Among the graduates in northern Colorado that received diplomas this past spring were children and their parents who completed the first series of classes through the Healthy Hearts for Healthy Families program. Their participation and commencement toward better health was made possible by a grant of $154,320 awarded to the PVH and MCR Foundation (given through the name of Poudre Valley Health System Foundation) from the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular Health℠ program. The program’s goal is to improve cardiovascular health in local communities by awarding grants to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations with matching goals.
Healthy Hearts seeks to interrupt the patterns of cardiovascular disease in families through increased comprehension of risk factors; heart-healthy lifestyle behaviors; physical activity; and improved clinical measures such as body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Children and their parents attend class together in this intergenerational initiative to reduce risks and improve heart health.
“Educating our children about healthy lifestyles and heart health is essential but ineffective unless we are able to effectively achieve family support and involvement in the process,” according to Gary Luckasen, M.D., medical director of research at the Medical Center of the Rockies and for the Healthy Hearts for Healthy Families program.
The project was one of 19 selected out of 500 proposals submitted nationally in 2013. An important requirement was innovation. One of the key innovative components that Healthy Hearts for Healthy Families offers is making the participants agents of change. The curriculum is designed with the knowledge that parents are more motivated to modify behaviors if they know their child is at risk for heart disease. Once the children are screened and families decide to participate the families are given tools to improve their health status.
One youth graduate reported that every year she has been taught to eat healthy and exercise, but the Healthy Hearts for Healthy Families program educated her about her own cholesterol and opened her eyes to why she should listen. A parent graduate reported that he has increased his exercise through friendly competitions with his children and he is determined to be heart healthy for his family. Healthy Hearts for Healthy Families is yet another example of a program that facilitates long-lasting positive changes to health and well-being of members of our community.