Pennsylvania Advocacy Day was Monday, February 4th. More than 60 American Heart Association volunteers, most dressed in red, came to the capitol for a day filled with training on our public policy priorities, a brief press conference on the importance of pulse oximetry screening for newborns, and visits with their House and Senate members. Advocates discussed not only pulse ox screening, but also the need to remove exemptions from Pennsylvania’s existing statewide smoke free law, and the importance of changing the built environment to accommodate more pedestrian and bicycle activity.
Volunteers came back from their meetings energized by the process and the opportunity to make a difference by telling their personal stories. A highlight of the day came from Tara and Wyatt Shaffer from State College, PA. Nine-year-old Wyatt was born with a congenital heart defect. His mother Tara told the moving story of how her son’s doctor luckily identified the defect before they left the hospital. Had pulse oximetry screening been performed, that would have alerted doctors that there was a problem. While Wyatt’s story ended happily and he’s now an active fourth grader and avid Heart Walk fundraiser, other families have not been so fortunate.
GRA advocacy staff are currently working to pass pulse oximetry screening policy in Delaware, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. We were instrumental in passage of similar legislation last year in West Virginia.