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!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Capitol Rotunda Display Reminds About Heart Month

SPRINGFIELD – In anticipation of February - American Heart Month, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the American Heart Association, along with Macy’s, have put up a Go Red for Women display in the Capitol rotunda to raise awareness about heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man's disease,” it is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, and women account for 52.8 percent of the total heart disease deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The display will stay in the rotunda through Friday and consists of three mannequins wearing red dresses.

On Wednesday, February 4, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, will be joined by the American Heart Association and the Conference of Women Legislators in the Blue Room at the Capitol to officially kick off American Heart Month. This is the first year Illinoisans statewide will observe February as Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Month after being added to the State Commemorative Dates Act this past summer.
WHO: Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director
Dr. Gregory Mishkel – Prairie Cardiovascular
Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) – Conference of Women Legislators
Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) - Conference of Women Legislators

WHEN: Wednesday, February 4, 2008
10:00 a.m.

WHERE: Blue Room – Capitol

Thursday, January 22, 2009

AHA Celebrate!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

AHA Panel Discussion on Healthcare to Air on PBS in Illinois

Our present healthcare system is in dire need of an overhaul. Health care costs and insurance premiums are rising much faster than household incomes. And many of us are skipping or delaying needed care to keep food on the table or pay our mortgages.

Only comprehensive health care reform will provide Illinois residents with the high quality, affordable coverage we need and deserve. The American Heart Association notes that in order to reinvent health care, prevention is key. We can reduce the burden of heart disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses with plans that include coverage for preventive benefits to help us monitor risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and lack of physical activity.

Our new president and local officials need to consider the challenges facing heart disease and stroke patients as we struggle to find quality, affordable care. They have the power to change the system into one that helps prevent disease as well as treat it.

To learn more about this important issue, I encourage you to tune in to “Reinventing Health Care,” a special American Heart Association panel discussion that will air on PBS station WILL’s digital Create/World channel on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.. Insight Cable customers can find this broadcast on Channel 220 in Springfield/Decatur. The same channel will re-air the program on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. You can also get more information and learn how to get involved at

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Statement by American Heart Association President Timothy Gardner, M.D.

Statement by American Heart Association President Timothy Gardner, M.D.
on House Passage of Legislation to Reauthorize SCHIP
January 14, 2009

House passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a positive sign that the new Congress is prepared to act swiftly to protect the health of children who might otherwise be denied access to high-quality health care. The legislation would help ensure that an additional four million children from low-income families including those who may be born with heart-defects and legal immigrant children are given a stronger safety net for medical treatment to lead healthy and productive lives. The American Heart Association also supports provisions to expand coverage to low-income pregnant women to reduce birth defects and the inclusion of a demonstration project promoting evidence-based strategies for communities, schools and health professionals to help combat childhood obesity. We strongly encourage the Senate to pass the bill in the coming days and make this an important first step towards more comprehensive reform of our health system for the new Congress and the new administration.

And as the tobacco industry devises new campaigns to addict more consumers and increase their risk for heart disease and stroke, the association strongly supports an increase in the federal excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products to support funding the SCHIP reauthorization. The increased tax on tobacco products will help discourage people of all ages from smoking, especially children and young adults, and reduce future healthcare costs. However, the federal tax increase should be the tip of the iceberg in the fight against tobacco this year. We urge lawmakers to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act as soon as possible to reduce smoking-related deaths and illnesses and curtail Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing practices.

Suzanne Ffolkes
Director of Media Advocacy

American Heart Association
National Center
1150 Connecticut Ave., NW Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202-785-7929
fax: 202-785-7955

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Important Smoke-Free Victory!

A message to our advocates:

Greetings all -

Even as the new Illinois General Assembly is sworn in today at the Capitol, I am delighted to report a major early victory!

As some of you know, the state legislature has been in session over the last several days. Technically, this was the end of the old, 95th Illinois General Assembly, which concluded its session yesterday, on January 13th. The new 96th General Assembly was sworn in today.

At the same time, as some of you also know, the Smokefree Illinois law passed two years ago needed revisions. The law left open some legal questions that made prosecution of violator’s difficult and thwarted enforcement efforts in some parts of the state.

Here is a link to a recent Chicago Tribune article on this subject:,0,265832.story

Usually little of substance happens during the last few days of a lame duck General Assembly. However, due to the media coverage, the public outcry for a completely smoke-free Illinois and the support of key legislative champions including state Rep. Karen Yarbrough and state Sens. John Cullerton and Terry Link, Senate Bill 2757 (House Amendment 1) passed both houses of the 95th General Assembly in record time over the last couple of days! The bill clarifies statutory language and affirms that the Smokefree Illinois Act is legally enforceable and is to be strongly enforced state-wide. The legislature did not want to wait several more months to fix the problem. This rarely happens. The notion that a smoke-free bill merited that kind of effort and support from legislative leaders, especially at a time when so much else is happening in Springfield, would have been laughable just a few years ago…. With YOUR support, we’ve come a very long way!

Here is a link to information about SB 2757 (House Amendment 1):

The legislation now goes to the Governor for approval. (Maybe “a” governor rather than “the” governor is more accurate.) Since the bill passed with a vote of 102 – 12 in the House and unanimously in the Senate, we are cautiously optimistic that whoever is in the Governor’s Office at that time will sign the bill quickly. We will be working on that over the coming weeks and will keep you in the loop. We will also be updating our blog ( and getting out You’re The Cure Network Action Alerts when the time is right.

For now, let’s celebrate an early legislative success in 2009 and hope that it is a first of many this year! With your support, the public health agenda is gaining strength in Springfield and in Washington, DC.

Thank you for your help!


Mark E. Peysakhovich
Senior Director of Advocacy
American Heart Association and
American Stroke Association,
Midwest Affiliate

208 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60604
Tel: 312-476-6644
Toll Free: 800-677-5481, x6644
Fax: 312-346-7375

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smoking ban enforcement measure passes Illinois House

January 13, 2009

Throughout last year, Illinois counties awaited guidance from the state on implementing its new and highly controversial ban on smoking in public places.

They never got it, and by many accounts enforcement was lax in some rural and Downstate areas where the law was never popular.

That may change after the Illinois House voted Monday to amend the year-old smoking ban, specifying that violations be treated as civil matters and handled through an administrative process managed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Absent guidance from the state, violations typically have been treated as criminal complaints. But enforcement stalled significantly when a Bureau County judge ruled in October that the lack of administrative rules meant county courts could not enforce the law.

With all the uncertainty, state's attorneys in some rural counties stopped pursuing complaints.

"You had bar owners and patrons thwarting the law pretty widely and officials declining to do anything," said Mark Peysakhovich, senior director of advocacy for the Illinois chapter of the American Heart Association.

By contrast, most Chicago-area businesses appear to be complying with smoking restrictions.

The problem originated in a bitter standoff last year between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Illinois lawmakers over his proposed health-care expansion.

During that conflict, administrative rules implementing the Illinois Smoke-Free Act weren't submitted for approval.

"The governor couldn't very well tell [the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules] that it had no authority to deny his health-care expansion and then seek JCAR approval of rules relating to the smoking ban," Peysakhovich said.

The result was a "legal vacuum," Christian County State's Atty. Tom Finks told the Tribune in June. "Legally, the legislature has not given us the proper tools of enforcement," he said, explaining why the county hadn't prosecuted a single violator of the smoking ban at that point.

Under the amended law, state's attorneys would have no role in enforcing the ban, which prohibits smoking in nearly all public places, including restaurants, bars, indoor theaters, concert halls, educational facilities and auditoriums.

Fines are $100 to $250 for smokers and $250 and up for business owners.

The bill goes to the Senate this week, and supporters say they are cautiously optimistic about its prospects.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

Monday, January 12, 2009

Midwest Affiliate Update

Dear Midwest Affiliate volunteers, staff and colleagues:

With the holidays behind us—and American Heart Month fast approaching—we are in the midst of our busiest time of year. You are the driving force behind our lifesaving mission, and I am proud to provide the following examples of how you are making a difference in the lives of millions of Midwesterners every day.

Thank you and congratulations to all who have made the following successes possible!

Volunteers’ compelling stories land front page coverage—and more!—in Chicago Tribune

I’m always so grateful and moved when cardiovascular disease survivors share their courageous and passionate stories to help others understand the importance of our mission. The impact these individuals make is remarkable, igniting passion and compelling others to take action to protect their own health. Several of those extraordinary survivors have reached millions of people by sharing their journey with heart disease, and helped turn this recent Chicago Tribune article into a multi-faceted, full-page spread about women and heart disease. Please copy and paste the link below to your internet browser, and be sure to click on the “related links” to read all four personal stories, as well as to view the other resources provided. Congratulations to metro Chicago volunteers Annabelle Volgman, MD, president of the metro Chicago board, and Joan Briller, MD, who were both quoted, and thank you to the staff and volunteers who worked together on this phenomenal awareness piece!,0,4744331.story

Dr. Andy Rauh, Midwest Affiliate board member paves the way to new partnerships

I am so proud of the talented leaders that guide our affiliate through their work on our affiliate and local boards of directors, and am delighted to share with you a great example of one individual’s service in support of our mission. Affiliate and metro Chicago board member Andy Rauh, MD, in partnership with our youth market staff, was able to leverage his local relationships to gain support for our Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart programs in his own community of River Forest, IL. As a result of Andy’s efforts, three new schools have registered for Jump and Hoops (St. Luke, St. Vincent Ferrer and Lincoln Elementary)! Thank you and congratulations to Andy and our staff for helping to expand the reach of our important youth market programs!

Thank you for your passionate commitment to the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association! The work of the volunteers and staff of the Midwest Affiliate is changing lives – and saving lives.

Best regards,


Kevin Harker
Executive Vice President
Midwest Affiliate

Friday, January 2, 2009

Smoke-Free Illinois Complaints Low while Revenues are Up

It’s been a year since the Smoke-Free Illinois Act took effect. Has it hurt business as many people feared? With data coming in about sales tax revenue, liquor license renewals, and complaints, the smoke is finally beginning to clear on this issue.

“At the end of 2007, we had heard from many restaurant and bar owners who were concerned that Smoke-Free Illinois would hurt their business,” said Kristine Andersen, Coordinator of the Tobacco Free Lake County program at the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center. “It was a scary time for them.”

A year later, it appears that business revenues have actually increased. Data from the Illinois Department of Revenue shows a small increase in overall sales tax revenue, and an even greater increase in tax revenue from drinking and eating establishments. Comparing the first six months of 2008 (the most recent figures available) with the first six months of 2007, you see an overall increase of 1.3% and an increase of 5.2% for drinking and eating establishments.

Although this raw data doesn’t control for other factors like the economy and increases in sales tax, it is safe to say that Smoke-Free Illinois didn’t kill restaurant and bar business. It is important to note that the big sales tax hike in Cook County this year isn’t included in the State data because it took effect in the third quarter.

Lake County fared even better than the State as a whole. Sales tax revenue in
Lake County increased 2.6% overall and 6.7% for drinking and eating establishments.

Andersen thinks that Lake County businesses might have done better than the rest of the State because business owners were proactive and stayed positive. “Six weeks before the law even took effect, 100 businesses attended our forums on preparing for Smoke-Free Illinois and over half of those attending were from restaurants and bars,” Andersen said.

In addition, the number of liquor licenses in Illinois has remained constant since Smoke-Free Illinois took effect. The number of liquor licenses dropped less than one fifth of one percent between 2007 and 2008 (through December 14 of both years). “The effect of the smoking ban on renewals is negligible, if any,” said Ted Penesis, Industry Education Manager at the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. “Quite frankly,” he continued, “I’m surprised the difference wasn’t larger due to the economy.”

And while many people think that the vast majority of smoking violations would come from bars, it isn’t true. In Lake County, almost as many corporations have received complaints, and retail businesses rank a close third.

“As predicted, the law is for the most part selfenforcing,” said Barbara de Nekker, Community Health Specialist with Tobacco Free Lake County.

De Nekker maintains records of all the complaints received regarding Lake County businesses.

“Only 87 businesses have received complaints this year, which represents less than half of one percent of all Lake County establishments. The highest number of complaints came in during January, and it has declined steadily since then. ”

Because enforcement of the law is complaint-based, de Nekker encourages anyone who
witnesses a violation of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act to report it to the State toll-free hotline 866-973-4646 or website

“In short, what we see from all this data is that Smoke-Free Illinois is good for health AND good for business,” de Nekker said. “It is clear that most people like Smoke-Free Illinois.”

Those interested in celebrating the Smoke-Free Illinois one year anniversary are encouraged to stop by for a piece of free cake and a chance to win free t-shirts and other giveaways on Friday, January 16, 12:00 – 2:00 pm in the lobby of the Lake County Building, 18 N. County Street.

Sign a giant birthday card for Smoke-Free Illinois, and see the colorful “Celebrate
Smoke-Free Illinois” quilt – a quit featuring quotes from residents all over Lake County. For more details, call Tobacco Free Lake County at 847-377-8090 or Tobacco Free Lake County is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health.