Heart and Soul is a hypertension-prevention program that has taken place over the past seven months at Tabernacle Community Baptist Church, Milwaukee, through a partnership between Aurora Health Care Community Health and Faith and Health Partnerships.
The program provides participants with monitoring devices to help them track their blood pressure at home. They also attend monthly sessions that include blood pressure screenings and information on a wide array of topics, such as how spiritual practices, like praying, meditating, being grateful, and reading scripture, can help your heart health, how eating a nutritious diet, cutting down on salt, staying active, and managing medications can keep you healthy.
The program has transformed the lives of participants by giving them tools to manage their blood pressure and live healthier lives.
Debra Lawson and Brenda Morrow are two participants who have made positive changes to their lifestyles. Debra Lawson has lost 50 pounds and lowered her blood pressure, while Brenda Morrow realized she needed to take a break from her busy schedule and now keeps Fridays open for rest and rejuvenation. Brenda said she especially liked learning about breathing techniques, preparing healthy recipes, and incorporating spiritual practices into her day.
A space to share and learn
The Heart and Soul Program fits right in with the congregation’s mission at Tabernacle Community Baptist Church: “to empower and transform lives through the Word of God and ministries.” “The program provides tools to transform lives,” said Rev. Donna Childs, senior pastor at Tabernacle. “If you know you are getting your blood pressure under control by managing stress, eating better, and monitoring your blood pressure, that can bring confidence. And that, too, can lower your blood pressure.”
Heart and Soul also provides a safe space for participants to share and learn. “They [Heart and Soul team members] made it a safe space to share. Participants shared more in this space than they probably would have ordinarily,” said Childs.
“The program shifts the balance of power, said Carolyn McCarthy, family nurse practitioner with Aurora Health Care, who led the cardiovascular wellness sessions for the program. “When you come into a doctor’s office, the healthcare provider drives the visit. Through this program, we’re on someone else’s ground.”
“We understand you can’t only provide someone with a blood pressure cuff to help them control their blood pressure,” said Anya Gordon, Manager of Faith and Health Partnerships with Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, who led the spiritual practice sessions for the Heart and Soul program. “You need to talk about health from a holistic standpoint to reduce blood pressure by caring for body, mind, and spirit – all the things that make up a person and who they are as a human being.”
The Heart and Soul program aims to reduce blood pressure in a holistic way. Participants learn about holistic ways to alleviate chronic stress (a major contributor to hypertension) by eating healthier foods, resting, keeping a gratitude journal, exercising, praying, and incorporating other spiritual practices. Over the past seven months, participants have become better managers of their health, thanks to the program.