Steve Arthur said the entire community has good reason to support the 2011 Tucson Heart Walk.
"Every penny raised in Tucson stays in Tucson, so I know that if I raise $5, it is going right over to the University of Arizona for research that we will benefit from, or to programs such as the Jump Rope for Kids program to help our children or to education and outreach," said Arthur.
He has been co-captain with Yolanda Gabrhel of the Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital Heart Walk teams for the past six years.
The St. Mary's teams, with teams from three other local Carondelet Health Network hospitals, have raised more than $60,000 over the past three years. Collectively they seek to raise $50,000 this year.
Odette Bolano, executive vice president of Carondelet Health Network, is serving as chairwoman of the 2011 Tucson Heart Walk.
Arthur said fundraising efforts for the St. Mary's teams have ranged from straightforward solicitation of donations to an "Annual Heart Walk Fair" in the hallways of the hospital featuring raffles and sales of plants and cacti, baked goods and jewelry.
Arthur, a cardiovascular nurse and educator, said his volunteer commitment evolved naturally after witnessing the impact of American Heart Association research through programs such as "Get With the Guidelines." The in-hospital quality improvement program ensures that treatment of coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke is aligned with the most current scientific guidelines and evidence-based treatments and therapies.
Other programs in combination with education and outreach helped the American Heart Association achieve its goal of reducing death and disability due to cardiovascular disease and stroke by 25 percent prior to 2010; it has currently set a 2020 Impact Goal to further reduce death and disability 20 percent and improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent.
"All of a sudden heart attack deaths and disability have plummeted. There has been a profound impact on the welfare of citizens receiving this kind of care … the American Heart Association sets the national standard for heart care in this country and sets the tone for the world," Arthur said.
In fact, the American Heart Association is second only to the federal government in non-industry funding of cardiovascular and stroke research; it has funded more than $1.2 billion in research over the past decade.
Many Tucsonans appreciate that research dollars are funneled into educational institutions such as the University of Arizona, according to Amy Biggs, director of the Heart Walk for Southern Arizona.
"We currently have over $3 million in research grants invested at the University of Arizona, nearly three times more than what is raised in Southern Arizona each year. But the more money we raise, the more we have to use for outreach and advocacy," Biggs said.
Biggs said that outreach and education is essential to promote awareness about the status of cardiovascular disease as the No. 1 killer of all Americans, including women over age 25.
"Lots of people don't realize this. People also don't necessarily realize how often cardiovascular disease impacts them or family members since it takes so many different forms and they are not always visible. You can't look at someone and know they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure," Biggs said.
Arthur is adamant that education - particularly about the roles of medications, diets and exercise in cardiovascular disease - is key to saving lives since it explains the science behind the research and teaches people how to help themselves.
"People need to turn off their TVs, email a few friends and get a few donations, then walk outside and go spend a couple hours walking at Reid Park once a year," Arthur said. "It is not a lot to ask for a profound effect on the public health. It is all about the public taking responsibility for their own health and helping people who are trying to help them."
If You Go
2011 Tucson Heart Walk
• When: 7-10 a.m. Saturday; the walks begins at 8:30 a.m.
• Where: Reid Park, at the corner of East 22nd Street and South Country Club Road
• Cost: Free online registration at www.TucsonHeartWalk.org
• Donations are requested, and all proceeds benefit the American Heart Association.
• Festivities include non-competitive, family- and pet-friendly 1.5- and 3-mile routes and a Heart Healthy Festival featuring free blood-pressure and cholesterol screenings; classes in compression-only CPR; coffee and heart-healthy food; children's activities; and education about heart health.
• For more information or to register online, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 795-1403.
Contact Loni Nannini at email@example.com