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Mohawk Valley Health System partnership targets heart disease prevention

The Mohawk Valley region has one of the highest rates of stroke and hypertension in New York state. As one of the state’s designated hub hospitals for the COVID-19 vaccine program, the Mohawk Valley Health System facilitated a regional health equity task force to provide community-based education and connect at-risk individuals to vaccines.

Encouraged by its success with COVID-19 vaccines, the task force re-targeted its efforts into a new partnership focused on heart disease prevention. The Mohawk Valley Partnership to Combat Heart Disease was established with generous funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation and includes representatives from the American Heart Association, NAACP (Rome/Utica branch), Mohawk Valley Latino Association, The Center (a resource for refugees), Community Foundation, Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Upstate Family Health Center.

Partnership work is performed by two community health nurses, one employed by MVHS and the other at UFHC, and seven community navigators employed by The Center. Using community navigators who represent diverse cultural backgrounds is particularly important since Utica is one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the Northeast, with more than 16,500 refugees.

A community health nurse and community navigator conduct heart disease education and screenings where community members live, learn, work, play, worship and age. Community outreach includes screenings at events such as festivals and farmers markets; Healthy Heart Tours with local houses of worship; and “static” sites where the nurse and navigator routinely go to community locations, such as being onsite twice a month at the Bargain Grocer and The Center. One unique program, coordinated with the NAACP Rome/Utica Branch, was a back-to-school event that provided free haircuts for children and heart health screenings for parents.

Between January and August 2022, the Partnership screened nearly 5,500 people for cardiovascular disease and made referrals to primary care as needed. The Partnership provided education on cardiovascular disease risk reduction to nearly 17,000 people. In 2021, MVHS joined HANYS’ Advancing Healthcare Excellence and Inclusion learning collaborative to further support its health equity efforts.

For more information, contact Patty Charvat, senior vice president, strategy and marketing, at pcharvat@mvhealthsystem.org or 315.624.6449.