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Vol. LXII, No. 4
February 19, 2010

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‘Champions’ Among Us
NHLBI Program Fosters Advocacy Training Opportunities

The Memphis and Jonesboro, Tenn., Heart Truth Champions gather.
Above, the Memphis and Jonesboro, Tenn., Heart Truth Champions gather. Below are attendees at the Detroit champions event
Attendees at the Detroit champions event
A local cardiologist gives a presentation to the Buffalo Heart Truth Champions.

Above, a local cardiologist gives a presentation to the Buffalo Heart Truth Champions.

The close of 2009 marked another successful milestone for the Heart Truth Champions Program. The 89 champions trained last year made up the largest “graduating class” since the program’s inception in 2006. The program, funded by NHLBI and the HHS Office on Women’s Health (OWH), provides a day of training for women and men to help them develop and implement local education and awareness programs on heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. Since it began, the program has trained 214 champions in 16 cities and 14 states.

Champions take a leading role in creating opportunities for women and men to engage in community activities to spread the Heart Truth’s key messages. Sponsored by NHLBI, the Heart Truth is a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease. In 2008 alone, the Heart Truth Champions planned and conducted a total of 96 events, which reached more than 25,000 people nationwide.

The day-long training includes an overview of heart disease by a local cardiologist and/or nurse; personal stories of women with heart disease; an overview of the Heart Truth Campaign and its centerpiece—the Red Dress—designed to build awareness that women are at risk for heart disease; and an overview of education materials for the public and health professionals. The latter part of the day is designated for the group audit where the champions collectively brainstorm and identify Heart Truth-related activities or programs they hope to start within their communities.

“The Champions Program is unique because it presents a forum where women and men who are already active within their communities can come together to encourage a greater understanding of heart disease—their training spurs advocacy within their communities and a greater understanding and recognition of heart disease,” said Dr. Ann Taubenheim, chief of the Health Campaigns and Consumer Services Branch, NHLBI.

Training sites for the program are selected to target populations at high risk for heart disease based on a review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s morbidity and mortality report and Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System as well as target states selected by OWH. Each program is tailored to the community where the training is held.

John McQuitty, Detroit champion and volunteer minister, was interested in participating because he wanted a better understanding of heart-related health issues that affect members of his community. “I spend a good amount of time visiting members of my religious community in the hospitals so I wanted to have a better idea of the health-related challenges that they face,” he said. “I never recognized or contemplated the difference between heart disease that is inherited and heart disease that is a result of risk factors.”

Last fall, training sessions were held in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., Cleveland, Memphis, Detroit, Louisville and Buffalo. On Feb. 5, champions led their communities in participating in National Wear Red Day. To learn more, visit NIHRecord Icon

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