SOUTHFIELD — The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular Health program announced grants of $155,000 to the Allegiance Health Foundation in Jackson and a grant of $161,950 to Catherine’s Health Center in Grand Rapids to support their “Live Heart Smart” initiative.

The Jackson grant will support the Health Improvement Organization/Community Hearts (Project Access) initiative. This is the second consecutive year that the Allegiance Health Foundation has received a grant from the Connections for Cardiovascular Health program, for a total of $305,000 to date.

The Health Improvement Organization Community Hearts’ Project Access program aims to identify cardiovascular risk among uninsured/underinsured workers and provide them with navigation and resources to assist in risk reduction, health education and skill-building around healthy lifestyles and disease management.

After one full year of funding from the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, participants in the program found to be at-risk achieved the following results:
• 55 percent decreased their cholesterol
• 25 percent decreased their low productivity
• 22 percent saw their illness days drop

“We are grateful to the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation for providing us with essential resources to reach uninsured residents of our community and better manage their cardiovascular health,” said Amy Schultz, M.D., director of prevention and community health at Allegiance. “This grant enhances our local Project Access program and supports the Health Improvement Organization’s county-wide efforts to improve community health. The first year of funding helped hundreds of Project Access participants receive vital preventive screenings and resources and brought Electronic Benefit Transfer machines to our local farmers markets. This year’s funding will continue to advance efforts to make healthy lifestyles more accessible to all.”

This year, the program will further integrate its health management component with primary care though a shared electronic medical record and network-based navigator/health coaches who focuses on connecting patients with community programs and resources.

The Grand Rapids grant’s Live Heart Smart is targeted toward low-income, medically underserved residents of the Grand Rapids community become aware of their personal risk factors for cardiovascular disease as well as helping them identify and implement lifestyle changes that will assist them in becoming and remaining healthy.

“We are honored that the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation has chosen to support our Live Heart Smart program,” said Karen Kaashoek, Executive Director of Catherine’s Health Center. “Every day we see firsthand the devastating results of untreated chronic disease. Many of these can be prevented if issues are detected early and small changes are made. However, simply telling people they should make lifestyle changes will not solve their health problems. For many, the tools needed to actually make changes are beyond their reach due to low income and limited access to basic health education.”

Live Heart Smart offers a panel of screening tests to participants and assists them in completing a personal health history profile for factors that cause or contribute to cardiovascular disease. Participants are assigned to a lifestyle counselor and mentor group based on established criteria. They will receive assistance while working through program steps like nutrition education, budget-conscious cooking, accessing healthy foods, community gardening, and programs related to healthy lifestyle and smoking cessation.

The program also features nurse case managers who track progress and outcomes for those with identified health risks. Each participant completes pre/post-participation assessments and is re-screened at set intervals to assess knowledge increase, behavior modifications and objective measurements of lab values and Body Mass Index. The services are provided under supervision of a physician by appropriately trained staff and volunteers including students from the Michigan State University School of Human Medicine and local nursing programs.

“Cardiovascular disease continues to be the nation’s No. 1 killer, which is why we must work to decrease the risks of this devastating disease,” said James W. Blasetto, M.D., MPH, FACC chairman of the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation.

The Connections for Cardiovascular Health program awards grants of $150,000 and up to U.S.-based non-profit organizations that are doing innovative work in the field of cardiovascular health. This year, the Foundation has awarded over $4.4 million in grants to 22 organizations. Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded nearly $11 million across the United States to help improve cardiovascular health.

Organizations can learn more and apply online for a Foundation grant at Applications must be submitted online no later than 5 p.m. Eastern time Feb. 28, 2013.

Allegiance Health is a $419 million, 480-bed community-owned health system in Jackson. Allegiance complements traditional acute care services with mission-based services that complete the care continuum for all members of the community. Through its Health Improvement Organization, Allegiance is also a national leader in forming community partnerships that innovatively address wellness and prevention needs in the community.

Established in 1993, the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation is a Delaware not-for-profit corporation and a 501(c)(3) entity organized for charitable purposes including to promote public awareness of healthcare issues, to promote public education of medical knowledge and to support or contribute to charitable and qualified exempt organizations consistent with its charitable purpose. Connections for Cardiovascular Health was launched in 2010 through a charitable contribution of $25 million from AstraZeneca.

Established in 1996, Catherine’s Health Center celebrates its 17th anniversary this year. Catherine’s Health Center is a 501(c)(3) safety net medical clinic, serving more than 6,000 patients annually. Using a small core of paid staff and many dedicated volunteers, Catherine’s mission is to provide free or low cost medical services to low income, uninsured and under-insured residents of Kent County. Much more information is available at


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