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Fighting Heart Disease Among Black Women in Brooklyn

NEW YORK, March 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health has launched a major initiative to improve the cardiovascular health of African American and Afro-Caribbean women in Brooklyn, NY. The initiative, Heart of a Woman, is a central component of the Institute’s community-based health programming in 2011 and is supported by a leadership grant of $190,000 from the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation.

Carried out in partnership with customers and stylists in eight hair salons, Heart of a Woman will increase awareness of Black women’s risk of cardiovascular disease and how even simple changes in diet and exercise can reduce their risk. Heart of a Woman will train salon stylists to serve as lay health advocates for their customers, offering fact-based information about heart health and encouragement. The program will target the communities of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, East Flatbush and Flatbush.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of American women – and African American women are at greater risk than any other ethnic group,” said Mark Wagar, President and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. “The Arthur Ashe Institute is taking a highly innovative, people-to-people approach to help spread the word to women, so they can better protect themselves against the ravages of heart disease.”

In previous salon-based cardiovascular programs, the Institute found that 80 percent of salon customers did not identify red meats and fried foods as sources of cholesterol and 46 percent could not suggest increased exercise or ways to reduce cardiovascular health risks.

About the Arthur Ashe Institute:

The Arthur Ashe Institute was founded in 1992 by tennis champion and humanitarian Arthur Ashe in response to the need for better access to health care in minority urban communities. The Institute has built a substantial reputation for its ability to bring current health information into Brooklyn communities using culturally tailored curricula that address health concerns that disproportionately affect minority populations, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. In addition, the Institute is noted for its ability to create and sustain partnerships with a diverse range of CBOs, minority-owned businesses, academic medical centers (e.g. SUNY Downstate Medical Center, New York University Medical Center), government agencies, elected officials, and the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center, a partnership of the Institute, the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, and SUNY Downstate. To learn more about the Institute, visit our website at

About Empire BlueCross and Blue Shield Foundation:

Through charitable grant making, the Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation and the Empire BlueCross Foundation, trade names of the Anthem Blue Cross serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State, promotes Empire’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Empire serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. To learn more about the Foundation please visit

SOURCE Empire BlueCross BlueShield Foundation

CONTACT:John N. Lewter, +1-718-222-5953, +1-718-270-6379, [email protected]

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