Campisi leads state division of American Heart Association

Building heart-healthy communities is the plan of action for Judy Campisi of Wilton, the new executive director of the Connecticut Division of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Campisi, a longtime veteran of the association, expands her coverage region from Fairfield County to include staff and activities in the entire state. She will lead staff and revenue field operations, board development and cultivation, volunteer recruitment and community health initiatives.

“I’ve been with the Heart Association my entire career, and we’re really excited about having a community action plan to build heart-healthy communities. Our boards are setting goals to impact public policy, childhood obesity, and work toward reducing disability and death and improve behaviors related to heart disease and stroke risk,” she said in a telephone interview.

Why are there so many obese children today?

“It’s a generation of too much screen time, too little physical activity, and lack of access to healthy food options,” Campisi said. “We’re working proactively on the Voices for Healthy Kids program, making sure schools have health foods available, and prohibiting unhealthy food marketing.”

For example, there is a trend toward fast-food companies offering fund-raising for schools in return for advertising on sports fields. “There are ways companies work around health food policies to get their message out,” she said.

For example, 75% of high school students have had a sugar-sweetened beverage in the last week, she said. “We need to substitute with non-sugared beverages,” she said, adding water is the best.

“For adults, the recommendation is for 64 ounces of water a day,” she said, adding that the association is working toward the availability of clean drinking water in all communities. “We’re trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” she said.

For example, fruits and vegetables need to be more prevalent.

“Four to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is what you should be eating,” she said.

In the course of her long career with the American Heart Association, Campisi has held multiple roles in development, field and business operations, and health initiatives in upstate New York and the Greater New York metro area. She was a recipient of the 2012 American Heart Association National Rome Betts Award in recognition of leadership, professionalism, consistent high performance, and demonstrated value to the organization throughout her career.

Campisi was president and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut from 2004 to 2006. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, The Sage Colleges, in Troy, N.Y. She and her husband, Daniel, have lived in Wilton 18 years.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the world and kills more than 786,000 Americans yearly. Stroke ranks second globally and is a leading cause of severe disability. The American Heart Association wants everyone to understand the threat — and to know that cardiovascular diseases and stroke are largely preventable.

Risks can be lowered by adhering to what the association calls Life’s Simple 7: not smoking, being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, controlling blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and controlling blood sugar.