Love Your Heart
- Need: To reduce heart disease in rural West Virginia.
- Intervention: Love Your Heart trains local organizations to host community events about heart health.
- Results: Since 2015, the program has reached 196,124 participants through 267 programs held in 33 counties (24 of which are rural).
According to 2017 CDC data, heart disease is the leading cause of death in West Virginia, with 4,849 deaths reported. Its age-adjusted death rate is 192, compared to the U.S. rate of 165. Rural residents' health can be compounded by a lack of exercise facilities, safe walking paths, and a personal healthcare provider.
The West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service created the Love Your Heart program to help participants, especially women, identify their risk for heart disease and teach them healthy habits that can reduce their risk.
From 2015 to 2016, WVU Extension Service agents received training and kits with information about heart disease, promotional and educational materials, and grant management guidance. These agents assisted with partner training sessions and provided periodic support throughout the project. Agents also taught workshops, gave food demonstrations, and helped promote events.
In the same period, 24 representatives from partner organizations received training and kits. These partners include:
- Belington Medical Clinic, in rural Barbour County
- Huntington Internal Medicine Group
- West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, in rural Greenbrier County
- Hardy County Health & Wellness Center, in rural Hardy County
- Larry Joe Harless Community Center, in rural Mingo County
- Christian Help, Inc.
- West Virginia Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS)
- WVU Heart and Vascular Institute
- WVU National Center for Excellence in Women's Health
The Love Your Heart program received funding from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
The Love Your Heart program:
- Trains and provides support to partner organizations so that volunteers can conduct heart health programs and disseminate The Heart Truth materials
- Fosters communication among partners to expand local and state network of "The Heart Truth" Champions
- Supports partner-led community events like classes, luncheons, retreats, and health screenings
- Helps participants assess their risk for heart disease and set heart health goals
Since 2015, Love Your Heart partner organizations have helped rural communities by:
- Supporting 6,011 direct education activities such as "lunch and learn" events, screening events, and workshops
- Participating in 190,113 indirect education activities such as health fairs, 5k runs, exhibits, and media
- Reaching 196,124 participants through 267 programs held in 33 counties (24 of which are rural)
In a survey completed with 469 participants (93.4% female and 69% over 60 years old), 98% of participants rated the program's effectiveness as good or excellent.
Most people have been personally touched by heart disease, but they may not know what they can do to help their families and communities. Women especially are apt to care for others and ignore their own health until it is too late. Emphasize that taking care of themselves allows them to take care of their loved ones.
Myths about heart disease, such as "It's a man's disease" and "It runs in my family, so there's nothing I can do to prevent it," are prevalent. Be prepared to address these myths as you talk with community members.
Some barriers may be large and systemic. For example, people may not regularly visit or have access to healthcare and miss out on routine checks for blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, ambulance service and emergency care are often limited in rural areas, which may deter people from calling 911 and seeking the timely care they need. Materials (available upon request) provide more information about these barriers.
Talk to community members about heart disease and ask if they would like to work together. Many types of community organizations already have an interest in health and will join in fun activities to benefit their members and the larger community.
Some individuals may not think that they can do much because they do not have expertise in health. Love Your Heart simplifies the prevention messages and materials, reminding lay leaders and audiences that everyone can help combat heart disease. Free print-ready materials are available upon request.
Contact InformationTony Michael, Family & Community Development Program Director
West Virginia University Extension Service
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
July 25, 2017
Date updated or reviewed
November 30, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Love Your Heart [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/964 [Accessed 14 June 2021]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.