Introducing Project H.E.A.R.T.

“Giving people the opportunity to tell their health journey has a positive impact on both the individual and the entire community. That is especially true of the communities we serve, who have such strong oral tradition,” said Kelly Coughlin, a diabetes educator at People’s Center Clinics & Services. Kelly and community health worker Hayu Abdulle, who work together on Project HEART (Health Education, Assessment, Referral and Treatment) to support patients in their journey to healthier lives, said that storytelling is a key component to achieving overall community wellness. Hayu and Kelly

In its second year at People’s Center, Project HEART provides diabetes and hypertension management and prevention among patients facing barriers to care. These goals are achieved through one-on-one education, connecting patients to necessary resources and providing opportunities for free exercise and nutrition classes at the Health Commons. The first year’s successes included 11% improvement for patients with uncontrolled diabetes and 30% improvement for patients with uncontrolled hypertension. These impressive results prompted People’s Center to tell the stories of Project HEART participants who were successful so they can serve as an inspiration for others. In the next few months, we will highlight patients’  outstanding health stories, which will be featured on our blog and social media.

Hayu believes that patients’ personal stories are an excellent form of self-advocacy and inspiration for others to take charge of their own health.

“We want to see patients improving and changing their lives. Diabetes and hypertension are silent killers. You don’t feel the pain, but it’s going to affect you gradually. We support them by discussing challenges and barriers, but in the end, we want people to own their health,” he said. Project HEART aims to spread these messages to as many people as possible, emphasizing that small changes are paramount to improving overall health. Kelly and Hayu said that the first step to improving health is knowledge.

“First I find out how much information they have,” said Hayu. “And according to their level, I’m going to go slow with them. What’s hypertension? What’s diabetes? How can they live healthy lives?” “Knowing where you’re at right now, where your baseline is, can absolutely decrease complications associated with diabetes and hypertension. For those people that don’t have diabetes yet, just because your grandma or your aunt or your brother has been diagnosed, it’s not inevitable that you will get diabetes. It’s nutrition. It’s 150 minutes a week of physical activity,” said Kelly. “Those are small changes that can make a big, big difference.”

People’s Center is dedicated to helping patients make those changes by providing a variety of services to patients, including farmer’s market tours, spiritual support, and the opening of our new wellness center in January 2018. When it comes to diabetes and hypertension, it is crucial to take into account comprehensive wellness of the individual and community, something People’s Center has built their mission on.

“When I think of People’s Center, I think of a place that is attempting to wrap their arms around people,” said Kelly. “No matter what the day brings, People’s Center’s staff is here for the patients.”

Project HEART is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health.