Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Affiliate for Arkansas!

The American Heart Association is, of course, a national organization. As with any organization of its size and caliber, it can become difficult to accurately gauge the needs of each individual member of its constituency. Therefore, the AHA breaks it membership into “affiliates”. These affiliates are groups of states which ban together to empower one another in legislative and health initiative issues, under the guidance of the home organization. For the last several years Arkansas has been part of the “Heartland” affiliate. Our Heartland affiliate states included Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and as a lobbyist for the Heartland affiliate I was honored to spend time working on initiatives in many of these states. But as powerful as this affiliate was, it was becoming apparent that the needs of these states were so disparate that our impact was being lessened.

However, our dream of a new affiliate has been realized. We in the Advocacy Leadership Team had the dream of a new affiliate; one that would join together states with unique cultures, diversities and traditions, but similar health concerns. Our goal was to create a new “South Central Affiliate”, comprised of the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. Leadership from these states came together to form the new affiliate in record time! Oklahoma and Arkansas have the highest mortality rates from Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, while Texas and New Mexico have large “high-risk” groups.

This change will allow us to continue to make significant progress toward our 2010 impact goal. We at the AHA hope to reduce the death rate from heart attack and stroke by 25% by this date, and to do that it is imperative that we focus on our high risk populations.

On a personal level this is an extremely exciting change. I was born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and have lived in Arkansas for the last 20 years. This new affiliate will allow me to work closely with legislators in the states are literally and figuratively nearest and dearest to my heart!