Advocacy News

Advocacy News - American Heart Month

Congressional women came together on Capitol Hill to Go Red for Women.

Federal Advocacy

Capitol Hill is ‘Seeing Red’ for Heart Month

The federal advocacy team has been busy ‘seeing red’ this month as they celebrate American Heart Month. This annual event is an opportunity to raise awareness about heart health, promote policies, share the stories of cardiovascular disease survivors, and call on lawmakers to make heart disease prevention a priority. 

Why it matters: Established in 1963, the association uses this month to encourage all Americans to join the battle against heart disease. In Washington, D.C., Heart Month creates opportunities to connect with lawmakers and policy experts on policies that can help build a world of stronger, healthier lives. 

What we’ve been up to: The Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues joined the association in ‘going red’ to raise awareness about women’s heart disease. The annual Wear Red Day photo honors the 1 in 3 women who suffer from heart disease or stroke. “It is so important for us to raise awareness for heart disease because it’s the number one killer of women,” said Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) who is also the co-chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition. “We need women to know the signs [for heart disease] so we can stay healthy.” Echoing Beatty’s insights was Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), who said, “My mom, like millions of other women in America, has heart issues and it reinforces to me every day the importance of awareness.” You can watch a video recap of the event here.

Senator Hirono also organized a photo with women Senators. These photos include Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, a reminder that fighting heart disease is not a partisan issue.

But wait, there’s more: Earlier this month, the association also partnered with WomenHeart to host a Capitol Hill briefing, “Women’s Inclusion in Cardiovascular Research: From the Framingham Heart Study to Today.”  This bipartisan event highlighted efforts to include women in medical research and the need for more women in clinical trials so we can better understand the different biological risks for CVS. The panel included speakers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, as well as a cardiologist, and heart disease survivor. Gary, H. Gibbons, M.D., Director of the NHLBI said that including more women, particularly minority women, in clinical trials is “unfinished business” and needs to continue to be a priority for future research on CVD.  

Every Kid Outdoors Act Now Going to the President’s Desk 

After years of work and nearly crossing the finish line last Congress, the Every Kids Outdoors Act (EKO) is now going to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Now that it has passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate, this program is one step closer to being a permanent program.

What is EKO: This program at the Department of Interior gives fourth graders, their parents/guardians and siblings free year-long passes to national parks and lands. It’s a cost-effective, common sense way to improve children’s health, support long-term economic investment and introduce new generations to the beauty and wonder of America’s public lands, water and shores at a time when fewer and fewer children are experiencing America’s great outdoors. 

What’s next: The association applauds the passage of EKO. In a statement Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said, “With final passage of this legislation, the admirable work of this wonderful public-private partnership can continue and provide opportunities for many more kids to savor the great outdoors through our national parks and public lands.”

ContactKristy Anderson

Association Volunteer Testifies Before Congress About Patient Protections 

The House Ways and Means Committee used its first policy hearing of the 116th Congress to focus on legislation that would protect people with pre-existing conditions. Included in the panel of witnesses was Andrew Blackshear, an association volunteer and heart disease survivor. 

The big picture: During his Jan. 29 testimony, Andrew shared his story of fighting for access to critical care while also fighting for his life. After being diagnosed with “Valley Fever,” Andrew needed multiple heart surgeries. But his insurance company denied his insurance claims and accused him of having a pre-existing condition. “It was as if my health was being held hostage by an insurer who was supposed to help me get better when I got sick, but instead was leaving me out in the cold,” Blackshear said.  

Andrew Blackshear

Andrew was ultimately able to enroll in the ACA and received the care he needed to become well.

Why this matters: Andrew is one of 133 million Americans who lives with a pre-existing condition. As the administration continues to chip away at patient protections, patients like Andrew could struggle to afford or be forced to forgo health care coverage. 


What’s next: In the wake of 2017’s GOP led attempts to repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Democratically controlled House is reviving the discussion about patient protections and access to health care coverage. So far three committees have scheduled hearings focused on health care coverage: 

  • House Energy & Commerce
  • Education & Labor Committee 
  • Ways & Means Committee  

The bottom line: The association is encouraged by the House Committee’s work to improve and strengthen the ACA. We will keep working with Congress to elevate patient voices, like Andrew’s, and make sure legislation improves our systems of care. 

Contact: Katie Berge

FDA is threatening more action on e-cigarettes

At a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) public meeting, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb threatened to take strong action against e-cigarettes, which includes pulling flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

Why it matters: Teen use of e-cigarettes has sky rocked, with no signs of slowing down. According to new research, the number of high school students who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days has risen roughly 75 percent since last year. According to Gottlieb, while e-cigarettes may help smokers transition away from combustible cigarettes, he is concerned that youth use has reached a crisis point. If youth use continues to increase, flavored products could be removed from the market until they successfully complete FDA premarket review.

The big picture: Gottlieb’s remarks follow a November announcement from the FDA that outlined its plan to limit underage access to e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. This includes:

  • Limiting in-person sales of flavored e-cigarettes (other than tobacco, menthol and mint) to adult-only locations
  • Developing best practices for age verification for online sales
  • Banning menthol in cigarettes and cigars
  • Banning flavored cigars
  • Removing e-cigarettes that are marketed to children 

The FDA has not yet put this plan into action, but the Commissioner has stated that the agency will take the necessary steps very soon. 

The bottom line: The FDA’s actions have been met with mixed reviews. The association strongly supports the FDA taking action to limit youth use of these products and we continue to call on the agency to do even more.  

Not everyone is pleased with the FDA’s actions. Several groups, many of which receive funding from the tobacco industry, recently called on the White House to stop the FDA from taking actions on e-cigarettes. These groups claim that the FDA’s actions are “government overreach” that will hurt e-cigarette manufacturers and their customers. 

Earlier this month, the association and our public health partners responded to these “outrageous attacks.” We’re urging the FDA to move forward with strong and effective action to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic. 

ContactSusan K. Bishop

Administration ‘relaxed’ lunch rules to add more sodium, decrease whole grains 

In early December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule on school nutrition standards that undermine previous healthy standards. Sadly, children across the country could soon see breakfast and lunch options with more sodium and fewer whole grains.

What the USDA is saying: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says these are “common-sense flexibilities” for school meals, and these changes reflect the administration’s priority to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens. 

Details: Nearly 100 percent of the nation’s schools were already complying with the school meal standards that were released in 2012.The USDA’s decision to weaken the standards – despite overwhelming opposition – threatens to reverse the country’s progress toward ensuring our nation’s children receive healthy meals at school, which can help them achieve better health and academic success. 

What’s next: The association believes that all schools can meet the original nutrition standards, despite the latest USDA rule, and is pushing for increased technical assistance for schools still facing challenges. We’ll keep working with our partners to explore ways to push back on this final rule and combat any future threats. 

ContactKristy Anderson

Lawmakers approve 2018 farm bill that protects SNAP, addresses food insecurity

Late last year, Congress passed a new farm bill that had strong bipartisan support. The bill prioritizes the needs of low-income Americans and provides a reliable source of food for their families. Here’s what’s in the bill: 

Keeps SNAP strong: The final bill rejected provisions in the House-passed bill that would have caused 1 million people to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, and another 5 to 7 million people would have seen their benefits cut. Research has demonstrated that young children whose families receive SNAP have a 5-percentage point reduction in heart disease and a much lower risk of metabolic syndrome as an adult.  

Expands the FINI program: Food insecurity and poor nutrition often go hand in hand and remain a problem for millions of American households. Fortunately, the final farm bill expands the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program by increasing funding and creating an education and technical assistance center.

Anything else: In addition, the bill includes funding for a fruit and vegetable prescription pilot, mandates the USDA update the Thrifty Food plan every five years and allows greater flexibility and portability for EBT use. 

It’s not all good news: While this bill is a good start, unfortunately, the legislation does not do enough to improve diet quality. For example, it did not include language for a pilot program designed to test incentivize/disincentive approaches to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce the consumption of sugary beverages.

What are we doing about it: The bill is far from perfect, but it does represent a significant step forward in helping vulnerable Americans put food on the table. The association will continue to support policies that improve diet quality for all Americans. 

ContactKristy Anderson

SNAP Benefits and the Shutdown

Many Americans were impacted by the government shutdown, including millions of SNAP recipients. Throughout most of January, the USDA scrambled to find money for February benefits. States worked to get benefits out early, causing confusion and uncertainty of future benefits.

The big picture: Nearly 45 million Americans rely on SNAP as they struggle though underemployment and low or stagnant wages. Despite being an entitlement program, SNAP is vulnerable during shutdowns because it does not have a trust fund like other entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicaid.

It’s still not over: Despite the government reopening, beneficiaries are still feeling the pinch. SNAP recipients are going to have to stretch their benefits longer than they normally would, since their March benefits could be delayed. 

Even programs like school meals, which receive federal reimbursement quarterly, started to cut out healthier foods from their menus, like fruits and vegetables, to save money and ensure they had funding through the end of the school year. 

ContactKristy Anderson

State & Community Advocacy

Community Level

Helping Americans Get More Active 

More than 3.36 million Americans will now have safer and easier ways to stay physically active. Thanks to efforts by the association, the communities of Denver, Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and Baltimore, Maryland have taken steps to significantly improve walking and biking infrastructure in their communities. 

For more information contact:

Combatting the Dangers of Tobacco Use

The communities of Hartford, Connecticut; Cincinnati, Ohio; Augusta, Georgia; Elgin, IL; and Leon Valley, Texas raised the purchase price of tobacco products to 21. This policy affects over 750, 000 people helping to greatly reduce the number of adolescents from starting to use tobacco products. Additional tobacco control policies that have been passed include a smoke free policy in Pharr, Texas and an increase in tobacco taxes in Washington, D.C. 

For more information contact:

Increased Access to Care

Over 1 million people in communities of Boulder, Colorado; and Austin, Texas will have increased access to care with increased healthy equity funding. For more information contact:

Helping Communities Eat Healthier

Charleston and Spartanburg, South Carolina both passed legislation for healthy vending in public places. More than 140, 000 people will benefit from these healthy vending policies.

For more information contact:

State Level

Increased Access to Health Care in Delaware, California, North Carolina and Washington

Due to the enactment of legislation that limits use of short term/ limited duration health plans in DE, CA and NC, over 44 million will be afforded have higher quality, more comprehensive options for health care. Additionally, North Carolina assured that its state’s two million Medicaid enrollees would have comprehensive preventive health coverage by covering all USPSTF A and B benefits.

For more information contact:

Tobacco 21 in Massachusetts

The passing of a state-wide tobacco 21 policy raised the purchase age of tobacco products to 21, this policy will aid in reducing the burden of tobacco for the state’s 6.86 million residents. Tobacco 21 policies help reduce the number of adolescents exposed to tobacco products ultimately reducing the number of long-term smokers.

For more information contact:

Improving Quality Systems of Care

The 11.66 million residents in the state Ohio will benefit from improved stoke systems of care.

For more information contact:

Improved Outcomes to Adolescents in the State of California

The State of California passed legislation improving the quality of restaurant kids’ meals helping adolescents across the state eat healthier and lead healthier lives. In conjunction with healthier kids’ meals California has also passed legislation for early child education homes and centers.

For more information contact:

Advocacy Policy Research

Who we are and what we do: You might be familiar with the association’s work with federal and state lawmakers, but did you also know about the advocacy policy research team? Their policy positions and statements align the association on issues relevant to our mission and strategic priorities. 

What’s next: Stay tuned for more updates from the policy research team in the coming weeks. In the meantime, learn more about impact of the policy research team’s work, and how their efforts are being seen on a global scale.