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Byrum, Rogers discuss matters close to heart

September 25, 2000

Every 29 seconds an American suffers a heart attack, and every minute someone dies from one.

Every 53 seconds an American suffers a stroke, and every 3.3 minutes someone dies from one.

“Heart disease and stroke are the nation’s number one and number three killers - but few politicians seem to notice,” Mike Michalski, chairman-elect of the American Heart Association’s Midwest affiliate, said.

The American Heart Association sought to end that legislative ignorance this year by developing a new initiative called Take Heart 2000, a series of four national events aimed at educating lawmakers and candidates on the health issues related to cardiovascular disease.

“The American Heart Association has developed a new initiative - Take Heart 2000 - to educate officials and political candidates on important heart and stroke issues in an effort to get them to speak out and support a health policy agenda aimed at fighting heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases,” Michalski said.

On Friday, the Kellogg Center hosted the last in a series of nationwide candidate forums sponsored by the American Heart Association.

“Right now there is a lot of national attention on Lansing because there are such crucial races going on,” said Cindy Hawken, director of communications for Western Michigan’s American Heart Association.

Take Heart 2000 highlights three key policies the American Heart Association would like candidates to support: Increasing federal research funding, including funding for heart disease and stroke; authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the manufacturing, sale and marketing of tobacco products; and removing barriers to health care that limit access to emergency services and specialty care.

“Because health issues like heart disease and stroke affect almost every family, we’d like (candidates) to be aware of those issues and to find out their opinions,” Hawken said.

Invited to attend the forum were state senators Dianne Byrum, D-Onondaga, and Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, as well as Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Stabenow and Republican U.S. Senator Spence Abraham. Only Byrum and Rogers made personal appearances, though Stabenow did send a representative to speak on her behalf.

It was the first time Rogers and Byrum, two 8th Congressional District candidates, have made a public appearance together.

“Part of the significance here is that there have not been that many occasions where (Byrum and Rogers) have appeared together,” Hawken said.

To date, heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases affect close to 60 million Americans and are expected to cost the United States an estimated $327 billion in 2000.

“Cardiovascular disease claims nearly one million lives per year - more than the next seven causes of death combined,” Michalski said.

Although the Take Heart 2000 campaign ended in Michigan, the American Heart Association’s mission to educate lawmakers and politicians nationwide will not cease.

“Next our national leadership will visit Washington, making (Capitol) Hill visits to members in Congress to educate them of our concerns,” said Almarie Wagner, executive vice president of the American Heart Association’s Midwest affiliate.


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