In this occasional series of profiles, meet some of your friends and neighbors who strive to bring you the best in community health care every day.
Donna Querim, RN, JD
Amanda Szot, RD
Cardiac Prevention Program
The program initially focused on the adult population, providing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar screenings and education related to living a heart-healthy life.
Since that time, the program has expanded its focus to include all areas of wellness — from tobacco use to CPR education — and it's audience to include the region's younger citizens in hopes of stopping unhealthy behaviors before they begin.
Donna Querim, RN, JD, and Amanda Szot, RD, recently took time out of their busy schedules to talk to Coastlines about the program.
The Cardiac Prevention Program use to target adults in our community but now includes middle school students. Why did you choose this new segment of the population?
Querim: Kids of middle school age are like sponges — they absorb everything they hear. And they are at the age where they are old enough to understand the information but are not bucking establishment yet. They are more likely to share the information at home and adopt good habits before the unhealthy habits set it. They also are naturally curious and ask great questions. You can tell they are aware of what is going on in the community and the messages they are receiving through advertising and are thinking about all of it.
What other types of education are you providing students?
Querim: In January, we presented the CPR Anytime program to 60 students at Our Sisters' School, which is a charter school in New Bedford. CPR Anytime is a training kit that teaches the basic skills in adult and child CPR and choking relief. It also teaches how an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) works. The course only takes about 20 minutes and while it doesn't provide users with CPR certification, it does provide the basic skills to help save a life while help is on the way. The kit is bilingual in Spanish and English and the students were able to take their kits home to teach their families.
There's a lot of awareness around childhood obesity and the affects of nutrition on health. Does the Cardiac Prevention Program address those topics?
Szot: Yes, I go into classrooms five times a year to talk about nutrition. We encourage students to make heart healthy choices and to try new foods. I teach students to read Nutrition Fact Labels — understanding this information can help them to determine healthier options and not be misled by food companies' marketing techniques. We also discuss "portion distortion" and how food portions have grown over the past 20 to 30 years and how that has resulted in us consuming more calories. We talk about how much activity is needed to burn off those extra calories and what recommended portion sizes look like.
Smoking is still a prevalent problem on the South Coast. Are you doing anything to teach kids the dangers of tobacco?
Querim: We are now presenting Tar Wars, Southcoast's anti-smoking education program, to sixth grade students. Again, the key is to get to the kids before they develop the bad habits and when they are at the age where they will go home and talk to their parents about the dangers of smoking and tobacco use.
Szot: We are also including discussion of the smokeless tobacco products that are becoming so prevalent. Kids need to be aware of the danger of these products because they can create a nicotine addiction without a person ever smoking a cigarette. And students can be given these products by friends without even knowing it because of what they look like. Some are in the form of candy that looks like Tic Tacs, dissolvable strips that are placed on the tongue like breath freshening strips and even tooth picks.
There seem to be a lot of community-based initiatives around healthy living. Does Southcoast take part in any of them?
Querim: We are involved in quite a few of them including Voices for a Healthy SouthCoast and the Go Red Campaign to increase cardiac awareness in women and many others.
Through Health City Fall River we are starting to work with smaller businesses that do not have the resources to have their own wellness programs, providing health screenings and education. We also have begun working with local school systems on their wellness policies.
We asked Donna Querim and Amanda Szot what are three things everyone can do to improve their heart health?
- Know your numbers — blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose level.
- Eat a heart healthy diet that is low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Exercise. Find something you like to do and do it on a regular basis. Even if you feel you are too busy to exercise, you can increase your activity by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking further from building to increase your walking. Every little bit helps!