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!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

AHA Volunteer and Advocate Laura Schwartz is featured on the cover Connect Magazine September/October Issue 2011

Read all about AHA advocate and volunteer Laura Schwartz!

Laura Schwartz's cover and cover story HERE from Connect Magazine's September/October 2011 issue just released online and on stands today. Laura will be emceeing and keynoting their Connect Marketplace this weekend at Navy Pier.

Laura Schwartz, speaker and author of
Eat, Drink and Succeed! Climb Your Way to the Top Using the Networking Power of Social Events

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New provisions will enhance school wellness policies

This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced improvements included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that will enhance local wellness policies in schools beginning in the 2011-12 academic year. The American Heart Association was a leader in successfully advocating for the inclusion of this measure to promote student wellness, prevent and reduce childhood obesity and provide assurance that schools meet the minimum federal school meal standards. The new provisions supersede previous requirements and expand the scope of wellness policies. Schools are now required to inform and update the public (including parents, students and others in the community) about the content and implementation of the local wellness policies. This victory is due in large part to the work and dedication of our advocacy staff, volunteers and You're the Cure advocates who met with their lawmakers and sent nearly 25,000 messages to Congress.

To view the updated local wellness policy materials, visit

Monday, August 8, 2011

Illinois Network News, August 2011

Legislative Updates:

After months of advocacy aimed at passing a new CPR bill, Governor Pat Quinn has strengthened Illinois’ Good Samaritan Law by signing HB 1549 at a special ceremony designed to bring attention to the importance of hands-only CPR. This new law was written to aid the spread of hands-only CPR training by ensuring that the legal framework protecting folks with the courage and presence of mind to perform CPR keeps pace with recent advances in CPR training.

As you may know, less than 30% of individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest receive bystander CPR before the paramedics arrive. Those lucky few who do receive CPR are up to 3 times more likely to survive. You may also know that the American Heart Association updated its CPR guidelines last fall, emphasizing Hands-Only CPR as an easier to learn alternative to conventional CPR. Thanks to these new guidelines and this new law that protects them, yesterday’s 4-hour certification course has given way to today’s 20-minute training video, making CPR easier for individuals to learn and less time-consuming for public institutions and private businesses to teach than ever before.

As a result, the door to quick and affordable CPR training has opened throughout the state. In fact, we are already seeing results thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, partners like CCARES and the Chicago Medical Society, and the enthusiasm for additional training from large organizations such as the Chicago Police Department. With prohibitive time commitment and liability issues behind us, there is no reason why a majority of Illinoisans can’t learn CPR at their job, with a local community organization, or in their living room in the months and years to come. None of this would have been possible without our national medical volunteers who crafted the new guidelines, and our local volunteers who helped pass this important law. Thanks in part to all of your help, more lives will be saved with hands-only CPR in Illinois!

Working with fellow members of the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco, we scored a huge victory for public health by stopping several bills which would have amended the Smokefree Illinois Act to allow smoking in casinos! Although we won the battle, the fight continues as we expect casino smoking bills to resurface as soon as the Illinois General Assembly comes back into session. We will need your voice and your help again, so please stay tuned! If you would like more information on this issue, please visit: Additionally, please don’t hesitate to contact AHA staff with any questions or feedback.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly adjourned without taking action of a cigarette tax increase. Polls show that a tobacco tax remains the most popular revenue option for state government because in addition to reducing smoking rates and saving lives, this policy would benefit our cash-strapped state financially by bringing in roughly $300 million in new state revenues. We will continue to push this option as state officials consider options to address Illinois’ precarious financial condition. We are grateful to State Senate President John Cullerton and to Gov. Pat Quinn for their support of this initiative!

Protecting kids’ health by phasing out trans fats in school foods also remains on legislators’ “to do” list. Several legislative proposals to eliminate trans fats in schools and/or restaurants were introduced last legislative session. We supported some of the bills but were less enthusiastic about some other, weaker bills. However, none of the legislation – strong or weak – managed to pass because of strong opposition from school district superintendents and administrators as well some restaurants and most bakeries due to their concerns over the costs associated with replacing trans fats with healthier alternatives. Over the next several months we will be talking with all stakeholders to provide accurate information and to identify solutions everyone can support.

What a difference a year (and YOUR voices) make! As some of you will recall, during the 2010 Spring Legislative Session we found ourselves fighting repeated attempts to cut PE in Illinois’ schools. Opponents attempted to diminish the importance of quality PE by labeling it an “unfunded mandate” and targeting it for elimination. While we stood our ground and defeated the attacks on PE, we fully expected to see more such activity during the 2011 Spring Legislative Session. And we were delighted to be wrong!!! Apparently our message about protecting, improving and expanding PE as a critically important weapon in our anti-obesity arsenal was received! We did not see any serious attempts to cut PE in 2011. Hopefully the school administrators looking to cut their budgets have realized that cutting PE will not be as easy as they may have expected and have permanently moved on to other “lower hanging” budget solutions. We will continue to educate policy makers on the importance of PE and will continue to “play defense” as needed. However, legislation in Springfield tends to favor the path of least resistance, and we hope that people’s emphatic support for physical education will act as a deterrent for future proposals to cut or eliminate the PE requirement.

Our efforts to create more efficient and effective systems of emergency care for the very worst heart attacks (called STEMIs) are starting to pick up some steam. Why is this important? Imagine you or a loved one had a massive STEMI heart attack. You would of course call 911 and expect to be quickly taken to a hospital fully equipped and staffed to handle your case. Unfortunately, the reality is that not every hospital has the in-house resources and expertise to handle STEMI patients, which means that if your closest hospital (which is where the ambulance will take you under current rules) isn’t a STEMI center, you’ll have to wait for a transfer to another hospital before you can be treated. Tragically, time is crucial with STEMIs and many patients do not survive the delay.

To fix this problem and ensure that STEMI patients are taken to the right hospital, right away, we have been working with partners and volunteers throughout the state, and can happily report some real progress. In Illinois’ 11th Emergency Medical Service (EMS) region comprising the city of Chicago, the EMS Medical Directors have recently formed a STEMI Advisory Committee – supported and hosted by the AHA – to bring together all relevant stakeholders in an effort to update the rules for paramedics and hospitals treating a STEMI patient. While the formation of yet another committee isn’t always a proof of progress, in this case AHA has been working closely with the Region 11 EMS Medical Directors and we hope to see an initial draft of new STEMI transportation rules soon. Without getting too far into the technical weeds, the adoption of new transportation rules within Region 11 would be a huge step forward for STEMI care in Illinois’ most populous EMS region. Elsewhere in the state, Region 8 (comprising Chicago’s western suburbs) continues to lead the way after completing its STEMI protocol process this past winter, while the state’s 9 other EMS regions are in various stages of preparation for similar efforts. It will take a lot of time and effort for all 11 of Illinois’ EMS regions to adopt new STEMI transportation rules and procure the equipment they’ll need to put those rules into practice, but things are moving in the right direction, and with your help we can improve STEMI care and survival rates throughout the state.

Upcoming Events:

9/17 McHenry County Heart Walk
9/17 McLean County Heart Walk
9/23 Downtown Chicago Heart Walk
9/24 West/DuPage Chicago Heart Walk
9/25 North/Northwest Chicago Heart Walk
10/1 South Cook County Heart Walk
10/1 Southern Illinois Heart Walk
10/8 East Central Illinois Heart Walk
10/8 Tri-County Peoria Area Heart Walk

Volunteer with us:
Are you looking for more ways to get involved with Illinois Advocacy? Then think about volunteering with us! We are looking for a few volunteers to join us at upcoming heart walks to help get petition cards signed and recruit new members for You're the Cure. Send us a note to let us know you can help at one of the above heart walks this fall.

Advocacy 101
Learn more about your state elected officials and where they stand on important issues! Don't know who your representatives are? Follow this LINK to find out!

Become a Volnteer Leader
Are you passionate about making heart-healthy changes in Illinois and across the country? Consider becoming one of our volunteer leaders! Help us recruit and train new advocates, continue to build relationships with your legislators and be our go-to volunteer for your area of the state.Sound great? Send Anne Simaytis an email today to find out more. Or call her at 414-227-1410.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

State’s 'No smoking' law should be obeyed and strictly enforced

The Southern Illinoisan
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's one of the worst-kept secrets in Southern Illinois: In bars across the region, smokers are still lighting up their cigarettes indoors.

It's also one of the most poorly-enforced laws in Southern Illinois, and that needs to change.

In Saturday's issue of The Southern, the issue of smoking in Williamson and Franklin County bars has irked some, and for good reason. No matter how unpopular it may be with some bar owners and patrons, the smoking ban is statewide law, and needs to be enforced as such.

First and foremost, the responsibility falls on those who smoke. This should be simple enough - once you set foot in a public building, which includes bars, the cigarette needs to be put out. Otherwise, smokers are violating the law and unnecessarily exposing other patrons and employees to secondhand smoke. Good citizens abide by the laws.

Next, bar owners need to enforce the law in their facilities. Sure, it may result in a brief downturn in business, but it will be short-lived. You can't smoke in a Chicago nightclub and people stand in line for entry - many enjoying a smoke. Smokers everywhere else in the state find their way outdoors before lighting up. And for those bar owners who are obeying the law and not allowing smoking, it's horribly unfair that they are losing business to other bars that decide they don't need to play by the same rule.

Finally, local health departments need to take it upon themselves to make sure the law gets enforced. With a few weekends of stern enforcement, the message will get out and bars will start cracking down on their own.

Laws are enacted for a reason, and this one is designed to benefit the public's health. They're also enacted with the purpose of being enforced, and some in Southern Illinois are dropping the ball in that regard. It's time to put out those cigarettes and truly go smoke-free.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our Fight for Healthier School Meals Continues…

Last Year: You’re the Cure advocates took as strong stand for healthier school meals for our kids by sending over 25,000 messages to Congress in support of the Child Nutrition Act. Our voices helped ensure the bill, which establishes the framework for the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast programs, was passed and signed into law by the President before the end of the 111th Congress.

This Year: Under the Child Nutrition Act, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed updated national school meal standards for the first time since 1994 and asked for the public to weigh in. You’re the Cure advocates sent over 30,000 comments to the USDA in April in support of the proposed standards, which ensure school meals include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit the sodium and unhealthy fats served to our kids at school.

Today: As the USDA works to review all of the public comments and finalize the standards, some Members of Congress are now trying to stop USDA’s efforts to improve school meals. That’s why we need your help once again. Please send a quick message to your Representative today to ask him/her to support the USDA’s efforts to finalize strong nutrition standards for school meals. With your help, millions of kids will be enjoying nutritious school meals in 2012.