(Dec. 11) Representing another block for building fruit and vegetable consumption, the American Heart Association, Dallas, has become part of the National 5 a Day Partnership, said Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Wilmington, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation.

The Dec. 4 inclusion of the heart association will represent a significant step in developing resources to promote heart-healthy diets that feature fruits and vegetables, Pivonka said Dec. 9.

Along with the American Cancer Society, the National 5 a Day Partnership now covers a wide spectrum of health issues for Americans.

“We are still learning about each other,” she said. “The fact that the heart association agreed to join the partnership is progress.”

Pivonka couldn’t say how much the AHA could contribute to the 5 a Day effort in money or resources.

In a press release, PBH said a heart association representative will sit on the 5 a Day Partnership’s steering committee and on the communications subcommittee.

Pivonka said she looks forward to working with the heart association on advocacy issues, such as recommendations toward the dietary guidelines advisory committee. The three biggest risk factors for heart disease are poor diet, smoking and inadequate physical activity.

The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Pivonka said the association markets its heart-check logo for a fee to 90 marketers of a variety of qualified food products — including past use on Florida citrus — but she said it is too soon to say when or how the 5 a Day and the heart association may attempt cross-promotions. The expense of using the heartcheck logo is considerably more than for using the 5 a Day logo, she said.

Pivonka said the heart association has more than 20 million volunteers and that its annual budget was $503 million, of which $150 million was spent on public health education.