Adela Corona had a personal reason to attend the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Community Health Worker training program this past October: Her 82-year-old father, Juan Maciel, is living with heart disease. He was the first in their family to visit a doctor 25 years ago when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. She is shown with instructors (left to right) Estela Perry and Gabriela Meneses .
Adela says her father owes his longevity to taking his doctor’s advice seriously. He adjusted his diet, replacing red meat with turkey, chicken and vegetables. He took his medications as prescribed and, even though he now uses a walker, still walks two miles per day.
Adela shares the story of her father’s success with others as an outreach health coordinator for CalViva, a local insurance provider for Fresno, Kings and Madera Counties in California. She works with Promotoras to fight rising rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes in the Hispanic community. Promotoras are Latino community members who receive specialized training to provide basic health education without being professional health workers. So, when Adela heard about the AHA’s training program, she persuaded six Promotoras to attend with her.
The two-day Spanish-language workshop uses the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 and Check Change.Control. programs to teach the basics of living a healthy lifestyle and managing blood pressure to prevent heart attack and stroke. Life’s Simple 7 suggests seven lifestyle changes to achieve optimum heart-health; control cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, eat better, lose weight, get active and stop smoking. Check.Change.Control. is a blood pressure self-management program that encourages individuals to check their blood pressure and track it online. The program also offers the help of mentors to make lifestyle changes permanent.
Adela was impressed by the instructors at the workshop. “They spoke to the participants using terms they could understand. They spent time answering questions to make sure that everyone left with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful,” Adela says. She’s hoping to have another training for the Promotoras she works with who were unable to attend.
“It is culturally important to participants that they receive information from someone they can trust,” says Gabriela Meneses, a 20-year AHA volunteer and CPR and First Aid instructor who led the training. “They know that they can trust the information I’m giving them because it comes from the AHA.”
“The message that I want to take back to my community is that they do not ’cure’ heart disease with a pill. It is a process that includes healthy choices we need to practice for the rest of our lives,” Adela adds. Hopefully, if people take Adela’s advice, they will live long lives, like her father.