Recently, thirty Black women met for the final session of a series of mornings they spent together learning how to take charge of their own health. While losing weight and inches and lowering blood pressure, they created a special bond of friendship and support. They had completed the pilot program of Love Your Heart - the first component of The Healthy Sisters Project.
Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States. Black women carry the highest cardiovascular burden among all races, and Black women in Boston are currently 15% more likely to die of heart disease than their white counterparts. In comparison with all Boston city residents, Black women have significantly higher risk for heart disease, with low physical activity rates, increased diabetes incidence and nearly double the citywide obesity rates. They are also more than 1/3 as likely to suffer from hypertension - the main risk factor for stroke. These disparities exist regardless of income. There are clear barriers to exercise for Black women in Boston. Options for healthy food purchases are also limited compared to more affluent communities.
The Healthy Sisters Project targets Black Women in Boston, especially those who are sedentary, not engaged in physical activity, or at risk for overweight, heart disease and other poor outcomes. The project will provide health and wellness activities aimed at improving their health and ultimately empowering them to advocate for their own wellness, in addition to that of their families and communities.
The Healthy Sisters Project will achieve these objectives through an integrated year-round program of self-help groups and wellness activities. Anticipated benefits fall into two categories - measurable health improvements and long-term lifestyle changes. This program will provide ongoing leadership and advocacy opportunities to empower women to integrate self-help techniques into their daily lives and sustain positive lifestyle changes over time.
There are three main components of the Healthy Sisters Project: Love Your Heart, The SHE (Sustaining Health Eating) Network and Train the Trainer. Love Your Heart (LYH) is the first step of the program, bringing women together for mutual support while losing weight through nutrition awareness and exercise. Once completing LYH, women become members of The SHE Network, created to support women in maintaining a healthy lifestyle by connecting them to community fitness activities. Finally, women will have the opportunity to participate in Train the Trainer - a leadership development program.