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AHA Student Program Success

Courtesy of the American Heart Association

Coachella Valley is home to an innovative program launched last summer by the American Heart Association, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, and a group of enterprising students from Palm Desert High School and Cathedral City High School (Desert Health® Nov/Dec 2014).

The objective was to come up with a way to improve the heart and brain health of the student population, while at the same time turning the students into heart and brain health advocates who would take the message home to their families and loved ones. 

One year later, organizers are excited to share that the program was an overwhelming success.

“We provided these students with a leadership opportunity and the tools to improve the heart and brain health of their peers,” explained American Heart Association Coachella Valley Division Chair Steve Weiss. “But it was up to the students to truly make an impact. It was up to them to actually change lives.”

AHA’s Charlie Shaeffer, M.D., and Steve Weiss with student lecturers Gianfranco Zena, Guadalupe Cervantes, Rafael Sanchez, Javier Romero, Guadalupe Guillen

AHA’s Charlie Shaeffer, M.D., and Steve Weiss with student lecturers Gianfranco Zena, Guadalupe Cervantes, Rafael Sanchez, Javier Romero, Guadalupe Guillen

Those involved were optimistic about the impact the program could have. This optimism proved to be warranted.

In a survey of participants at both schools, 86% “strongly agreed” that the information on cardiovascular health was useful and beneficial, while 90% said they would recommend others attend the Cardiovascular Academy. And to top it off, almost half of those involved in the program said they talked to 6 or more people about cardiovascular health. 

The results were exactly what organizers were hoping to see – the type of results that they hope will lead to a healthier Coachella Valley.

Comments such as, “We learned things that could help us save someone…or ourselves.” And, “You made me change my eating plan diet – helped me know my body more…” reinforced the program’s impact.

Those who advocated for the creation of the Health Academy were excited by the results, and the positive feedback.

“The American Heart Association Cardiovascular Academy is an example of the type of programs we need to see more of in our communities,” said Weiss, who was very involved in helping make the Health Academy a reality. “We have amazing students, amazing healthcare professionals, and great resources.  We just need to connect them, to empower them, to give them the tools and opportunity to make an impact.”

Based on the results from the pilot program, we know it works.

As a bonus, 79% of students said they are willing to volunteer for other American Heart Association opportunities.

To learn more about the American Heart Association Health Academy or the American Heart Association, please contact executive director, Adrienne Barton, Adrienne.barton@heart.org.

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