SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention announced on Thursday the launch of the Stronger HeartsTM Helpline, a new 24/7 free call-center resource for people with heart failure and their families. The pilot program is an addition to the existing 2-1-1 information and referral hotline in San Bernardino County – a region where nearly 20 percent of Medicare recipients are being treated for heart failure – and long-term plans are to expand the service nationwide.
“Many people with heart failure don’t fully understand the intricacies of the disease; to them, it may sound like a death sentence,” said Maxwell Ohikhuare, M.D., Health Officer for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. “The Stronger Hearts Helpline will give them easier access to information that can help them take control of their condition and stay healthier longer. I am thrilled that the National Forum chose our community to pilot this important resource.”
Heart failure is a complex condition with several causes and symptoms, and thus it can be difficult to understand and manage properly. The bilingual Stronger Hearts Helpline is available starting today. Callers simply dial 2-1-1 (or 888-435-7565) and ask for the Stronger Hearts Helpline to receive confidential support from trained, live operators who can direct them to free or low-cost services. Resources provided through the helpline include referrals to medical professionals and clinics; information about heart failure and its treatment, exercise programs, nutrition and mental health programs; and help with transportation to a doctor’s appointment.
Heart failure affects more than 5.1 million people in the United States. Beyond age 50, one in five Americans will develop heart failure over their lifetime. The healthcare costs are significant, especially when patients end up hospitalized for problems that could have been prevented. And the toll on quality of life and longevity is substantial. Nationwide, heart-failure treatment and complications account for more than $30.7 billion in spending annually, a sizable portion of the overall cost burden of cardiovascular disease.
“It’s time to take the ‘failure’ out of heart failure,” said Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, Chief of the Division of Cardiology and Associate Director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine & Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The good news is that we’re not failing as much anymore; we can now help our patients overcome the burden of heart failure and see a new way forward.
“The more patients know about heart failure and how to manage it – and the more access they have to supportive resources – the more successful they will be in staying as healthy as possible,” added Dr. Yancy, one of the nation's foremost authorities on heart failure. “The healthcare community has known for a long time that something different is needed to help our patients with heart failure. The Stronger Hearts Helpline might very well be the difference maker for those with heart failure and their care providers.”
Dr. Yancy chairs the National Forum heart-failure task force that created the Stronger Hearts Helpline. The task force is a collection of dedicated heath care advocates and professionals, each of whom brings a unique set of attributes that have come together in this first of several approaches to deal with this illness. The National Forum is a non-profit organization whose mission is to build a collective voice for a heart-healthy and stroke-free society through collaborative policy and programmatic efforts.
Stronger Hearts builds on San Bernardino County’s existing 2-1-1 program, which provides a variety of health and community resources to local residents. The helpline was made possible through funding from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
According to the National Institutes of Health, heart failure is most common in people age 65 and older and is the No. 1 reason elderly people are hospitalized. Heart-failure rates in San Bernardino County are among the highest in the state, an impetus for the area being chosen as the Stronger Hearts pilot location. The Stronger Hearts Helpline serves all residents of San Bernardino County but is specifically designed for people with heart failure, their families and/or caregivers and healthcare professionals.
“Where people live, work, learn and play has great bearing on their health and on the type of daily health care they receive,” said National Forum Executive Director John Clymer. “Through Stronger Hearts, we hope to further prove the power of a combined, centralized health service like this 2-1-1 helpline. The National Forum appreciates the efforts of our many national members, as well as the San Bernardino community groups that helped make the Stronger Hearts Helpline possible.”
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body, resulting in increased blood pressure and fluid retention in the limbs and/or organs. Heart failure is caused by a variety of conditions that weaken the heart, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure and congenital heart defects. Treatment for heart failure begins with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes and maintaining healthy blood pressure to prevent the condition from advancing. If it worsens, more advanced treatments—such as surgery—may become necessary.
About the National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention
The National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention builds a collective voice for a heart-healthy and stroke-free society through its collaborative policy and programmatic efforts. Members include more than 80 U.S. and international organizations representing public, private, health care, advocacy, academic, policy, and community sectors. The National Forum is an independent non-profit, 501(c)(3), voluntary health organization. For more information on the Stronger Hearts Helpline, please visit this link.
About 2-1-1 San Bernardino County
2-1-1 is an information and referral service that connects San Bernardino County residents with health and social services resources. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by trained bilingual staff (Spanish). For callers who need assistance in another language, 2-1-1 uses a translation line that allows communication in over 150 languages. San Bernardino County's 2-1-1 service was developed with the help of a broad, community-based team, the 2-1-1 Advisory Committee, comprising representatives from the First 5 Commission, the Board of Supervisors, several County departments, Loma Linda University, Cal State San Bernardino and other groups and non-profit organizations. 2-1-1 is a national United Way initiative.