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AUSTIN, Texas - (April 24, 2012) - Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson was joined by Charles Barnett and other Central Texas leaders to launch of Healthy ATX, an education initiative to create a dialog with Central Texans about this region's immediate and future health care needs and the dramatic impact that new resources - such as a medical school, a 21st Century teaching hospital, comprehensive cancer care, additional behavioral health services, uniquely Austin health clinics, and other important resources - could have on Central Texas.

Watson, a cancer survivor, and several other speakers shared their stories and asked the public, "What's yours?" You are invited to share your story and read others' stories at www.HealthyATX.org. You also are invited to participate in Twitter communications on this initiative using #healthyatx. Handles to look for are @healthyatx, @kirkpwatson and @seton family.

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Barnett, Seton Healthcare Family's longtime president and CEO, is now president, health care operations, and chief operating officer for Ascension Health, the largest not-for-profit health care system in the U.S. Seton is a member of Ascension Health. He was interviewed at the April 24 news conference by KVUE and KXAN.

The Austin American-Statesman editorialized on this topic, under the headline "Hospital deal will help us stay healthy" and also covered Monday's news conference.

The Healthy ATX initiative will include web and social media platforms, videos, educational materials and more. In addition to providing basic information about the region and this effort, it serve as a forum where community members can actively participate in the health care conversation by telling their own stories and viewing personal testimonials from others.

"Central Texas is known for creativity, innovation and a great quality of life," Watson said, "but one area we must improve on is the availability and accessibility of high quality health care - care that's close to home. Healthy ATX aims to educate the public about the need for improved regional health care."

"As a cancer survivor and advocate, I think Senator Watson's plan provides a tremendous opportunity to improve public health and strengthen the health care infrastructure throughout the region," said Doug Ulman, Lance Armstrong Foundation president and CEO. "Sen. Watson has the full support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and we look forward to working with him to fulfill his vision of a Healthy ATX."

"Nearly 250,000 Travis County residents don't have health insurance, despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of them are employed," said Rosie Mendoza, chairperson for Central Health's Board of Managers. "For many small business owners like me, providing preventative health care benefits to employees is one of the costliest expenditures of running a company. And unfortunately, some business owners simply can't afford it. The need for affordable health care in our region cannot be understated."

"This effort couldn't be more important to me, and there are hundreds of thousands of Central Texans who are just as passionate and committed to the health of this region," Watson said. "One of the most important things that Central Texas can do is invest in the health of our community. It's the best thing we can do for ourselves, our family and our economy."

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image Seton is proud to have four hospitals – the only hospitals in Central Texas - that have earned the Magnet designation, the highest award for nursing excellence given by the American Nurses Association.
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