Coventry healthy heart programme hailed a great success
Thursday 02 April 2015
A lifestyle initiative set up to improve the health of women in an area of Coventry has been heralded a major success by organisers and participants.
The Healthy Heart project, jointly administered by Coventry University and a women’s training centre in Foleshill, was launched in October last year with the aim of improving the wellbeing of the district’s female Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) residents.
Initial research conducted in 2013 identified Foleshill as the most deprived ward in Coventry with a significant proportion of residents coming from a BME background, which as other studies have shown, are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
With the average life expectancy for women in the Foleshill area being eight years lower than the rest of the city, researchers from Coventry University joined forces with Foleshill Women’s Training Ltd (FWT) and secured funding from the national charity Heart Research UK to tackle the problem through the Healthy Heart initiative.
The project supported 20 women directly on a tailored 8-week healthy heart course plus an additional 120 women through weekly health and wellbeing coffee mornings in Foleshill and Hillfields.
The course began with participants receiving a heart health “MOT” (measuring blood pressure, BMI, waist and resting heart rate) and included educational sessions about the risk factors that can lead to heart disease and how to prevent them; healthy eating advice and cookery lessons on how to prepare food in a heart-healthy way; and exercise classes to improve fitness.
As part of the course, the women also wore pedometers to measure how far they walked on a weekly basis. By the end of the course the 20 women between them walked a total of 1,317 miles - equivalent to the distance from Coventry to Naples in Italy.
Concluding in March this year, initial findings from the project have been encouraging. Some of the women have lost weight by making changes to their eating habits, dropping things like biscuits and snacking on fruit and yogurt instead, and are making more health conscious choices like cutting out salt from their diet or reducing the amount they use in their cooking. Others are now more active; regularly taking part in exercise in and outside of the home. All are more aware of what they can do to maintain a healthy heart.
Some of the women have also volunteered to act as ambassadors, spreading the healthy heart message amongst their friends, families and the local community. In addition, they have produced a booklet containing the healthy recipes that were cooked on the course. This will be distributed through mosques, churches and community centres, but can also be downloaded for free from FWT’s website.
Foleshill resident Arveena Kaushal was one of the women on the Healthy Heart initiative and is now acting as an ambassador within her local community. She said:
I really enjoyed the course and feel much better for doing it. I’ve lost weight, am eating better and am fitter too. The programme has taught me so much about the little things that I can do on a daily basis to improve my health in the long-term. They’re simple rules that are easy to follow but they can make a big difference to your health. I’m now looking forward to working as a healthy heart ambassador and sharing what I’ve learned with others!
Research lead Stefanie Williams from Coventry University said:
The women who took part in our project were really enthusiastic and were keen to learn about the steps they could take to improve their health. They’ve had a lot of fun along the way but more importantly as a result of being on the course they’re making positive lifestyle changes which will benefit them now and in the future.
Christine McNaught, Chief Executive Officer of Foleshill Women’s Training Ltd, said:
We were pleased to deliver this project in partnership with Coventry University. It’s been immensely rewarding to see women in our local community gain the knowledge, confidence and skills to make improvements to their and their families’ health.
FWT - A Centre for WomenFoleshill Women’s Training Ltd is an award winning, women only centre, operating since 1989. It is dedicated to helping women in Coventry and the surrounding areas through its social, health and economic programmes. FWT is run by women, for women, and offers a women only space for accessing education, training, healthcare and employment opportunities.