The Heart Health Academy at Bon Secours (HHA@BS) was founded in 2014 to educate students about the importance of establishing heart-healthy habits early in life. The program was created as part of our commitment to prevention and early detection of heart disease. Dr. Robert Lancey, Medical Director of the Bon Secours Heart and Vascular Institute and dean of the academy, founded the academy based on a similar program he established in upstate New York. In Hampton Roads, hundreds of students have participated in the program.
Since heart disease manifests itself at a much older age, HHA@BS emphasizes the link between future heart disease and cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle and dietary intake of fat and cholesterol, especially when begun at an early age. The program targets middle school students, based on their growing independence and ability to make lifestyle decisions and to understand their consequences. The faculty takes a nonjudgmental, factual and mature approach in their frank discussions with the students.
The HHA@BS consists of a three-hour session held at middle schools across the Hampton Roads area. The faculty, including heart surgeons and other health professionals, use informational and interactive discussions with students to provide an engaging and memorable learning experience. The program is free and includes a heart-healthy lunch for participants. The program can be modified to fit each school's schedule and needs.
A video of an open-heart operation is shown to emphasize the link between lifestyle behaviors and their consequences. During the presentation, students are encouraged to ask questions about the disease, how it is caused, how it is treated and, most importantly, how it can be prevented.
The program also includes:
- Pretests: Pretests are administered at the students’ schools prior to the Heart Health Academy session in order to assess baseline knowledge and attitudes.
- Pedometers: These devices are given to students during the program in order so they may learn about their level of physical activity and set new activity goals as part of the program.
- Post-tests: Post-tests are administered at the students’ school after they attend the program in order to assess learning.
- Nutrition Quiz: During lunch, students are encouraged to participate in an open ‘nutrition quiz’ led by a member of the nutrition staff at Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute.
- Essays: In the future, the Heart Health Academy will invite its participants to share what they have learned from the program through an online essay contest. Winners of the contest will be notified through their schools.