Heart health for all

AHA pushes for Smoke-Free Kentucky, CPR in schools legislation.

By Matt Rountree

The American Heart Association (AHA) works to improve cardiovascular health through research and preventative
education, and its advocacy work focuses on advancing evidence-based policies at the federal, state and local levels.

In Kentucky, it has secured a number of policy wins, including the passage of laws to improve stroke care, screen newborns for critical congenital heart disease and increases in the cigarette tax to reduce youth smoking. Today the association is focused on two issues that will further improve the heart health of all Kentuckians.

Smoke-Free Kentucky
Several years ago, the Surgeon General released a landmark report on the effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, stating conclusively that it increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and lung disease. In fact, secondhand smoke exposure causes as many as 75,000 heart disease deaths each year. In addition, long-term exposure to second hand smoke is associated with a 25 percent-30 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease in non-smokers.

Today, more than one-third of Kentuckians live in an area covered by a comprehensive, local smoke-free law, but so many others are not afforded this basic protection. The American Heart Association believes that everyone, regardless of where they live, has the right to breathe clean air. They have partnered with the Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition, Representatives Susan Westrom (D) and Julie Raque Adams (R) and Senator Julie Denton (R) to pass state legislation that prohibits smoking in public places and enclosed workplaces.

Currently there are 24 states that have laws that require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and public places, and it is the coalition’s goal to make Kentucky the next state to pass such a law.

Teaching CPR in Public Schools
Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and nearly 360,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year. Unfortunately, nearly 90 percent of cardiac arrest victims do not survive mostly because they don’t receive timely CPR. Our society has the opportunity to change this grim statistic by ensuring more people are trained in CPR, which can double or triple the chances of survival.

High schools can play a pivotal role by creating a generation of lifesavers by making sure all students learn CPR before they graduate. In less than 30 minutes we can give students the skills they need to help save someone’s life. CPR training is part of Kentucky’s Academic Core Standards for high school health education, and health education is a requirement for high school graduation. Even though CPR instruction is included in the curriculum, the instruction isn’t always provided.

To remedy this situation, the American Heart Association has teamed up with Representative Jeff Greer (D) from Brandenburg, who plans to work on legislation on this important issue. Twelve states have passed CPR in schools legislation requiring all students to be trained in CPR before graduating from high school, including Tennessee. The successes of the Smoke- Free Kentucky and CPR in school legislation rely heavily on the support from Kentucky communities. To show your support and learn how you can get involved, visit yourethecure.org.

Matt Rountree is communications director of the Louisville chapter of the American Heart Association.