, we made cornbread, and then we had Scott's Bees and Honey that day. So the kids knew that came from his farm."

The Orono district has been involved with Farm to School for three years, Diller says, using a range of fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced cheese, honey and bread. While some districts do Farm to School only in the fall, Diller says Orono has a year-round program, and hopes to incorporate a community garden as a next step.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Editorial: Reject challenge to state smoking ban

Appeared in Minnesota Star Tribune on 2/27/11

Public health is well-served by clean indoor air rules.
Star Tribune Editorial

A proposal to repeal part of Minnesota's indoor smoking ban should be snuffed out immediately.
Diluting the state's hard-won victory for clean indoor air is a terrible idea that shouldn't get any legislative traction this year.

A small, bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to repeal the portion of state law that prohibits smoking in bars that also serve food.

Under the plan, bars would have to provide a room sealed off from the adjacent restaurant with floor-to-ceiling walls and a ventilation system that exchanges the indoor air every two hours.
Smoking would still be banned in the rest of the building.

The proposed legislation would also phase in deadlines for bar/restaurants to install ventilation systems, based on their alcohol sales.

Businesses with 40 percent or less of their revenues in liquor sales would have to install ventilation systems by mid-2012; those with alcohol sales of more than 80 percent would have until 2017.

That would give bars several years to return to the "bad old days'' of cloudy rooms where smoke can easily drift into other parts of the building.

The claim that nonsmokers can be separated and protected was soundly discredited during debate when the ban was passed in 2007.

Research is clear on that point. Officials of the local Cancer Society say the proposed ventilation requirements would not remove smoke-related carcinogens from the air.

A 2005 Minnesota Health Department study found that huge numbers of Minnesotans are exposed to and affected by secondhand smoke every year. That includes nonsmokers who try to avoid smoky venues.

Though Minnesota's law has been in effect for three years, debate has continued over the financial impact on bars and restaurants.

Some bar owners say they've had dramatic drops in business because of the ban; others report that their establishments attracted new customers who enjoy eating and drinking in a smoke-free environment.

Supporters of weakening the ban also argue that smoking is a matter of personal choice that should not be impinged upon by government. One lawmaker said customers should have the right to select a bar or restaurant based on whether the establishment allows smoking.
Not quite. Individuals can indeed decide where to eat and drink. But they have no right to endanger the health of those around them or drive up health care costs for other taxpayers.
Smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to lung cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, male impotence, and routine colds and illnesses -- just to name a few related maladies.

A study commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota found that illnesses caused by secondhand smoke alone add nearly $216 million annually to state health-care costs.
Most states, including neighboring Wisconsin, have moved in the other direction by wisely prohibiting smoking in public indoor spaces.

More than three decades ago, Minnesota was a pioneer in the campaign for clean air -- and it took nearly that long to get the exemplary 2007 law in place.

This is no time for our state to step backward and lose ground on this important public health front.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Minnesota Man Saved by 96 Minutes of CPR

Check out this incredible story of heroism by 20 people who performed CPR on a Minnesota man for 96 minutes, ultimately saving his life. You can also be a hero and save a life if you ever witness an event. Watch this video to learn how:

CPR Marathon: More Than Two Dozen Responders Resuscitate Neighbor for 96 Minutes
Doctors Say CPR Made All the Difference in Saving Howard Snitzer's Life After Heart Attack
From ABC News

It's not very often Dr. Roger White uses the word "amazing." But when more than 20 first responders tirelessly performed CPR on a dying man for more than an hour and a half -- and saved his life -- the co-director of the Mayo Clinic's emergency transport team said it was nothing less than remarkable.

"If he had not had CPR, and good CPR, he would not have survived," White said. "CPR made all the difference."

It was just another cold winter's evening in tiny, remote Goodhue, Minn., where the population is less than 1,000, and they don't even have a traffic light.

Howard Snitzer, 54, was heading to buy groceries at Don's Foods, when he crumpled to the sidewalk, suffering a massive heart attack.

While the grocery clerk called 911, the only customer in the store, an off-duty corrections officer, rushed to Snitzer's side and began what could be the longest, successful out-of-hospital resuscitation ever.

Across the street, Roy and Al Lodermeier, of Roy and Al's Auto Service, heard the commotion and hurried over.

"He wasn't breathing," Al Lodermeier said. "He was in trouble and that's when we started doing CPR."

As news spread, the numbers grew. The team of first responders in Goodhue is made up entirely of volunteers. In total, about two dozen pairs of hands worked to the point of exhaustion to save Snitzer's life in a CPR marathon.

"We just lined up and when one guy had enough, the next guy jumped in," Roy Lodermeier said. "That's how it went."

Candace Koehn, the off-duty corrections officer who was first on the scene, said the group worked as a team.

"Usually," Koehn said, "there was someone on the sidelines saying, 'Hey, you want me to take over? You need a break?'"

When the paramedics arrived via helicopter, they witnessed an astonishing scene. Mary Svoboda, a Mayo Clinic flight nurse who flew in on the emergency helicopter, said "it was unbelievable. There were probably 20 in line, waiting their turn to do CPR. They just kept cycling through."

The marathon CPR went on for 96 minutes. First responders shocked Snitzer's heart 12 times, and they administered intravenous drugs. When they finally had a pulse and a regular heart beat a, Snitzer was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic.

After 10 days, he was released from the hospital -- miraculously healthy, and incredibly grateful.
"My heart wasn't pumping anything, so the only thing that was pumping my blood was those guys doing CPR," he said.

Snitzer, a relatively new addition to Goodhue, reunited with those who worked to save his life on Tuesday at the town's fire station.

"I think it's the quality of the person," he said. "We're in small-town America, hard-working people. I happened to have a king-size heart attack in the right place and the right time, and these guys would not give up."

He came to thank his neighbors -- no longer strangers. People who simply would not quit when he needed them most.

"I feel like I have a responsibility to them to live the best life possible and honor the effort they made," Snitzer said.