The American Heart Association has, for the first time, published a statement, "American Heart Association and Nonprofit Advocacy: Past, Present, and Future," that documents the association's longstanding commitment to improve heart and stroke-related public policy.
The paper, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, highlights the association's 2011 recommendations as lawmakers face difficult budget decisions, including the potential slashing for heart disease and stroke research and prevention initiatives. The statement illustrates the importance of patient-centered advocacy to support innovative research, quality care and prevention programs as America's greatest health threats continue to escalate.
"Public policy is a key component for improving the public's health because it addresses the overall environment of where people live, eat, work and receive health care," said Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., chair of the writing group and professor of medicine and director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
"It also addresses something many people aren't aware of -- government funding for research on preventing and treating heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases."
Key American Heart Association federal policy issues for 2011 include:
The 2011 state public policy priorities include:
The association translates robust science into policy that provides a foundation for its legislative and regulatory advocacy activities.
"To achieve the American Heart Association's 2020 goal -- to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent -- we need to fight heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases on two fronts," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.
"Helping individuals make healthier choices is one part of the equation. The other part is public policy at the federal, state and local level where we advocate for health-promoting environments where people can get physical activity safely, find healthy, affordable foods easily and receive quality healthcare."
Previous association advocacy efforts have led to measurable health successes, said Ralph Sacco, M.D., American Heart Association president. These include improvements in: smoking cessation; nutrition standards in schools; CPR training; Good Samaritan laws; and placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places.
"Advocacy around smoking cessation and prevention has been an American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association priority for several decades and is a remarkable example of the impact advocacy can have on reducing cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the United States," Sacco said. "Efforts by the association have contributed to a more than 25 percent decline in deaths from cardiac disease and stroke and a decline in U.S. cigarette consumption by more than 24 percent over the last decade. Despite this progress, 23.1 percent of men and 18.3 percent of women in the U.S. still smoke. This is why we need to remain vigilant in keeping this and other issues regarding achieving ideal cardiovascular health on the front burner."
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