By Claire D’Andrea, R.N., Scripps Health
What is the greatest threat to women’s health? Surprisingly, it isn’t breast cancer—it’s heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women over age 25, killing nearly twice as many women in the United States than all types of cancer. Nearly half of women who have survived a heart attack will die within five years, yet women are less likely than men to receive appropriate medical care following a heart attack. Nevertheless, only 13 percent of women consider heart disease to be a health threat.
With the goal of bringing more awareness of the prevalence and risks of heart disease among women and providing better care, Scripps hospitals across San Diego have partnered with WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance. Founded in 1999 by three female heart attack survivors, WomenHeart is the leading national organization in women’s cardiovascular health, with a proven track record of training and maintaining effective patient support groups. Scripps’ alliance with WomenHeart serves as an important partnership to support women with heart disease by providing gender-sensitive cardiovascular care, support groups, and educational materials and programs developed by national experts in women’s heart health.
Scripps has long been a recognized leader in women’s cardiovascular care. Now, all five Scripps hospitals have joined the partnership to proactively support education, prevention, early detection and gender-appropriate treatment for women’s heart health.
WomenHeart “champions”— heart attack survivors who are support network leaders, educators and spokespersons — will lead support groups and presentations throughout the county featuring the most current WomenHeart educational materials, resources and tools to advance the knowledge and support provided to women. A new bi-lingual support network coordinator, trained at the Mayo Clinic in October, will support the Spanish-speaking community through a support group at Mercy. Champions will also speak, host display tables and hand out literature at various Scripps Health events.
In addition, Scripps will host regional WomenHeart conferences or events, including a one-day patient education symposium. Scripps physicians will also present WomenHeart webinars to support networks across the country. Scripps female cardiologists will serve on an Advisory Board for the Alliance along with the local WomenHeart champions to better serve the needs of the patients.
Now comprising more than 30,000 members across the country—including patients, families, physicians, health advocates and community supporters—the patient-centered advocacy organization provides a wealth of programs and services in support of women living with or at risk of heart disease, including nearly 100 local support networks in communities nationwide and an online community providing information and peer-to-peer support. Women can directly access the WomenHeart site through a link on Scripps’ website (scripps.org).
Women who have participated in programs and services through WomenHeart have reported the following benefits:
•Enhanced quality of life (93 percent)
•Improved treatment compliance/adherence (85 percent)
•Improved ability to communicate with their health care providers (85 percent)
•Increased understanding of heart disease (93 percent)
•Improved ability to communicate and explain their condition to family members, co-workers, and friends (86 percent)
WomenHeart is also aligned with a Scientific Advisory Council that includes top cardiologists and scientific and medical experts in women’s heart health, and nearly 600 WomenHeart Champions have graduated from the organization’s prestigious Science & Leadership Symposium in collaboration with Mayo Clinic.
In addition to raising awareness about heart disease and empowering women to take charge of their health, WomenHeart works to ensure that every woman has access to prevention and early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. The organization also advocates to health professionals, research funding organizations and public policymakers on behalf of women’s heart disease.
Claire D’Andrea is a registered nurse and coordinator of the WomenHeart support groups at Scripps Health. “To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information on women’s heart health services at Scripps or to make an appointment with a physician, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS.