Overall, Saint Thomas Health Services has reported a 20% increase in the number of female cardiac patients at its three main hospitals between 2009 and 2011.
In addition, the health system established a Heart-Healthy Cooking School, which attracts thousands of participants, says Rudolph. “Our cardiologists attend the cooking schools, and we raise awareness in that way by connecting patients’ medical condition to a lifestyle change,” she says. On average, Saint Thomas Health Services has more than 2,500 attendees each year at its heart-healthy cooking demonstrations hosted at various locations throughout middle Tennessee. The hospital also reaches out to the Girl Scouts “so, hopefully, at a young age they can learn about cardiovascular health and be empowered with that information to make their mothers and grandmothers aware of symptoms that reflect heart disease,” Rudolph says. More than 200 Girl Scouts have completed the program and receive a Go Red dress patch.
“Here in Richmond, the Go Red campaign has changed the level of knowledge, the awareness of women’s cardiac health,” says Graf. “When it started out, the programs drew 4,000 or 5,000 people and 10% to 20% who attended were really sick with cardiovascular disease and didn’t know it. We had ambulances leaving the event with people. Now, with much screening and education, those who are truly sick is about 5%.
“There is still a need to reach out to minority women. There remains much to be done and a massive education effort” is being launched, Graf says. In 2006, the coronary death rates per 100,000 were 101.5 for white females and 130 for black females, according to the AHA.
Although women of color and of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by heart disease, according to the AHA, the death rate was 28% higher for black women than for white women in 2005. In addition, only 31% of black women and 29% of Hispanic women knew that heart disease was their greatest health risk, compared to 68% of white women.
The need for more educational programs is great, and what is being accomplished now may not be enough. While hospital programs are launching massive educational campaigns to help increase awareness among women of the risk of developing cardiac disease, there is still concern that too few women are seeking medical treatment, Dankle says.
“The hospital is kind of the endpoint here,” says Dankle. “We need to address the root of the problem by identifying red flags or warning signs in women, educating women about these so they seek medical care quicker and reduce the delay in presentation.”