Monday, June 25, 2012

My Trip to Washington D.C. - Making a Difference

Guest Blogger and American Heart Association Volunteer Leader, Doug Chew talks about his recent trip to Washington D.C. where he met with lawmakers to advocate for NIH research for heart disease.

The American Heart Association gave me an opportunity to make a difference on June 6th when I traveled with Dr. Isabella Grumbach from the University of Iowa to Washington D.C., to lobby Senators Grassley and Harkin, and Representatives Boswell and Loebsack to protect the National Institute of Health from the funding cuts scheduled for January of 2013. Dr. Grumach was invited because she is head of a medical research lab at the University of Iowa concerning heart disease; I was invited because I survived a serious heart event in December of 2008. Along with Kristy Anderson of the American Heart Association we personally met with both Senators and the staff of congressmen Boswell and Loebsack.

Our message was strong: Dr. Grumbach described the important genetic research she was doing to prevent and even reverse heart disease. With such advances in genetic research, there has never been a better time to focus resources on cure and prevention of heart disease. Yet, cuts in medical research jeopardize our nation's status as the world leader in medical research, as other countries increase their investment by double digits. In addition, declining funding will cost Iowans well-paying research jobs, among them the cutting-edge jobs that can spin off into new entrepreneurial enterprises.

There is also the personal side of heart disease. I am alive because of the advances in research in heart disease. I represent thousands of heart disease survivors and, sadly, thousands of people who did not survive it. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America. We asked that Congress use all our resources to stop this deadly killer.

Did we make a difference? Here is one response we received from Senator Grassley's office: "Thanks for taking the time to come out here and tell us your story. Your personal advocacy really does make a difference. Let me know if I can do anything for you. "

Each of us has a role to play in the fight against heart disease. I am grateful to the American Heart Association to allow me to speak on their behalf in Washington DC.

Doug Chew
Volunteer, American Heart Association

Friday, February 24, 2012

Breaking News: White House Event Live Streaming TODAY

TODAY, some 70 AHA volunteers from across the country are at the White House Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health. There are 14 volunteers from the Midwest attending this exciting event. In addition, AHA volunteers are joined by volunteers from partner Women Heart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and other groups committed to improving cardiovascular health totaling some 150 participants.

Event participants will engage in a thoughtful dialogue with administration officials and discuss the concerns and challenges facing heart and stroke patients and those at risk. The day will consist of panel discussions, break-out sessions, and a town hall forum with administration leaders.

We just learned some great news from the White House – they are streaming it LIVE NOW. The morning portion can be viewed from 9am to 12pm EST tomorrow. To watch this event live, visit

You can also follow updates and join in today’s discussion through Twitter and Facebook:

1) Follow the @AmHeartAdvocacy Twitter feed and share your own thoughts and comments using the #HeartAtTheWH hashtag. From 3:30-4:15, Jon Carson (@JonCarson44), Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement will host a Tweet-Up with AHA volunteer-advocates to answer questions, so be sure to join us!

2) Follow event highlights through posts, pictures, and videos on the You’re the Cure Facebook page. Comment, share, and post your own thoughts about this special event.

Looking for more information about the event? Read the You’re the Cure blog for updates and profiles of volunteers attending today’s event.

Thank you for your continued passion for the lifesaving work of the American Heart Association.

You’re the Cure!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Iowa 2011 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

The Iowa 2011 legislative session just wrapped up last Thursday after 172 days, the 3rd longest session in Iowa’s history and right before the midnight deadline. Many of the final budget bills ended up going to conference committees’ where they came to final agreements. A big THANK YOU goes out to you and the rest of our You’re the Cure advocates! Your countless letters of support, e-mails, phone calls, and visits with legislators were vital in our fight for heart healthy policies in Iowa.

This legislative session we played a lot of defense. We will now shift our focus to planning for next year, putting together our legislative priorities, educating lawmakers with your help and building our volunteer base to make our voice even stronger next year. We look forward to working with the Governor’s office and the Iowa Department of Public Health on the Governor’s initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state!

The following report from our American Heart Association Iowa Government Relations Director, Stacy Frelund, wraps up this legislative session. Make sure to check out the end of the report where I list several ways you can help us in our mission to fight heart disease and stroke:

Drastic Cuts to the Tobacco Control Prevention and Cessation Program
As you know, one of the issues we were following to the very end was funding for the Tobacco Control Prevention and Cessation Program. Although we were able to protect funding for the program for the current fiscal year, we did not fare as well when it came to the FY 2012 budget. The drama of the session began to unfold with the final budget bills. The House and Senate found it difficult to agree on many aspects of the budget so there were closed-door negotiations during the last couple months of session. One of the major sticking points was funding of the Health and Human Services Appropriations budget and funding for the tobacco control program.

Despite the huge effort by our advocates, staff and partners within the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance - the funding for the program suffered a cut of over $5 million with the final number at $2.8 million. This drastic cut will impact the services provided by the program and we will be working with our partners to maintain what we can in order to have the most impact moving forward. Since the programs creation more than a decade ago, the adult smoking rate has declined dramatically from 23% to 14% and has helped save thousands of lives. Thank you to all the legislators who fought to keep funding for this program including Sen. Jack Hatch and Rep. Lisa Heddens. We will be working hard to help restore this funding next session.

Special thanks goes out to Barbara Magee, a You’re the Cure advocate who testified at a public hearing about her personal story of losing her father to heart disease due to smoking and why she felt the funding should not be cut. Please know that this funding cut has no reflection on the amount of support and effort put forth by our advocates…you all are essential to this process and we are very thankful for your support throughout the legislative session.

Protecting the Healthy Kids Act and CPR Requirement for High School Students
The Healthy Kids Act was passed in 2008 making Iowa currently the only state to include CPR as part of high school graduation requirements. It also includes two other major provisions we want to protect which are nutrition requirements and physical activity requirements. In the beginning of the legislative session, there was a bill introduced that would completely repeal the Healthy Kids Act.

In addition to meeting with Governor Branstad’s staff several times, I testified on behalf of the AHA at the subcommittee meeting in support of the act along with Ken Daley from Iowa Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. At the end of the meeting the committee members decided that they were going to rework the bill and then later decided they were not going to pursue this legislation. This was our first victory of the year but later we discovered they were going to focus their efforts on repealing the CPR requirement.

Next, a bill to repeal the CPR training requirement for high school students was introduced. Several You're the Cure advocates played vital roles in our fight to save the requirement. At the subcommittee meeting, Nick Jarosh and I talked to the members about the importance of this existing law. Diana Harness also made several trips to the Capitol to speak with legislators about the importance of the requirement. Janet and Terry Whitney along with their daughter Erica Whitney-Kearns, who saved her father’s life by using CPR that she had learned in high school, made the trip to Des Moines and shared their story with several lawmakers. Butch and Susie Gibbs were outstanding advocates as usual - in addition to consistantly meeting with lawmakers to stress the importance of training, they also initiated a proclamation signing by the Governor in recognition of CPR/AED Awareness Week.

We raised doubts among a few of the members and although it was passed out of the subcommittee, it did not make it to the full education committee thanks in part to House Education Committee Chair Rep. Greg Forristall. We also want to thank Rep. Curt Hanson and Rep. Kevin Koester for all their support on this issue. For now, the CPR requirement remains intact!

Thank you to all of the volunteers and staff who helped save this law by talking with their legislators throughout the session. Please continue to talk to your legislators because there is a good chance we will be defending the CPR graduation requirement next year. In order to show the amount of support this law has across this state, we have been working with groups, organizations and businesses across the state to sign onto a letter describing the effectiveness of the CPR requirement in schools. If you are interested in signing onto this letter, please email me at

Farm to School Legislation
SF 509, the agriculture appropriation bill passed with an allocation of $75,000 and a cost sharing agreement with Iowa State University for a local food and farm program initiative. This legislation was passed to help expand production of local foods including fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts as well as other local food products. We are going to work with the overseeing board and the coordinator to see if there are more opportunities to get these local fruits and vegetable to schools throughout our state. This will help with the American Heart Association’s overall goal of stopping the childhood obesity epidemic. Click here to see more details of this bill - the language is found on page 8.

Stroke Task Force Update
We are working with our partners on the Stroke Task Force to implement the legislation passed last year regarding the Iowa Stroke Triage System and Stroke Registry. The final implementation plan, created by the Iowa Department of Public Health was shared with key legislators and we will be working with the Task Force on the next steps to implement this plan in Iowa.

Legislation That Did Not Move This Session

Improving the Smoke Free Air Act
This session we released a poll that found that 79% of Iowa voters feel the Smoke free Air Act (SFAA) has made Iowa a better place to live. We released this poll along with other members of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance to help prove the case on the importance of having our casinos become smoke free. Support for the law is so strong, 73% of Iowa voters do not want the law repealed, and in fact, 63% want to see it expanded to cover non-tribal casinos.

Since the law was implemented in 2008, smoking has continued on gaming floors of Iowa’s non-tribal casinos. Secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,400 lung cancer deaths in otherwise healthy nonsmokers and 46,000 deaths from heart disease annually. A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that 100% smoke free workplace policies are the only effective way to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.

We introduced legislation in both the House and Senate (HF 412 and SF 283) to improve the Smoke Free Air Act by including non-tribal casinos in places protected by the law. Unfortunately, the bills to close the loophole in the Smoke Free Air Act on the casino exemption did not make it through the funnel period. We had one glimmer of opportunity when Sen. Matt McCoy added an amendment in subcommittee to the online gambling bill (SF 458) to make casinos smoke free. This helped keep the issue out in the public’s eye for a little while longer but it unfortunately was ruled non-germane on the Senate floor. We will continue to educate the public on the dangers of second-hand smoke and stress the importance of protecting all workers in the state of Iowa.

Tobacco Free Schools
The tobacco frees schools legislation died in the second funnel which surprised many people given the support of schools, legislators and the public. This legislation would have ensured that everyone on school grounds is prohibited from using tobacco products. HF 414 did come out of the Education committee in each chamber so this will help us try to pass this legislation next year. Although some schools have enacted this policy, we are working to make sure all schools are consistent throughout the state. Together with our partners from Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance, we would like people on school grounds exhibiting role model behavior, setting an example for our youth to follow.

Dissolvable Tobacco Products
SF 281 is another bill we have been working on that would restrict the sale of some dissolvable tobacco or nicotine products. This bill was created because of some of the newer products that seem to be marketed to youth because of their appearance (similar to candy or gum) and flavor (cherry, strawberry, orange, etc.) This bill did make it through the funnel and will continue to work with legislators to get it passed this session.

Insurance Exchange Bills
We have been closely monitoring the Insurance exchange bills that have been passed out of Human Resources committees in each of the chambers. We are using an evaluative tool to measure the effectiveness of these provisions for heart patients. All three insurance exchange bills did not move this session and the state will need to decide on what the next step will be to implement an insurance exchange. It will be interesting to see the legislation passed by other states, what is rolled out by the federal government. We will continue to ensure that they are thinking about the treatment of heart patients when considering these bills and will keep you posted.

Final Thoughts….
In the midst of this busy session, the legislature passed the new congressional district maps where 27 legislators will be competing with fellow incumbents in the Iowa House, and 2 incumbents, Con. Leonard Boswell and Con. Tom Latham, will be competing to represent the same district. Click here for more information.

Gov. Branstad has until July 30th to act on the appropriation bills. If anything should change due to his actions, we will provide an update.

The political season is in full swing when you add this into the presidential candidate visits and caucuses we have ahead of us.

How Can You Help? TAKE ACTION
Are you interested in getting more involved in advocacy? Just reply to this email to reach out to Christy Dreiling, Regional Grassroots Advocacy Director to learn about some new advocacy volunteer activities in your community!

You can help us build our advocate network in order to make our voices even stronger for next session. We are always needing more advocates like yourself to help us reach out to legislators and make our voice stronger. It is so important that they are hearing personal stories from their constituents! Please consider telling a friend to join our You're the Cure Network!

Share Your Story! Do you have a story about how heart disease or stroke has affected your life or the life of someone you love? Share your story with us! Patient stories help bring the facts to life for lawmakers and fellow advocates.

Please stay tuned to find out how you can help us with our life-saving mission. As always, thank you for everything you do. We appreciate your support of the American Heart Association.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CPR and AED Awareness Week - Got a Minute?

Got a minute? Then you can learn how to save someone’s life during CPR/AED Awareness Week which starts today!

CPR saves lives, it's that simple. If someone you loved suddenly collapsed and needed CPR, would you know what to do?

Simply put: The life you save with CPR is most likely to be someone you love. Sadly, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. This alarming statistic could hit close to home, because home is exactly where 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur.

While we hope you never have to use it, it is good to know you could respond in an emergency if necessary. After you click on the Action Alert above, please take a minute to visit and learn how to perform Hands Only CPR. Once you have learned CPR, give 5 people you care about the power to save lives by sharing the video with them.

It could save the life of someone you love.