Did you know Texas ranks 47th for voter turnout, and some of our Austin City Council members won their seats with only a few thousand votes? A few thousand votes! I vote, I volunteer, and yet I still felt like something was missing from my civic engagement. That's why I was so excited to join the inaugural Leaders with Heart policy academy cohort through the American Heart Association.
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Being part of this policy academy has been such a galvanizing experience allowing me to work alongside other passionate leaders -- with diverse backgrounds in law, public health, communications, and more -- to advocate for greater equity in our community. We came into this experience several months ago knowing what we wanted -- a more equitable city for all -- and thanks to AHA we now have the tools to advocate for it.
We've enjoyed training in topics ranging from how to engage local government, to the state of health in Austin, to using media and digital advocacy to frame issues to effectively connect with communities. We all know Austin is consistently ranked a top place to live, but did you know it was also ranked the most economically segregated city? When it comes to health, race is unfortunately still the best predictor of quality of life in Austin. Black Austinites die of heart disease at disproportionately high rates, children of color are more likely to live in poverty, and across the city 26% of our children are food insecure. We know that these types of "social determinants of health" make a huge difference in achieving AHA's mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
That's why to promote greater health equity, this first Leaders with Heart cohort is supporting the affordable housing bond in the City's upcoming November election. As I learned in the policy academy, a city's budget is really its most profound policy document - if you're not putting money in it, you're not serious about it. And I'm serious about wanting to live in a city where poverty and discrimination are not an obstacle to achieving a healthy quality of life. We hope you will join us! Thank you to AHA's advocacy team for supporting us in this journey.
Amy Knop-Narbutis is a member of the inaugural Leaders with Heart policy academy cohort. Amy is a research analyst for Upbring, a child welfare agency committed to breaking the cycle of child abuse in Texas. She builds Upbring’s thought leadership presence by overseeing multiple statewide research efforts, such as partnering with UT-Austin to conduct a longitudinal study of youth in foster care, and coordinating efforts to measure shared outcomes between community stakeholders. She is also a long-time volunteer ESL instructor with Casa Marianella, serves as a team leader for ECHO’s annual Point-In-Time count, and tutors middle school students through Communities in Schools. She graduated first in her class from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She previously lived in Costa Rica and Peru working with Fair Trade and microfinance participants. In her free time, she enjoys taking advantage of Austin’s vibrant arts and comedy scenes. Amy encourages you to read more about her impressive colleagues here!