Last week, we introduced our WomenHeart Champions and followed them as they retold the journeys that brought them to the WomenHeart program. Reading about their unique symptoms, common fears and need for support highlighted just some of the reasons the Parkview Heart Institute pursued a partnership with the coalition. But the advantages don’t stop there.
“The WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance is comprised of progressive hospitals committed to advancing women’s heart health and is a partnership that seeks to ensure that women heart disease patients in every community have access to information, education and patient support services,” Lisa Clough, Vice President Public and Patient Programs for WomenHeart said. “Parkview Heart Institute, in its second year of NHA membership, has partnered with WomenHeart on many different initiatives, from hosting patient focus groups of women living with heart failure, to surveying underserved and high risk women heart patients, and participating in the annual NHA members meeting.” The benefits of this working relationship and respectful collaboration truly begin at the support level and stretch far beyond, into several impactful areas that influence our local communities.
In addition to attending the Science and Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where each Champion participates in a concentrated onboarding process, the women receive a continual stream of data and helpful information to enrich their knowledge on cardiac topics. “As leaders of this group, Susan [Smallwood, fellow Champion] and I receive educational materials, attend webinars, and have access to videos,” Cindy Morphett, WomenHeart Champion said. “Lesson plans with handouts are available to us so we can distribute them in our monthly support group as well.”
The Champions aren’t the only benefactors of these impressive resources from top respected cardiovascular experts; the hospital team members have access, too. Tools to enhance patient support and interaction, post-discharge education materials and timely webinars on gender-specific topics related to the latest developments in heart health are readily available to Parkview Heart Institute through WomenHeart.
In its purest form, the mission of the WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance – an initiative the organization took on to increase the reach of their program – is to, “Deploy local patient volunteers, impassioned by their own experiences, to support other local women with heart disease and raise community awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death in women.” That deployment is essential for spreading the life-saving facts the Champions are equipped to share.
“There are 8 million women living with heart disease in the U.S., and an overwhelming 43 million women are at risk,” according to Mary McGowan, CEO, WomenHeart. That staggering statistic justifies the need for those strong, inspiring, “boots on the ground” ambassadors. It is also why our Champions appear at as many public events as their schedules allow.
“As a WomenHeart Champion, and specifically a Support Network Coordinator, my co-coordinator Susan and I have attended several community events, including the Parkview Love Your Heart event, Tapestry, health fairs and the Parkview Heart Institute’s Women’s Heart Symposium.” Cindy said.
“We are hoping to get them out to Parkview Field next summer, and they attend events on their own as they are able and see fit. Allison [Blust, fellow Champion], for example, organized a small group for the AHA Heart Walk in September.” Leah added.
We’ve got knowledge in the bag.
“We have distributed hundreds of Red Bags of Courage,” Cindy said. “Each contains WomenHeart publications concerning women with heart disease, including bulleted lists of signs and symptoms. These bags promote awareness and provide invaluable information.”
The handouts and additional resources provided to each WomenHeart Champion are certainly paying off. A 2014 study by the coalition revealed that 61% of the active WomenHeart Champions could be credited with saving someone’s life, proving that knowledge truly is a powerful thing.
[Pin these helpful reminders, found in each Red Bag of Courage.]
Spreading the red.
Shades of crimson have long been associated with the fight for heart health. Now, WomenHeart and some talented crafters have found a way to transform the iconic color into a warm reminder and keepsake through their HeartScarves program. “We are the beneficiaries of hundreds of red HeartScarves that are knitted/crocheted by volunteers. These are sent to WomenHeart for cleaning, sanitizing and packaging, and sent back to us for distribution,” Cindy said.
“Anyone that would like to donate a hand knitted or crocheted scarf can drop them off at the Parkview Heart Institute,” Leah added. “Diane Osborn is our PHI Administrative Assistant and an avid crafter. She very generously assists us in collecting, counting, shipping and receiving, not to mention sharing her own talents, for HeartScarves. She shares patterns and instructions for anyone wanting to donate their talents as well.”
So, where do patients acquire one of these cozy acts of kindness? “The other Champions and I will be starting to visit women patients diagnosed with heart disease to give them a Red Bag of Courage, a HeartScarf, support and encouragement to attend the support network meetings.” Cindy shared.
Michael GeRue, COO of the Parkview Heart Institute, shared his sentiments about the Champions and their presence in the community: "Parkview commends these four individuals for their dedication and willingness to represent the Parkview Heart Institute’s WomenHeart program. Their journeys are unique, but their adversity is an experience shared by many. Their advocacy will ensure that women in our community have the access necessary to better understand their risks for cardiac disease, when to seek medical advice and a better understanding of how to navigate their personal health journey. I couldn’t be more proud of them. Their dedication mirrors the vision of Parkview Health, to improve the health and well-being of those around us every single day."
Armed with the knowledge to make a difference and the courage to share their stories, our Champions are certainly fulfilling the aspirations of WomenHeart and Parkview, and making those life-changing connections, “woman to woman, heart to heart.”
WomenHeart holds monthly meetings the second Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Parkview Center for Healthy Living on the north campus of Parkview Regional Medical Center (11123 Parkview Plaza Dr. entrance 2C suite 200).
To learn more about WomenHeart and how you can get involved, visit womenheart.org and like them on Facebook.