A program that’s been pumping local students with cardiovascular health information for the past several decades just got a boost to expand services to even more school district employees.
Healthy Hearts, a UCHealth outreach program working to lower heart disease risk among northern Colorado youth, recently received a WISH grant to serve Thompson School District employees.
WISH, Women Investing in Strategies for Health, is an affiliate of the PVH and MCR Foundation and awards annual grants to support health needs of the Larimer County community through UCHealth-based programs, projects and services.
The Healthy Hearts program, which started more than 25 years ago, has continued to expand throughout northern Colorado and now provides programming in more than 90 schools, including the Poudre and Thompson school districts. This programming includes free age-appropriate healthy heart education and cholesterol screenings at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
At Poudre School District, Healthy Hearts has also provided free cardiovascular health (biometric) screenings for adults since the district began an integrated health care program through UCHealth’s Corporate Health and Wellness.
“I thought (the biometric screening) was a great service offered by the Poudre School District,” said PSD employee Jeri Mill. “I was glad to have the opportunity to know my numbers again this year.”
The screenings, done at the school by the Healthy Hearts team, provide students and employees with a lipid panel (cholesterol numbers), blood glucose, blood pressure and BMI and waist circumference, as well as personalized heart, stroke and diabetes assessments.
At PSD, the team arrives at a school in the morning to screen adults for a few hours before working with the students as part of the Healthy Hearts educational program. This set-up also allows the teams to take adult walk-ins during the student screenings, and additional screening times are scheduled in non-classroom areas to reach all employees, such as in the bus depot.
The employee program is working well in PSD, and Healthy Hearts is ready to provide the same service for Thompson School District employees. However, TSD doesn’t have an integrated health care program with UCHealth, and therefore employee screening costs weren’t covered.
“Heart disease continues to be the number-one health threat to our community,” Healthy Hearts Supervisor NaNet Puccetti said. “Now more than ever, programs that get our youth and the adults to understand how to reduce their risk is critical. Generous WISH funding will allow the Healthy Hearts program to have a positive impact not just on Loveland youth but also the teachers and staff that care for them.”
Over the years, Healthy Hearts has done its best to inform employees that for a $35 fee, they can have a screening done while Healthy Hearts is there for the student programming. Healthy Hearts, however, never turned an employee away if he or she could not pay.
But now — with a WISH grant in hand — Healthy Hearts can begin to schedule free employee biometric screenings at Thompson schools.
“The WISH grant enables us to do screenings for at least 500 people,” Puccetti said. “UCHealth covers staffing, and the grant pays for medical supplies. Employees could see screening dates very soon.”
One major benefit of the Healthy Hearts team performing the screenings is that the same team member who draws the blood follows up with results.
“When I went to my screening, I was in for a treat,” Mill said. “Julie, the nurse who did my blood poke, also was the person who talked through my results with me. I loved this. We had the chance to visit for a few minutes while waiting for results. She was easy to talk to, asked meaningful questions and showed genuine concern for me. When Healthy Hearts came to the building I worked in, Julie stopped by my desk and offered me some additional information she had printed off.
“The screening was always great, but working with one person during the entire process has increased the benefits of this program to me exponentially.”
Because the grant is only $5,000, Puccetti said the team will open screenings to TSD employees first, and then if there is still enough funding, to their spouses and dependents. Because of PSD’s integrated health relationship with UCHealth, its screenings are open to employees, spouses and any-aged dependents.
But no matter what, the same Healthy Hearts team member is there from start to finish.
“It’s about that personal touch,” Puccetti said. “We want you to know your numbers, but what we really want is for you to understand them. Now we’ll be able to help more people do that, and we’ll soon pick dates and locations. From administration buildings to the bus depot, we’ll be able to provide Thompson School District a service that shows them the benefits of good health coaching.”