The final week in June brought more than 300 American Heart Association volunteer advocates from across the country descended on Washington DC for our Heart on the Hill federal lobby day, aimed at “lifting the burden of heart disease and stroke.” More than two dozen survivors, researchers, caregivers, physicians and staff from the Western State Affiliate attended, sharing their personal stories of the burden of heart disease and stroke, and shining a light on steps Congress could take to lift that burden.

Advocates urged senators and representatives to support a $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health. Did you know that just 4 percent of NIH funding goes to heart research and just 1 percent goes to stroke research? Additionally, advocates asked members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors to two bills that would increase access to care for thousands of Americans 1. the FAST Act would ensure Medicaid reimburses providers for telemedicine consultations and 2. A bill to allow qualified non-physician medical providers to oversee cardiac rehab programs.

Perhaps the most exciting (and timely!) issue was the ongoing debate around health care reform. As our volunteers descended on D.C., Senate Republicans released their proposal to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. So the timing couldn’t have been better for advocates to visit with members of Congress and urge them to find a solution that would adhere to our principles of “affordability, accessibility and adequacy.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers and staff who made this year’s event one to remember!