Innovative research and programs that get kids moving will reduce the devastating toll of heart disease and stroke in communities across the country, according to American Heart Association patient advocates, who delivered that message to Congress during last week’s You’re the Cure on the Hill Day.

More than 300 AHA advocates met with their representatives in Congress and urged them to appropriate $35 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for FY 2012, co-sponsor the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act and support the Safe Routes to Schools program in the transportation bill. The FIT Kids Act would encourage quality physical education and activity during the school day and the Safe Routes to Schools program promotes the development of walking and biking paths for schoolchildren.

“Obesity, hypertension and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke have contributed to an unhealthy generation,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “Robust funding increases for the NIH budget and measures to get more kids moving will put us on the right path toward healthier lifestyles.”

Currently, NIH invests only four percent of its budget on heart research and a mere one percent on stroke research. “These funding levels are simply not enough to advance research and bring us closer to a cure,” said Ralph Sacco, M.D., AHA president.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) received the association’s Congressional Public Service Awards for their leadership in the passage of health reform and child nutrition legislation.