On January 27, the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee met in Morrisville to celebrate the successes of the 2016-2017 Committee and install the 2018-2019 Committee. The committee learned about the concepts of collective impact, took an in-depth look at the state of tobacco control in North Carolina, and held small group discussions about the health of their own communities.
The highlights of the meeting included the presentation of two statewide advocacy awards. For 10 years, the Committee has annually recognized an advocate that goes above and beyond consistently in their advocacy efforts. The award is named after Dr. Robert Blackburn, the longest serving advocacy volunteer who has been dedicated to helping others understand the importance of being an advocate. This year the 2017 Dr. Robert Blackburn Award for Advocacy Excellence was presented to Paul Kearns. Paul has served on the advocacy committee for over 8 years and currently serves as the Vice-Chair. He has attended both state lobby day and national lobby day to help us advocate on too many issues to mention. He uses his creativity, for example in 2016 he brought a wheel barrow of fresh produce to the Legislative Building to help us advocate for healthy corner stores. Paul willingly provides his expertise to inform legislation and always responds when his expertise is needed on legislation that addresses emergency response, the use of AEDs, CPR, and stroke.
The committee also presented the 2017 Heart of a Champion Advocacy Award to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health Tobacco Control Branch in recognition of their collaborative spirit in pursuing tobacco control policy change in North Carolina. The branch and the American Heart Association have established and maintained a strong relationship that has lasted over 20 years. From the early days of fighting to establish the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, to raising the state’s cigarette tax, to the adoption of our smoke-free restaurants and bars law to tobacco free schools and now our efforts to secure funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation program funding, the branch has been a true friend to health advocates. Sally Herndon, Joyce Swetlick and Jennifer Park were on hand to accept the award.
Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.