St. Mary Ardmore health initiative honored

Saint Mary Catholic Church in Ardmore was recognized this summer for taking a stand against heart disease.

"The Battle of the Heart Program” is a call to action that began in 2015 as a competition and transitioned into an incentive program for faith groups with the understanding that health encompasses all areas: mind, body and soul, said Shante Fenner, the American Heart Association’s multicultural initiatives director.

Twelve churches were honored by the American Heart Association in June for their effort to improve the heart health of their congregations through the “Battle of the Heart” initiative.

Saint Mary was the first and only Catholic Church in Oklahoma to apply. When Connie Hestily, a registered nurse at Saint Mary, received information about the four-month program, she consulted with Father Thomas Dowdell about applying for the program.

Father Dowdell thought it would be a terrific opportunity to make those in the church and also in the community more aware of heart health issues. The program consisted of enrolling Saint Mary's parishioners into a free “Check, Change, Control” web-based blood pressure health management tool.

The tool allowed individuals to track and chart their blood pressure numbers. They had to register their blood pressure weekly. The American Heart Association provided free resources and education to the congregation and community.

During the four months, there were many activities offered by the parish nurse and volunteers –
Teresa Rodrigas, Celsa Thomas and Nora Luna. Participants learned CPR, helped distribute water after Mass, wore red for heart health Go Red Sunday and provided a heart healthy food and beverage meal.

In the final two Saturdays, the nurse and volunteers were able to attend the Faith Based Health Academy for training sessions.
Among the 860 participants from all churches, 39 percent experienced improvement in their blood pressure readings and 29 individuals moved from an uncontrolled blood pressure level to controlled.

Saint Mary was one of the top 12 participating churches. They received $450, and gifts such as a health ambassador tool kit that included two electronic blood pressure cuffs, a CPR kit for training, and items for the church kitchen.