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, April 27, 2009

AHA Opposes Weak Nutrition Legislation

House Resolution 262, which is opposed by the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the majority of other national public health organizations, is scheduled to come up for a vote in the House Environmental Health Committee on Tuesday, April 28 in Springfield.

HR 262 calls on the United States Congress to pass the federal LEAN Act, a federal law requiring restaurants to provide calorie and nutritional information. Although well intentioned, HR 262 supports a bill that was written by the junk-food industry as a weak alternative to the MEAL Act, which is the stronger legislation supported by the public health advocates.

Tell Your Legislator the LEAN Act is too Lean When it Comes to Protecting Your Heart!

AHA Position on menu labeling legislation:

AHA strongly opposes the LEAN Act.

‘LEAN’ Act
Labeling Education and Nutrition Act

· No requirement to provide calories on menus next to menu items.

Restaurants allowed to communicate calories through ineffective means, such as on a sign, on a separate insert, in an appendix, or in a ‘supplemental’ menu.

· Prevents states or localities from stronger laws or regulations.

· No requirement for foods sold in vending machines.

AHA supports the Senator Harkin’s MEAL Act
‘MEAL’ Act

Menu Education and Labeling Act

· Requires calories, fat and salt to be listed on menus of all chain restaurants.

· Requires calories of foods sold in vending machines to be posted.

· Does not over-rule (‘preempt’) states or cities wishing to pass stronger laws or regulations.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Springfield Update….Stroke Legislation

The Illinois General Assembly reconvened in Springfield this week following a two-week recess. They now begin the sprint towards their scheduled session adjournment at the end of May. Although the Statehouse atmosphere has improved dramatically after the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, no one is willing to predict whether session will adjourn on time due to the economic and political uncertainties facing the state. Everyone just says, “We are in uncharted waters.”

As the session progresses, we continue to focus on the state stroke legislation making its way through the General Assembly. The Senate version of the legislation, Senate Bill 1516, passed the Senate and is now in the House. At the same time, the House version of the bill, House Bill 2244, has passed the House and is now in the Senate. We are grateful to our legislative champions, state Rep. Bob Biggins and state Sen. Heather Steans, for their enthusiasm, dedication and hard work in keeping these bills moving!

We have conferred with the sponsors and leadership in both chambers and have learned that all duplicate bills (legislation where there are identical House and Senate bills, such as our stroke bill) will be held in the House Executive Committee to avoid duplication. Basically, this means that SB 1516, which is now in the House, will be held in reserve in committee, while HB 2244 makes its way through the Senate. The legislation currently enjoys strong bipartisan support because it has been agree upon by all major stakeholders. That way, should HB 2244 pass as expected, it would go to the Governor for his approval, rather than having the Governor receive two identical bills having to sign one and veto the other.

Accordingly, in partnership with Sen. Steans, who is sponsoring HB 2244 in the Senate, we will now focus our efforts on HB 2244, building as much support as possible to ensure the bill moves through the Senate quickly and smoothly. You can track the bill’s progress and see whether your senator is a co-sponsor by following this link:

We are asking everyone to contact their state senator and ask them to co-sponsor HB 2244 in the Senate. Since an identical companion bill (SB 1516) passed the Senate unanimously, this should not be a difficult request. We will be following up with an action alert to our You’re The Cure! Advocacy Network in the near future. IF YOU ARE NOT a You’re The Cure! Network member, we encourage you to sign up as more and more of our communications move online. Please follow this link to register:

Thank you for your interest and support! You’re The Cure!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lots is going on with advocacy this week!

While a couple dozen advocates from Illinois are in Washington DC getting ready for our National Lobby Day tomorrow, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL -9) stops by our Chicago office today for a round-table discussion about health reform and the needs of people with disabilities. Since stroke is one of the top causes of permanent disability, we're delighted Congresswoman Schakowsky is taking the time to be here in person! Like I said, lots going on this week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Advocacy in the news....

The following Associated Press story appeared in a number of newspapers and online news sites over the last several days....

Illinois lawmakers look to raise cigarette tax again

Saturday, April 11, 2009By ANDREA ZELINSKI ~ The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- One of Bill McCloskey's gas stations used to sell 110,000 packs of cigarettes a month before a $2 Cook County sales tax kicked in three years ago. Now it sells 17,000.

Then the cost went up again, thanks to a 62-cent federal tobacco tax increase April 1. That's dropped McCloskey's cigarette sales another 12 percent from last April.
Now, with a pack of smokes topping $9 in at least one city, state lawmakers are considering another tax increase of $1 over two years.

Advocates say it could raise nearly $1 billion for health care and reduce the number of smokers, thus decreasing the state's health services burden. But others say cigarette prices already are too high and people wanting a puff will travel across state lines to get it.

"When you lose that sale on the cigarettes, you lose that sale on the gas, you lose that sale on the merchandise," said McCloskey, general manager for nine Minuteman Convenience Centers in the Chicago area.

Gov. Pat Quinn first pitched a cigarette-tax increase last month, saying it would help fill an $11.6 billion deficit in the state budget. He said it could raise $365 million by the second year.
Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg tweaked that plan by suggesting diverting the new revenue to hospitals and nursing homes, which he said would increase federal matching funds from the Obama administration's economic stimulus program, raising nearly $1 billion for Illinois.

The Evanston Democrat won Senate approval of the bill 30-26, without any Republican votes.
He said Quinn and Michael Madigan, speaker of the House where a similar Schoenberg plan died last year, are on board. Spokesmen for Madigan and Quinn, both Democrats, did not respond to requests for comment. The House is back in session April 21.

According to the legislation, the 98-cent state tax per pack of cigarettes would increase by 50 cents in September and another 50 cents a year later.

But the state isn't the only one seeking a piece of the action.

The same day Schoenberg proposed his plan to a legislative committee, the federal cigarette tax climbed from 39 cents to $1.01 a pack.

The combination of local, state and federal taxes gives Schoenberg's Evanston home the third-highest cigarette tax in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Smokers there cough up $3.48 in taxes per pack -- 50 cents for the city, $2 for Cook County and 98 cents for the state.

In Chicago, a pack of cigarettes at a downtown 7-Eleven costs $9.35 a pack. In suburban Cook County, a pack of Marlboros flirts with $7 while in nearby DuPage, it's $4.60, according to McCloskey.

Northern Illinois tops the charts for highest cigarette taxes in the country, according to Tobacco-Free Kids. Chicago, Evanston, Cicero and Rosemont are among the nation's ten most expensive places to buy cigarettes, a list that also includes New York City and parts of Alaska.

That's fine by health advocates. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., responsible for 443,000 premature deaths annually, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The more expensive they are, the less likely teens will buy them and pick up a nasty habit, while more current smokers will try to snuff it out, said Mark Peysakhovich, senior director of advocacy for the American Heart Association.

"We hope this will be one more straw on the camel's back to get people to quit," Peysakhovich said.
Despite that laudable goal, Rep. Frank Mautino said taxes should be increased to raise revenue, not dictate personal habits.

"Do we want to then also make a Big Mac $6 or do we want to put an extra dollar a six pack on sodas because we think people should use less of it?" asked Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat.
And every time there's talk of tax or fee increases, lawmakers fear the loss of business to neighboring states.

Even if businesses stay in Illinois, fewer cigarettes will sell, said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of Illinois Association of Petroleum Marketers and Illinois Association of Convenience Stores.

The Quinn administration has built in an expected 16 percent drop in tobacco purchases because of higher prices. Fleischli argues sales will drop 20 percent, forcing small businesses to close.
"In these economic times, we can't do that," he said.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

TODAY is National START! Walking Day!

Walk more, eat well, and you'll live longer.

It's a simple premise, but it's the foundation of the Start! Movement. Research has shown that you can gain about two hours of life for every hour of regular vigorous exercise you do. You couldn't find a better two-for-one deal if you tried!

It's a good thing, too. The American workforce is becoming more and more sedentary. As a result, our waistbands are growing. So are our healthcare costs and the number of preventable illnesses.

Start! is here to stop the trend. Walking is simply the first step toward a healthier lifestyle.
So join the Start! Movement. See change. And use our free tools to motivate more Americans to Start! walking:

National Start! Walking Day
Celebrate your health on April 8 by stepping away from your desk and getting some exercise!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't forget to VOTE!

Today is local municipal Election Day in Illinois!

There a number of important local elections that could be decided by a handful of votes. So, if you care about the quality of the libraries, schools, parks and municipal services (such as 911) in your community, please don’t forget to VOTE today!

Have a great day all!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tobacco Tax Makes Headlines About Affects on Health

Tax can help health
April 6, 2009
Chicago Tribune

Your article on cigarette taxes "Cigarette taxes burn low end" (Chicagoland, April 2) left readers with the impression that increases in cigarettes taxes are a burden for people with low incomes. These are the facts:
1. Smoking is a health risk for everyone and increases the burden of disease for all smokers regardless of income as well as those exposed to secondhand smoke.
2. Smoking increases health care costs both for those who have private health insurance and for taxpayers who support government-funded programs for the poor and uninsured.
3. Cigarette taxes are a proven strategy to encourage adults and teens to quit smoking and to discourage children and teens from starting to smoke.
4. Over time, the any tax revenue decreases are offset by the public health benefits: fewer heart attacks, pre-term or low birth weight babies, reduced cancers, and the list goes on.

The Illinois General Assembly is considering raising the cigarette tax by $1 and increasing the tax on other tobacco products such as smokeless and cigars. The Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco urges swift passage of these proposals. We need to move quickly to address the tobacco use in our state that claims more than 16,000 lives each year. The tobacco industry wants us to believe that they care about people with low incomes when in fact they care only about profits. It's time to put an end to the myths of the tobacco industry and support a higher cigarette tax to improve the health of all Illinoisans.

--Diana Hackbarth Chair, Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco,0,7173696.story

Friday, April 3, 2009

You're Invited! Learn More About Mission: Lifeline in Illinois

Mission: Lifeline
Illinois Advances in STEMI Systems of Care

Join us for an informative dinner with your fellow Illinois partners in STEMI Care and learn how you will have the chance to advance Mission: Lifeline STEMI Systems in your community!

Dinner Program:
(In conjunction with the ACC Educational Symposium)
Hyatt Regency O’Hare
May 29, 2009
Networking and Cash Bar: 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Dinner and Program: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Presentation and Panel Discussion

Learn About:
Advancements in Metro, Urban and Rural Areas
See how the Illinois Map is changing
Find out how others are overcoming the barriers
Hear how you can Champion the Movement in your own Community

Register (click on link) for this complimentary dinner program
Seating is limited so register now

For the ACC Conference Registration and Information visit:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

U.S. House Passes FDA Tobacco Bill!

The House just moments ago passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act by a vote of 298-112!


Thank you for all your calls, emails and faxes leading up to this vote! There is no doubt that your efforts were vital to our success today. Your quick reactions to calls for help and the feedback you provided were invaluable.

We will certainly share the vote record as soon as it’s available.

The bill will now move on to the Senate, and we’ll certainly call on you once again for help as we look to make this bill law.

Visit for more information on this federal legislative priority as well as other national news from your advocacy team in Washington, DC!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can Kids Have a Stroke? YES!