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, July 31, 2012

Help Make Safe Routes to School a Priority in Minnesota

As you may know, this past May the legislature established the Minnesota Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program which was signed into law by Governor Dayton on May 10, 2012.  The law requires the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation (MNDOT) to establish a state SRTS program and account. While the policy language was established, the program received no funding.   

Ask Governor Dayton to fundSafe Routes to School in Minnesota as part of his budget proposal  

SRTS is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bike and walk to and from schools. The goal of the program is to get more kids walking and biking to school, which can play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.   

Establishing the Minnesota SRTS program was a great first step, but now the program needs to be funded in order to be effective.  The Governor is working on preparing his biennium budget right now.   

Ask Governor Dayton to fundthe state’s Safe Routes to School program.   

The SRTS program seeks to increase physical activity among school children and decrease transportation costs. Each funding cycle MNDOT receives millions more dollars in grant requests than they are able to fund - five to ten times the amount of funding that is available.  In the last federal funding cycle MNDOT received 82 applications from local schools requesting $23 million but only $3.8 million was available and awarded to 16 applicants through the federal program.  

The program would be open to all Minnesota schools (the federal program excludes high schools from applying) and requires a resolution of support from the local school board. The law also requires the commissioner of MNDOT to establish criteria for the program, publish a manual on the safe routes to school program, and requires an annual report to the Legislature on the program.  

Take action today!  

Thank you for helping to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  

Your MN Advocacy Team,
Anne, Justin, Ngia and Rachel


St. Paul, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislature has created a Safe Routes to School Program for the state but fell short when it came to funding the program.

Supporters of the program say they will work over the next six months to convince the governor’s office to request funding for Safe Routes to School in his budget and to build legislative support for the program.

“Last year, we made huge inroads in the effort to get Minnesota policymakers to understand the importance of creating a Minnesota-based Safe Routes Program,” said Rachel Callanan, Regional Vice President of Advocacy for the American Heart Association. “Next year we will go back to the legislature to help them better understand the need to fund the program."

Safe Routes to School creates safe and convenient opportunities for children and youth to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The program is designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Safe Routes to School can also play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.

Under the program, projects that would be eligible for funds include pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements, traffic diversion improvements near schools, sidewalks, and other infrastructure to help enhance the safety of those who walk and bike.

One of the arguments in favor of creating and funding a Safe Routes to School program for the state is because the existing federal program inadequately funds the needs of Minnesota’s schools to create safer routes for children. In the 2011 funding cycle, only 16 of the 82 applications from Minnesota schools were awarded funding. In addition, the federal program provides no funds directed toward high schools – a key age group for biking and walking to school.

Callanan said that crash statistics point out the need to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. “In 2009, more than 23,000 children ages 5 to 15 were injured and 250 killed by cars when they were struck while walking or bicycling. Those figures represent 25 percent of all children’s traffic fatalities and 15 percent of all children’s traffic injuries,” she said.

The effort to establish a Safe Routes to School program for Minnesota is supported by 30 organizations, including American Heart Association.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yoga may help stroke survivors improve balance

Study Highlights:
  • Group yoga can help patients’ balance improve long after a stroke.
  • Yoga for chronic stroke patients appears to be cost effective and might help them become more active.
DALLAS, July 26, 2012 — Group yoga can improve balance in stroke survivors who no longer receive rehabilitative care, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. In a small pilot study, researchers tested the potential benefits of yoga among chronic stroke survivors — those whose stroke occurred more than six months earlier.

“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., O.T.R., lead researcher and a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University, Department of Occupational Therapy in Indianapolis, Ind.

The study’s 47 participants, about three-quarters of them male veterans, were divided into three groups: twice-weekly group yoga for eight weeks; a “yoga-plus” group, which met twice weekly and had a relaxation recording to use at least three times a week; and a usual medical care group that did no rehabilitation.

The yoga classes, taught by a registered yoga therapist, included modified yoga postures, relaxation, and meditation. Classes grew more challenging each week.   Compared with patients in the usual-care group, those who completed yoga or yoga-plus significantly improved their balance.

Balance problems frequently last long after a person suffers a stroke, and are related to greater disability External link and a higher risk of falls, researchers said.
Furthermore, survivors in the yoga groups had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling.

“For chronic stroke patients, even if they remain disabled, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six months, or maybe a year,” said Schmid, who is also an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis and an investigator at the Regenstrief Institute.

Improvements after the six-month window can take longer to occur, she said, “but we know for a fact that the brain still can change. The problem is the healthcare system is not necessarily willing to pay for that change. The study demonstrated that with some assistance, even chronic stroke patients with significant paralysis on one side can manage to do modified yoga poses.”

The oldest patient in the study was in his 90s. All participants had to be able to stand on their own at the study’s outset.

Yoga may be more therapeutic than traditional exercise because the combination of postures, breathing and meditation may produce different effects than simple exercise, researchers said.

“However, stroke patients looking for such help might have a hard time finding qualified yoga therapists to work with,” Schmid said. “Some occupational and physical therapists are integrating yoga into their practice, even though there’s scant evidence at this point to support its effectiveness.”

Researchers can draw only limited conclusions from the study because of its small number of participants and lack of diversity. The study also didn’t have enough participants to uncover differences between the yoga and control groups. The scientists hope to conduct a larger study soon.

Researchers also noticed improvements in the mindset of patients about their disability. The participants talked about walking through a grocery store instead of using an assistive scooter, being able to take a shower and feeling inspired to visit friends.

“It has to do with the confidence of being more mobile,” Schmid said. Although they took time to unfold, “these were very meaningful changes in life for people.”

Co-authors are Marieke Van Puymbroeck, Ph.D., C.T.R.S.; Peter A. Altenburger, Ph.D., P.T.; Nancy L. Schalk, R.Y.T.; Tracy A. Dierks, Ph.D; Kristine K. Miller, P.T.; Teresa M. Damush, Ph.D.; Dawn M. Bravata, M.D.; and Linda S. Williams, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) funded the research.

Additional multimedia resources available on the right column of this link:

Follow @HeartNews External link on Twitter for the latest heart and stroke news. For stroke science, follow the Stroke journal at @StrokeAHA_ASA External link.
Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position.  The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability.  The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events.  The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content.  Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at External link.
For media inquiries:  (214) 706-1173
Bridgette McNeill: (214) 706-1135;
Karen Astle: (214) 706-1392;
Julie Del Barto (broadcast): (214) 706-1330;
For public inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721) External link and External link

Dakota County Public Health Department Honored as 'Model Practice' Program

July 20, 2012
 Apple Valley-Rosemount 

The Dakota County Public Health department was honored last week at the 2012 annual conference of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) for developing a “model practice” program in response to a local public health need. The Smart Choices program was one of 39 public health programs selected from 166 applicants across the nation to receive NACCHO’s Model Practice Award.  

Smart Choices was created in 2009 by the Dakota County Public Health department and the nine public school districts in the county to support healthy choices by students and staff by increasing healthy food options and physical activity before, during and after school.   Research shows that improving eating and activity habits improves both children’s health and their academic achievement. Studies also show that healthy habits developed in childhood go a long way toward reducing the risk of developing chronic disease as adults.   

“Recognition of Smart Choices by NACCHO affirms that we are making great strides in improving the health of Dakota County students,” said Bonnie Brueshoff, Dakota County public health director. “We are pleased to have this opportunity to share our work with other local health departments across the country. We thank the schools and other community partners for their efforts to provide healthy food and increased physical activity options for students.”   

An important component of a model practice is evaluating the impact of the activities. Smart Choices teams have conducted comprehensive assessments in the schools, examining the type of food sold in the cafeteria, vending machines and school stores as well as school policies covering fundraising and classroom celebrations.  A few of the key changes since 2009 include:
·         All 70 schools in six districts currently participating in Smart Choices have increased the number of vegetables served daily at lunch, and 26 of them offer salad bars to students.  
·         63 of 70 (90 percent) schools increased the number of fruits available daily.
·         All 37 elementary schools now serve only healthy food that meets federal standards for lunch.  
·         Twenty-six schools in the county have been awarded the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Silver Awards, which are based on Institute of Medicine guidelines and the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Smart Choices is currently funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota through its Prevention Minnesota initiative. The program has also received funding from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program. Dakota County and the school districts have contributed significant in-kind staff support for Smart Choices.   

More information about Smart Choices is available at, search “Smart Choices”.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Closing the Donut Hole

July 25, 2012

In 2012 alone, 15,326 with Medicare have saved an average of $594

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, people with Medicare in Minnesota have saved $62,303,811 on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also released data today showing that in the first half of 2012, 15,326 with Medicare in Minnesota saved a total of $9,106,662 on prescription drugs in “donut hole” coverage gap for an average of $594 in savings this year.

Nationwide, over 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $3.9 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.

“Millions of people with Medicare have been paying less for prescription drugs thanks to the health reform law,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Seniors and people with disabilities have already saved close to $4 billion nationwide. In 2020, the donut hole will be closed thanks to the Affordable Care Act.”

These savings are automatically applied to prescription drugs that people with Medicare purchase, after they hit the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole.”  Since the law was enacted, seniors and people with disabilities have had several opportunities to save on prescription drugs:

·         In 2010, people with Medicare who hit the donut hole received a one-time $250 rebate.  These rebates in Minnesota totaled $16,744,250;
·         In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole.  Last year, 61,367 Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota received a total of $36,452,899 in discounts, an average savings of $594 for 2011;
·         This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent.  For the first six months of the year, people with Medicare in Minnesota have saved $9,106,662.

Coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the gap will continue to increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will be closed. 

For more information on how the Affordable Care Act closes the Medicare drug benefit coverage gap “donut hole,” please visit:

For State-by-State information on the amount of savings people with Medicare have received in the donut hole, please visit:

# # #

Judy Bird, Policy Liaison  -  Office of Congressman Tim Walz  -  1130 1/2 7th St NW  Suite 208  -  Rochester, MN  507-206-0643 (p)  507-206-0650  (f)  sign up for Tim's Newsletter -

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Map of the Week: Finding Food in a Desert

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pulse Ox on CNN

A test that could save your baby's life
CNN video on Pulse Ox

Monday, July 16, 2012

NEWS RELEASE: Minnesota Takes Next Step in Health Insurance Exchange


July 16, 2012

Minnesota Takes Next Step in Health Insurance Exchange
Consumer-friendly marketplace will give Minnesotans simple, affordable healthcare options  

ST. PAUL, MN – Today, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger announced that Minnesota has entered into a $41 million dollar contract with MAXIMUS, Inc. (MMS) to design and develop the technical capabilities, including a consumer friendly website, for Minnesota’s health insurance exchange and Medicaid modernization.

“This contract is a significant milestone in the design and development of a Minnesota health insurance exchange,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “We can now move forward on developing the technology backbone of the exchange, a user friendly tool that will help more than 1.2 million Minnesotans choose the quality coverage they need at a price they can afford.”

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange is planned to launch in October 2013. One in five Minnesotans are expected to use the exchange as a new way to choose their health coverage, compare policies, and help determine whether they are eligible for public programs or federal tax credits.

·        * Minnesota’s health exchange is expected to save Minnesota families over a billion dollars in health care costs annually

·         *The average Minnesota family buying insurance through the exchange will save $500 in health care costs

·         *After federal tax credits, individual consumers will see an average decrease in premiums of more than 20% for insurance purchased through the exchange

·         *By 2016, roughly 300,000 currently uninsured Minnesotans will gain coverage through the exchange. About 200,000 small business employers and employees will choose their health insurance through the exchange. In addition, approximately 700,000 Minnesotans will enroll in Minnesota’s public health care programs through the exchange

·         *Small employers will save up to 7.5% off of premium costs by using the exchange while those with fewer than 25 employees eligible for tax credits will save even more

“Nearly 700,000 Minnesotans are expected to enroll in Medicaid coverage through the exchange,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “Modernizing the state’s eligibility and enrollment system through the exchange is an important reform that will simplify the process for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans while saving time and taxpayer dollars.”

Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger added, “An exchange will give all Minnesotans access to high quality and affordable care and give us new opportunities to address health disparities in our state.”

The contract with MAXIMUS (MMS) covers the development of technology supporting various functions that a health insurance exchange would need to perform. Those functions include individual eligibility determination and enrollment, small employer eligibility and enrollment, certification and display of health benefit plan options and costs, navigator and agent/broker listing, display of health care provider information, premium aggregation and payment, and account administration.

The contract also includes major technology improvements to Minnesota’s Medicaid systems to provide streamlined eligibility determinations, enhance customer service, allow for timely eligibility changes, and promote ongoing program integrity. In addition, the new technology system will allow the Department of Health to provide information on provider quality. Finally, the technology will allow the Health and Commerce departments to fulfill their roles as the certifier of Qualified Health Plans.



Review this graphic for a general overview of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange and how it will impact Minnesota families and businesses.

Review this document for a basic understanding of how many people will be impacted by Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, and how much it will help Minnesota families and businesses save on premiums.

Copies of all IT contract documents are available on the Minnesota Department of Commerce website. Click on the “contracts” tab.

For more information about funding for the IT contract, please review this document.

Matt Swenson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
(O) 651.296.6485
(C) 763.464.0042
(F) 651.297.1959

Follow us on Twitter @MNCommerce
Visit our website at

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WCCO: Obama Signs Franken’s Medical Device Approval Measures Into Law

Posted in News Clips on July 10th, 2012

President Obama signed into law an FDA Reauthorization bill on Monday that includes three key provision crafted by Sen. Al Franken.

The provision includes allowing the FDA to tap a deeper well of expertise from the medical device industry during the approval process, encouraging medical device makers to develop treatments for rare diseases, and requiring that the FDA withdraw guidance released by the FDA that could have created new and burdensome requirements for companies making changes to their approved devices.

“I’m pleased that President Obama signed this bill into law because it will mean that Minnesotans will have faster, safer access to innovative and potentially life-saving medical devices,” said Franken.

Read the whole article >>

AHA Advocate Marla Tipping interviewed on CNN

Local family and AHA advocates Marla and Cam Tipping interviewed by CNN about how the Affordable Care Act protects them.  CNN Interview

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Heart disease in men can be fought head-on,

Past American Heart Association president Gordon Tomaselli and AHA spokesman Russell Luepker are quoted in a USA Today article entitled “Heart disease in men can be fought head-on.” The article reminds us that although the rate of death from cardiovascular disease declined by 31% from 1998 to 2008, the disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States – the No. 1 killer of both men and women.
The story points out that men often suffer from the disease at a younger age than women because they tend to have higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol and they are more likely to be smokers. Also, men are less likely to be treated for high blood pressure than women and a lot of them don't manage their blood pressure as well as women do. However, more women die of heart disease than men.
Says Dr.Tomaselli, a cardiologist: "If you have known risk factors for heart disease — diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – you need to get them under control.” This is the plain-spoken, practical advice the American Heart Association is always eager to share.
Dr. Tomaselli was interviewed for this article many months ago, while he was still president of the American Heart Association. Dr. Donna Arnett succeeded him on July 1.
Source: Heart disease in men can be fought head-on by Nanci Hellmich, USA Today. June 27, 2012. Posted July 8, 2012.

Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke Available Online

June 29, 2012 / 61(25);472

CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention has created the Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke, a new online mapping tool that documents geographic disparities in the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at state and county levels. Users can create county-level maps of nine different CVD outcomes, by sex, race/ethnicity, and age group, and can overlay maps with congressional boundaries and locations of health-care facilities. Users also can view maps showing county-level social determinants of health and health services, including poverty, education, and food acquisition determinants.

The Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke is available at The atlas is designed to be a valuable tool for public health professionals, researchers, community leaders, and others interested in monitoring CVD trends, setting research priorities, and planning patient services.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Health commissioner invites local officials to “Pitch the Commissioner”

Minnesota Department of Health

News Release

Discussions about what communities need to be healthy will take place around games of horseshoes

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger will visit several communities around the state this summer, inviting local officials to join him in a game or two of horseshoes while they discuss important public health issues.

Ehlinger, an avid fan of the traditional American game of horseshoes, said the goal of the “Pitch the Commissioner” events is to talk with local officials and community groups about public health issues in their communities and to raise awareness of the value of public health and prevention.

“Pitching horseshoes is a fun and easy way for people to be physically active and engage in conversation at the same time,” Ehlinger said. “I want to hear what Minnesotans have to say about what their communities need to be healthy and I want to highlight the achievements of local public health.”

The first stop on the “Pitch the Commissioner” tour will be in Rochester Tuesday, July 10 at the East Park Horseshoe Pits, 1738 East Center St. Prior to pitching horseshoes from 12:45 to 2:15 p.m., the commissioner will briefly attend the Olmsted County Board meeting, take a walking tour as part of “Healthy Living Rochester” and enjoy a box lunch with invited guests at the park. Following the games, at the East Park shelter, the commissioner will provide a briefing for local media and share a wrap-up of the day’s conversations. In case of bad weather, the presentation will take place at Olmsted County Public Health Building, 21000 Campus Drive SE.

The “Pitch the Commissioner” events in other communities will follow a similar itinerary, but will be tailored to local needs. Events may include observing activities that highlight local public health in action and visits to MDH district offices when possible. Scheduled events so far include Buffalo (Wright County) on July 31, Albert Lea (Freeborn County) on Aug. 21, and Moorhead (Clay County) on Aug. 28.

Possible topics of discussion for the events could include the importance of prevention in health reform, particularly the infrastructure needed to help people become active (like having horseshoe pits available), modification of health regulations, the impact of policy decisions on health, how to strengthen local health departments and health care reform – or anything else local officials want to mention.



Meadowview Elementary

Midwest Region | Farmington, Minnesota

Running Club & Century Club – At Meadowview Elementary, students are motivated to stay highly active both at school, and at home. Designed by PE Teacher Joe McCarthy, the Running Club and the Century Club are complementary programs which use an incentive system to reward students of all abilities for their physical activity, regardless of what form. During the school day, Running Club rewards students for mileage goals attained walking or jogging at the student's own pace. Outside the school day, students earn additional "miles" by logging and converting activity of all forms. Popular activities like hiking and skateboarding, or group play with friends in the neighborhood; all are encouraged and rewarded back at school. By engaging the local business community and other supporters, Mr. McCarthy has been able to create health-related incentives such as gym passes, tickets to local sporting events, and gift cards to athletic stores. Combined with structured P.E. classes, these programs have kids moving 7 days a week.

Joe McCarthy is a board member of MN AHPERD and a Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition member. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Patients Are the Victors in Affordable Care Ruling, Says American Heart Association CEO

Washington, D.C., June 28, 2012 American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act:  

“The historic decision handed down today will benefit America’s heart health for decades to come. Questions about the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality have overshadowed the law’s progress. With this ruling, that uncertainty has finally been put to rest.

By upholding the law, the nation’s highest court has sent a clear message that patients should be the first priority in an ever-changing healthcare arena.  The court’s action in support of the ACA helps remind us what’s really important – enabling all Americans to obtain affordable, quality health care. We can now build on the significant advances already achieved under the act and truly transform our healthcare system.

Because of this ruling, the ACA can be fully implemented to help reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans and, more immediately, prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years through the Million Hearts initiative. Under the law’s robust provisions, we are expanding access to preventive care and medicines to reduce an individual’s risk factors; placing a stronger emphasis on community prevention and wellness; and providing access to the care patients need to recover after a heart attack or stroke so they can lead longer, more productive lives.
For the 122 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including the 7.3 million with some form of heart disease or stroke who are uninsured, this decision will likely be met with a great sigh of relief.  No longer will they be denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.  Beginning in 2014, these Americans will finally be able to attain the lifesaving care they desperately need at a price they can afford.
The ACA has also placed an extraordinary emphasis on the one thing that can ultimately conquer heart disease and stroke – prevention.  For individuals, the law will continue to provide screening services that help keep risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and tobacco use in check. At the state and community levels, the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund will continue to provide the tools and resources Americans require to eat better, be more physically active and live tobacco-free.
Each and every one of us will need health care at some point in our lives. With this momentous decision, the Supreme Court has ensured that when we are patients, we can focus on our healing and recovery, instead of worrying about whether we can obtain or afford the quality care we all deserve.”