Twelve years ago, Saint Agnes Hospital started Red Dress Sunday, an innovative, faith-based health education program designed by the hospital to raise awareness of the devastating effects of heart disease among women.
This year, the event fittingly falls on Sunday, February 14, 2016, which is Valentine’s Day, a special time symbolized by a heart. February is also National Heart Month, a month-long observation, which seeks to raise awareness of heart health.
Saint Agnes Hospital will be partnering with an estimated 180 churches for this year’s Red Dress Sunday, giving thousands of women—who will dress in red to symbolize their commitment—the information and tools they need to understand and minimize their risks.
Heart disease kills one woman every minute in the United States, with African American women at the highest risk.
St. Bernardine Roman Catholic Church located at 3812 Edmondson Avenue in Baltimore is the official “media church” for this year’s Red Dress Sunday. The event will include a VIP Reception (7:30 a.m.-8:00 a.m.); Mass (8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.) and a Health Fair (9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.) The Mass and the Health Fair are free and open to the public.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen; Sr. Saint Agnes Hospital Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Yolanda Copeland; and Saint Agnes Women’s Heart Center Medical Director, Dr. Shannon Winakur, will be among the speakers. Cheryl Weems, a member of St. Bernadine, will serve as a Testimonial Speaker.
“Despite stunning improvements regarding heart health, the American Heart Association just put out information that notes that coronary heart disease remains understudied, undiagnosed, and untreated in women,” said Dr. Winakur. “For the African-American community, it was very pertinent, and the statistics were chilling.”
She added, “Many women die from sudden cardiac arrest which means we didn’t have a chance to save them. The people who have sudden cardiac arrest is higher in black women than in white women. It highlights the need to talk about prevention.”
The American Heart Association (AHA) report noted that racially and ethnically diverse women with Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) have distinct experiences in terms of presentation, risk factor burden, evidence-based care, and long-term outcomes. AMI is the medical term for a heart attack. A heart attack is a life-threatening condition that occurs when blood flow to the heart is abruptly cut off, causing tissue damage.
According to the AHA report, the prevalence of AMI is higher in black women than in all other racial and ethnic groups of women; black women also have a higher incidence of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) as the first manifestation of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) than white women, and their survival rate after out-of-hospital arrest is about one third than that of whites.
“There are a number of reasons for this,” said Dr. Winakur. “Part of it is access to care. Many women also don’t want to bother anyone or be a burden. That’s why so many women wait to go to the hospital. Many women help others, but don’t want to ask for help themselves. That has to change, especially when it comes to our health. It’s okay to take care of ourselves, because we are worth it.”
Red Dress Sunday was first introduced in the community by St. Agnes when three local churches agreed to integrate messages about heart health into their Sunday services and provide their members with information and resources, while encouraging everyone to dress in red. Saint Agnes Hospital is located at 900 S. Caton Avenue.
Red Dress Sunday is among many efforts the hospital has implemented to combat heart disease among women. They also include the “60 Minute Heart Check.” For $60, women can receive a comprehensive heart assessment and personal consultation to help them understand their heart condition and risk factors.
“There are a number of risk factors, but there are also a number of things women can do to prevent heart disease,” said Dr. Winakur. “These things include exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. If a person can do that, it would reduce their risk of heart disease 80 to 90 percent.”
For more information about Red Dress Sunday, visit: www.RedDressSunday.com.