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Virginia Policy Efforts Unfolding


Post on behalf of Christopher Ramos:

As a Director of Government Relations for the American Heart Association, my responsibility is straightforward:  “…support and advocate for public policies that will help improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths by coronary heart disease and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.”

As the Director of Government Relations in Virginia, my focus – in coordination with our volunteers and staff – is to determine how we make that happen here…to determine what policies we need to promote in Virginia in order to achieve our 2020 goals.  With American Heart Association science and guidance, we evaluate the political climate each year to determine where best to focus our efforts.

Many times those efforts are about early detection and treatment, for example, Pulse Oximetry screening of newborns.  We know some children aren’t being screened; we know this simple, inexpensive, noninvasive screening helps to identify those children; and we know testing every baby to catch those undetected cases is going to save lives.  [Here on our blog, you can get a clear idea of the impact by reading about how Critical Congenital Heart Disease impacted one of your fellow advocates. I hope you’ll take a moment to read this inspiring story.] 

Another policy priority this year around early detection and treatment focuses on efforts to fund 12-lead Electrocardiogram (ECG) equipment for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Putting a 12-lead ECG in an EMS truck allows a first responder to identify severe heart attacks (STEMIs) almost right away, transport to the right facility, and have a cardiac team on stand-by. This, in turn, significantly reduces the time to treatment for the heart attack victim.

Unfortunately, not every EMS system in Virginia has access to 12-lead equipment – some do, some don’t.  And in many instances, the communities with the highest STEMI mortality rates are the very communities where the equipment is not in place. Now that AHA has identified the need for 12-lead ECGs, we’re going to bring attention to it, and we’re going work to make sure this need is addressed.

In both cases, faster identification of a serious heart condition equals faster treatment, and faster treatment saves lives. One condition exists at birth; the other can be the result of many different factors. But the goal is the same: reduce heart-related deaths in Virginia.

I know we can count on your to help achieve these goals.  Please be on the lookout for upcoming alerts, and be sure to Tell Your Story if you have lived through a related experience. 


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