Published March 25, 2016
Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
The shocking statistic is one of many that led faculty in the School of Nursing to join Million Hearts, a nationwide initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.
The school’s goal: to save 1,000 hearts in Western New York.
This week, Charley H. Fisher III, a parishioner of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church in Buffalo, was among the first members of the community to benefit from the effort. On Tuesday, he attended a new screening program led by nursing faculty and students as part of the initiative.
Through a partnership with Millennium Collaborative Care and Greater Buffalo United Ministries, the students and faculty travelled to Fisher III’s church and checked blood pressure, cholesterol levels and stress of community members.
“I went through all the screenings and evaluations and I think it showed that there’s some work to be done,” says Fisher III, who after receiving his results, plans to exercise more.
The screening was the first of five the School of Nursing will hold this semester at Buffalo churches — all in underserved areas.
For hundreds of guests like Fisher III, nursing students will provide health education, recommend aspirin therapy to patients based on screening results, and offer guidance on quitting smoking and stress reduction.
After the screenings, Millennium Collaborative Care helps participants check their eligibility for Medicaid or other health insurance and find a primary care physician.
“The mission of the School of Nursing is to promote the health and wellness of our local communities. This collaboration is an opportunity for the students and faculty to live the mission of the school,” says Susan Grinslade, assistant dean for undergraduate programs in the UB School of Nursing.
“Engaging in this initiative provides an opportunity to promote the health and well-being of Buffalo inner city residents who may have limited access to health care and health promotion.”
The Million Hearts initiative, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was created to fight the rise of heart disease and stroke, the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States.
On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes. Together, the diseases account for a third of all deaths in the nation, according to Million Hearts.
Like the rest of the country, heart disease plagues Buffalo too.
Over the course of 30 years, Kinzer Mark Pointer has conducted 708 funerals.
When Pointer, pastor of Agape Fellowship Baptist Church in Buffalo, reviewed the causes of death for his parishioners – many of whom are African American – he found a common thread of eight chronic diseases.
Those diseases: cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, emphysema, substance abuse, HIV and, the leader, heart disease.
“I discovered that about 70 percent of the people who I buried had died prematurely according to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) expectation of lifespan for Americans,” says Pointer, who discovered that the average age of death for his member’s was 61-years-old.
“When you look at the rate at which African Americans die and at the rate that the rest of the population dies, it’s wildly disparate. We die a lot sooner and a lot more assuredly when we get chronic diseases.”
The realization led Pointer and other local pastors to create Greater Buffalo United Ministries, a faith-based initiative to minimize health disparities in Western New York. The group, now five-years-old, includes 58 churches as members and frequently partners with local physicians.
The screenings on Tuesday marked their first major event partnering with UB and Millennium Collaborative Care, an organization serving Western New York’s eight counties that is dedicated to reducing avoidable hospital use.
Fisher III, an active member of the Buffalo community, was thrilled to learn about the new program and hoped to see similar health screenings held more frequently.
“Black men have to do better about taking care of themselves. We don’t avail ourselves to health care like we should.”
The School of Nursing’s decision to join Million Hearts began with a class, “Health Promotion and Disease Prevention With Populations.”
The course, led by clinical associate professors of nursing Dianne Loomis and Loralee Sessanna, was designed to teach students how to improve health outcomes among underserved populations, such as refugees, rural communities and pregnant teenagers.
However, much of the work was research-based. So, Loomis added a service learning component to provide her students with more practical learning experience.
“Right now, all of their clinical experiences are hospital-based. And that’s not the way health care is going to be. Health care is going to be about community and population health, and looking at the bigger picture,” says Loomis.
“Individual behaviors are important, but unless we change the community, and we create opportunities for the community to improve their health, we’re going to have poor outcomes.”
Alexander Salinas, a junior nursing student shared a similar view.
“It makes nursing students think of who’s outside in the community and what in the community we can do, and not just who’s in the hospital. Outreach is something that we should use for volunteerism and altruism,” says Salinas.
Students in the course will attend four more screenings throughout the semester. The dates:
The School of Nursing will coordinate additional screenings in the summer and fall.
For more information about Million Hearts, visit millionhearts.hhs.gov.