Guest Blogger: Christine Wooley, AHA Advocate Leader
Becoming a “You’re The Cure” Advocacy Leader for the American Heart Association has been such an honor and incredible journey for me. Having the opportunity to passionately advocate for causes, like the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, that I believe in so deeply has been amazing!
Writing for the You’re The Cure blog, sending letters to our legislators, and traveling to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and to the State Capitol in Salem, Oregon to talk with lawmakers face to face has been life-changing. Another important milestone was having the opportunity to help direct TMSA dollars to their original purpose: tobacco prevention and education. In April of this year I spoke before the Oregon Ways and Means Committee at the annual budget hearing to advocate for this cause. That was a great moment for me, and one that I will not forget.
I have been a volunteer for the American Heart Association for many years, but it was in 2012 that I had the pleasure of experiencing my first Lobby Day in Salem, Oregon. It was where, for the first time, I had the opportunity to talk with fellow volunteers and legislators about tobacco control. It was also where I started to make the connection of how I could personally battle against the cause of my grandmother’s untimely passing. Her lifelong serious smoking habit no doubt helped to bring about her death at such a young age. Her legacy is now the catalyst for the volunteer work that I do.
Aside from smoking, my grandmother was ahead of her time in so many ways. She ate a diet that was low-fat, low-sodium, and largely comprised of organic fruits and vegetables made from her beautiful garden. My grandfather was a diabetic, so it was extremely important for her to have healthy meal plans in place and lists inside her kitchen cabinets of healthy things that my grandfather could eat. I just wish she would have had tobacco education programs available to her, as I know that with those programs, she may have stopped smoking.
My advocacy work is not finished, we still have a long way to go in fighting for laws that need to be in place, and that once they are, will save lives. This year alone in the state of Oregon, the American Heart Association and its volunteers have made great strides passing the pulse oximetry bill and working toward mandatory CPR training for high school students. The proper allocation of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds will help to insure that our future generations will not die far too young, as my grandmother did, from the most preventable risk factor of heart disease and stroke: cigarette smoking.