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Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention

2010 Success Stories

Upstate Churches Embrace Heart-Healthy Programming

Church members at Calvary Redemption Baptist Church and Pleasant Hill Baptist Church recognized a need amongst their members. Adoption of healthy behaviors that prevent heart disease and stroke need to begin early in life and are more successful when there is family support. These churches have included the entire congregation in their activities in hopes of preventing these diseases among the young and reducing the risk of the elderly.

Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading cause of death among African Americans, respectively. Participating in physical activity on a regular basis and maintaining healthy eating habits are two key steps to preventing these diseases. Fifty-six percent of African Americans in South Carolina do not engage in sufficient amounts of physical activity or none at all, and only 14 percent eat the recommend amount of vegetables and fruits each day, according to 2009 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) results.

Tackling the issue of heart disease and stroke is a big task, but thanks to grant money from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division, Public Health Region 1 has been able to support 11 African-American churches in the American Heart Association's Search Your Heart program, a faith-based curriculum focused on the health areas of heart disease and stroke, nutrition and physical activity. Accomplishments this year include:

  • New Hopewell Baptist Church has started a “Walk to Jerusalem” club that meets weekly and is walking approximately 6,780 miles, the distance from New Hopewell to Jerusalem;
  • Mount Zion Baptist Church has incorporated the Search Your Heart physical activity and nutrition modules as the educational piece for their weekly Weight Watchers classes; and
  • Calvary Redemption Baptist and Pleasant Hill Baptist have used Families Eating Smart Moving More, anutrition and physical activity education program, in conjunction with Search Your Heart modules to provide family-centered education for church members. Calvary is also in the process of adopting Color Me Healthy, a preschool nutrition based curriculum, for the children’s program at the church.

Eight of the eleven churches became qualified in the Search Your Heart program by completing two educational modules and hosting Go Red Sunday and/or Power Sunday. These churches had success in impacting the health of church and community members:

  • All eight churches participated in Go Red Sunday and Power Sunday, providing over 800 people with information on the risk factors, signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke; and
  • King David Baptist Church partnered with AnMed Health to host a Heart Score screening that provided 100 community members with free cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose screenings.

Contact: Blythe S. Smith, MPH, CHES, Health Educator
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 1
220 McGee Road, Anderson, SC 29625
(864) 260-5801;

Empowering the Corinth Church Congregation

The suddenness of stroke surfaced during church service of a medium-sized African-American church in Union, SC. Corinth Baptist Church was holding a normal Sunday service, when an older female member beganto feel weak and numb on one side duringthe closing hymn. While mentioning this to her daughter, a doctor in the congregation overheard the conversation and immediately knew what was happening. EMS was called and the woman was treated at the hospital for a mild stroke. Thankfully, the doctor’s knowledge and the quick action of the members possibly saved the woman’s life, and she has made a full recovery.

Many people are unaware that Union ranks 7th in SC in mortality rates as a result of stroke. Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death for African Americansin SCand is also the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

An incident like this is frightening, yet it can also spur a church into action. As fate would have it, in November 2009, two Health Ministers from Corinth attended a Power to End Stroke (PTES) workshop conducted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Region 2 Health Education staff, partly supported by Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention funding. They used their acquired knowledge to coordinate health events and provide information to members of the congregation; putting the “power” in their hands.

PTES is a national awareness campaign that promotes the message that stroke is largely preventable with risk reduction and a quick response. PTES focuses on the 3 R’s of stroke prevention:

  • Recognizing the warning signs of stroke;
  • Reducing the risks of stroke; and
  • Responding quickly by calling 9-1-1 immediately

Based on an overwhelming response from eight of the 10 churches who were trained in November 2009, the churches in Union and Spartanburg counties desperately needed this information. Corinth, especially, has been very proactive in promoting church activities that will help members reduce their risks for stroke. The following events have taken place:

  • The Passion video was shown immediately following the worship service in March 2010, with a total of 100 members were in attendance;
  • A Healthy Eating workshop was conducted for 15 ladies before choir practice in April 2010; and
  • In May 2010, $150 was awarded to Corinth in recognition of all their efforts for the purchase of walking kits for an upcoming walking club.

As Corinth continues their efforts and Union churches follow Corinth’s lead, Union County will see their rates of stroke drop and their rates of long-term disability decrease.

Contact: Kathy Ebert, MPH
S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control - Region 2
P.O. Box 2507, Greenville, S.C. 29602
(864) 282-4131;

Heart-Health Program Helps Keep Bluff Road Senior Group on Track

There are more than 40 county-operated parks and community centers in Richland County. Not only do the participants bring laughter, enthusiasm, and a shared passion to strengthen the county’s mission, but they also bring heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. The Bluff Road Park Seniors Club in Columbia is no exception. Several of the club’s members suffer from these chronic conditions.

Heart disease is among the leading causes of death for adults 44 years and older in Richland County. An inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables, hypertension, and obesity are among the risk factors for premature death in Richland County. Richland County falls 11 percent below the state’s average of 46 percent for access to healthy foods. Studies show a link between the consumption of healthy food and overall health outcomes. There was only a 1 percent difference in the county’s average for adult obesity, which increases the risk of heart disease, strokes, and hypertension.

Thanks to Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention funding, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Region 3 has partnered with the Richland County Recreation Commission to train groups at parks and community centers in Richland County to implement the Search Your Heart program, a heart disease and stroke curriculum emphasizing the importance of nutrition and physical activity. Training began in March of 2010, and technical support continues as needed.

DHEC Region 3, which includes Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Lexington, Newberry, Richland, and York Counties, partners with local faith-based organizations, and community groups to provide training in Search Your Heart. Region staff continues to provide as needed assistance to its partners who work hard in implementing Search Your Heart into their health initiatives. Community resources are partnered with the Search Your Heart sites for continued support as well. There are currently 23 Search Your Heart partners in the Richland county area, including faith-based organizations, dance groups, and recreation centers. Over half of the partners have been trained and are implementing the program.

The Bluff Road Seniors Club of Bluff Road Park learned to increase healthy food choices at their weekly meetings and outings. The Seniors Club also vows to be physically active as, 30 minutes of exercise is implemented into their meetings before devotion and business. When the weather permits, they also use the track that is alongside the park building. The group continues to allow time for speakers to present health information to them on a monthly basis.

The Bluff Road Seniors group participated in a Purple Power Day in honor of Stroke Month in May where they welcomed a nutritionist to speak on healthy eating and provide a cooking demonstration. The Bluff Road Seniors Club is serious about the Richland County Recreation’s mission to strengthen the community by strengthening their hearts through love, laughter, healthy eating and active living.

Contact: Johnese M. Bostic, Health Promotion & Education
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 3
2000 Hampton St., Columbia, SC 29204; (803) 576-2855

Health Initiative Proves to be Beneficial for Rural Church

In February of 2010, Margaret was on the phone with her daughter when her speech became slurred. Her daughter recently received information on the signs and symptoms of stroke at Ebenezer Baptist Church, recognized the quick response needed for the situation, and immediately called 9-1-1. Margaret was transported to the hospital and diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke, which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay, as well as intense therapy.

Heart disease and stroke are specific threats to African-American men and women. African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians. The rate of first strokes in African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians, and strokes tend to occur earlier in life for African Americans. Stroke the third leading cause of death in South Carolina and in the United States.

Through a portion of funding from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division, DHEC Public Health Region 4 provided three Search Your Heart trainings to three local churches. A total of six members were trained to serve as Coordinators to implement the program at their churches, thereby providing an environment to support healthy lifestyle changes.
The following activities took place:

  • Speakers were brought into the church to discuss healthy lifestyle changes, and brochures were distributed among the congregation and inserts placed in church bulletins;
  • Healthy eating was encouraged, and healthy foods were provided during faith-based gatherings; and
  • The Brotherhood planted and cultivated a church garden, thereby promoting both healthy eating and physical activity.

The program has proven to be very beneficial for church members, and the following accomplishments have taken place:

  • Church members began an exercise program to encourage physical activity;
  • The Kitchen committees added fresh vegetables and fruits to their menus;
  • Members took part in health screenings held at their local churches during the year, and were encouraged to participate in the community health screenings; and
  • Approximately 75 percent of the church congregations participated in the activities.

Contact: Nina Bradley, Health Educator II
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 4
P.O. Box 1064, 201 West Hampton Street
Dillon, S.C. 29536
(843) 774-5611; (843) 841-0835 (fax);

Building a Healthier Lifestyle, One Brick at a Time

Annual physicals were recently conducted at Palmetto Brick, and the company’s Human Resources/Safety Manager was saddened to see the results, since all employees who were screened did not meet the company’s health benchmarks. Founded in 1919, Palmetto Brick is the largest family-owned brick maker in S.C., producing more than 150 million bricks per year. The HR Manager quickly realized that a healthy task force was paramount for improving productivity and containing health care costs.

Marlboro County is located in the northeastern part of S.C., with a small population of 28,700. In 2008, Marlboro County ranked #1 for mortality rates for heart disease. The risk factor rates for smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high cholesterol, diabetes, and being overweight were also higher than state averages.

Through a portion of funding from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division, DHEC Public Health Region 4 provided training to Palmetto Brick to encourage the employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. A series of five classes were conducted, and included the following components:

  • Employees were given an overview of chronic conditions, including heart disease and stroke, and how nutrition and physical activity impact these conditions and their health. Participants were given a weekly food diary to track the foods they ate;
  • Participants learned about making smart food choices at home and away from home, and also learned the importance of portion control;
  • Benefits of physical activity were discussed, and pedometers were distributed at the end of the class series; and
  • Employees were given educational literature with relevant information at each session to take home to foster further learning and healthy lifestyle adoption.

The momentum for healthier lifestyles was contagious at Palmetto Brick. Employees started sharing health information with their families, and the company placed motivational posters in break rooms and near vending machines. Other notable achievements include:

  • Participants switched to sugar-free sodas and whole wheat bread after attending classes;
  • Palmetto Brick plans to add healthier choices in their vending machines; and
  • Employees will be re-screened in October and differences will be measured at that time.

Contact: Sara M. Price, MBA/MHA, Health Educator
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 4
1705 W. Evans St., Florence, SC 29501
(843) 661-4728; (843) 317-4044 (fax);

Allendale County is “Getting it Growing for Health”

Allendale County is a small, rural county with low income, a high unemployment rate, and many major health problems. The county is part of the S.C. Department and Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Public Health Region 5, where the #1 cause of death is diseases of the heart. Contributing to this alarming statistic is the fact that more than 78 percent of Allendale’s adult population is overweight, compared to the state at 31 percent. This is coupled with a high rate of sedentary lifestyle at 31 percent, compared to the state rate of 24 percent.

DHEC’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division provided funding to help DHEC Region 5 to combat this disturbing data. Region 5 staff conducted a Power to End Stroke presentation for the Sugar Hill/Flat Street Neighborhood Association Town Meeting, where participants learned about the signs and symptoms of stroke, as well as lifestyle changes to reduce risk of stroke. This neighborhood association enthusiastically embraced the concept of healthy lifestyle changes, and already has a program in place whereby both youth and elderly contribute to gardening efforts. The following events will be taking place:

  • Lottie’s Community Garden, located in a small neighborhood near the downtown area, is also near an African-American Cultural Center that will be used to conduct food demonstrations using the fresh vegetables and fruits from the garden.
  • This garden is in walking distance from an elementary school, and a children’s garden is included for educational activities.
  • This effort will be linked to the Walk-A-Plenty trail located in the downtown area, a route that includes the local farmers market, businesses, post office and the health department.

To reinforce the concept of eating more vegetables and fruits, exciting events are underway for this fall. Plans include:

  • A “Healthy Taste of Fruits & Vegetables” event will be conducted in the garden and all participants will receive vegetable seeds and a small watering can to promote “Get it Growing for Health!”
  • The community garden will be participating in the new farmers market. Members have been trained and certified by the USDA; the group is now able to accept WIC and EBT instruments, making their produce available to a wider cross-section of the community.
  • The garden efforts will be linked to a kick-off event to introduce the walking trail and formally open it to the community this fall.

Contact: Barbara Grice, MS, CHES
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control – Region 5
1550 Carolina Avenue, P.O. Box 1126 Orangeburg, S.C. 29116
(803) 533-7276;

Seniors Get to the Root of Healthy Aging

Mr. Smith, a retiree, along with members of the Georgetown Senior Center, realized that he didn’t have easy access to fresh, healthy vegetables and fruits, and knew that he needed to increase physical activity for better mobility and flexibility. These Senior Citizens wanted to improve their health and keep family traditions alive by creating their own Senior Garden, but didn’t exactly know how to go about doing so.

In 2007, there were 158 deaths in Georgetown country attributed to heart disease, and 43 deaths attributed to stroke. Some health problems that the elderly commonly experience may be improved by behaviors such as a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

Through funding from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division, DHEC Public Health Region 6 was able to work closely with the Georgetown County Bureau of Aging to develop an action-oriented project to address food insecurity and nutrition issues by creating sustainable community food systems. The Senior Garden Project also benefited from community partnerships with Clemson University Extension for education and technical assistance from local Clemson Extension Master Gardeners.

The Senior Garden Project was developed using the following strategies:

  • Planning sessions with Seniors to assess needs for a community garden and resources needed to develop the garden;
  • Development of an organized garden committee to discuss maintenance, management and other issues; and
  • Creation of partnerships with other local organizations and agencies that support healthy aging.

Over 50 Georgetown Senior Center participants have benefited from the garden, and have enjoyed receiving fresh produce, increasing their daily hours of physical activity and reducing their monthly grocery bill. Other results include:

  • Assisting 10 indigent families from the local community by providing fresh produce from the garden on a frequent basis;
  • Training clients from a local youth group home with the Seniors to develop their gardening skills and to learn how to create their own garden; and
  • Development of a Senior Garden in at Georgetown County Bureau of Aging site in Andrews.

Contact: Regina L. Nesmith, MS
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 6
520 Thurgood Marshall Highway, Kingstree, SC 29556
(843) 355-6012;

No More Fried Chicken!

In 2007, diseases of the heart were the 2nd leading cause of death in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, which comprise the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Public Health Region 7. And, according to 2008 data, there were a staggering 6,211 heart disease hospitalizations and 1,777 stroke hospitalizations for individuals in this tri-county area. Clearly, there is a critical need to reduce the burden and prevent heart disease and stroke.

DHEC’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (HDSP) Division has provided funding to DHEC Region 7 to combat these alarming statistics. Region 7 has endorsed the African-American faith community/public health partnership model for the provision of training, consultation, technical assistance, funding and the development of standards by which churches can embrace Search Your Heart programming. Search Your Heart is afaith-based educational program, developed by the American Heart Association, to reduce risk for heart disease and stroke among African Americans. Throughout the past three years of HDSP funding, Region 7 has:

  • Actively engaged in partnerships with 36 African-American churches. These partnerships represent a 2.5 times increase from the year one funding level of 14 Search Your Heart partner churches;
  • Maintained active partnerships with 12 of the original 14 Search Your Heart partner churches; and
  • Partnered with seven new churches and 21 returning Search Your Heart partner churches, far exceeding set deliverables of five new and returning Search Your Heart partnerships.

Region 7’s Search Your Heart partner churches are making policy and environmental changes for the sustainable healthy lifestyle habits needed to reduce the burden and risk of heart disease and stroke in the African-American population. Some examples include:

  • Nazareth RE Church has addressed healthy eating with both its senior and youth groups. The Senior Society Meetings serve a heart healthy lunch, sometimes even offering vegetables from a recently planted church garden. Additionally, the Sunday School staff is no longer serving soda;
  • Emanuel AME Church is taking advantage of their proximity to two supportive environments, and has created a walking club that walks the mall during the week and the West Ashley Greenway Trail on the weekends;
  • Church of Christ provides fresh fruit for dessert and water as beverage choice at church functions that include a meal; and
  • EmanuelAME Church has a written nutrition policy that excludes serving fried foods at church functions, and as the Search Your Heart Coordinator for the church’s health ministry stated, “Our baked chicken is so good, nobody is missing the fried chicken!”

Contact: Karen Hill, Chronic Disease Prevention Manager
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 7
2070 Northbrook Boulevard, A-18
North Charleston, S.C. 29406
(843) 579-4521;

Lowcountry Churches Lower Heart Disease Risks

Charisse Smalls recently received lab work results that indicated her cholesterol was too high, and her doctor instructed her to lose 20 pounds. Mrs. Smalls did not want to become a statistic, and does not want to be part of the African-American women dying young from heart disease, stroke, diabetes or any other preventable chronic illness.

South Carolina statistics are staggering:

  • African Americans suffer excessively from cardiovascular disease across all age groups and in all aspects of the disease;
  • African Americans are more than 65 percent more likely to die from stroke than whites, which was a 56 percent higher rate than the national average in 2006; and
  • African Americans are at higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease, and this higher illness rate results in 10 years of lost life

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division (HDSP) provides funding to DHEC Public Health Region 8 to combat these statistics. DHEC Region 8 provides Soulfully Fit Health Ministry Training to local churches, and monthly meetings are held for over a dozen Church Health Ministry representatives. The following components are included in the trainings:

  • Participants are educated about the Power to End Stroke educational and awareness campaign to reach disparate African-American church populations, as well as the Search Your Heart program, a faith-based curriculum focused on the health areas of heart disease and stroke, nutrition and physical activity;
  • Participants discuss health disparities issues, and commit to embrace and promote various monthly health observances within their churches; and
  • Representatives at the meetings receive supporting educational materials to take back and share within their health ministries.

Mrs. Smalls changed her diet, increased her physical activity, and lost 30 pounds. This success was influenced by her knowledge of how dangerous high cholesterol is to heart health. Mrs. Smalls says that Soulfully Fit has made her church more heart-health conscious, and health ministry successes at her church include:

  • Annual Wear Red Sunday observances in February. Members are encouraged to wear red, and receive a piece of dark chocolate instead of boxed candy;
  • Distributing vegetable plants to members of the church congregation, and encouraging them to start gardening. This year for Mother’s Day, women were given containers of tomato plants, instead of red roses; and
  • More health-conscious offerings for meals served at the church and meals shared with those throughout the community.

Contact: Tammy B. Washington, MPH
Program Coordinator/Health Educator
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control - Region 8
P.O. Box 37, Hampton, S.C. 29924
(803) 943-3878, Ext. 216;