Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, today urged Cal State LA students to take action against cardiovascular disease (CVD), which claims nearly 400,000 women’s lives each year, making it the number one killer of women.

Dr. Murthy participated in a forum at Cal State LA with Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR (The National Council of La Raza), Dr. Rita Redberg, Professor of Medicine and Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at the University of California, San Francisco and Cal State LA President William A. Covino. Forum participants called for urgent action to raise awareness and make women’s heart health a priority.

Covino announced at the event that he will begin a dialogue with students, faculty and staff to create a smoke-free University. This process marks an important move for public health at the University, as smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. As part of its commitment to combat cardiovascular disease, Cal State LA also hosted a women’s heart health codeathon and screening event in partnership with the Women’s Heart Alliance, where students met with medical professionals and learned about their personal risk of developing heart disease as well as how to improve their heart health.

Students also competed over the weekend in a codeathon event, hosted by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, where young developers and designers built original prototype apps to help young women decrease their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The two-day event drew industry leaders from the tech, design and health fields.

“For too long, we’ve been conditioned to see heart disease as an old man’s problem. But a woman dies nearly every minute from heart disease and women who have heart attacks are more likely than men to die within a year. Because women’s symptoms often look different than a man’s, women’s heart disease is often misdiagnosed or undertreated. We need to come together to fight for gender equity in women’s heart health and to make preventing heart disease a young woman’s priority,” said Barbra Streisand, co-founder of the Women’s Heart Alliance. “Because, even though heart disease can be deadly, it’s also largely preventable. And I want young women everywhere, to be empowered to fight back. It’s all of our jobs, men included, to care about this epidemic and to curb the number of women dying from this preventable disease.”

“The key to preventing disease is a healthy lifestyle,” Surgeon General Murthy said. “There are everyday steps you can take to lower your chance of developing heart disease by eating a healthy diet; being active and exercising regularly; and staying tobacco-free.”

Ronald O. Perelman, co-founder of WHA and Chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Incorporated, echoed the forum’s call for young women to take action against cardiovascular disease. “In the United States, heart disease kills more women each year than all cancers combined, and has taken more women’s lives than men’s for more than 20 years. Yet, 45 percent of women are unaware that it’s their number one threat. We need awareness, education and advocacy to tackle this epidemic. We need to make women’s heart health and prevention a priority, to stop this disease in its tracks.”

British Robinson, CEO of the Women’s Heart Alliance, also spoke, emphasizing gender racial disparities. “Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and black and Hispanic women like many of us here today are especially vulnerable. To win the fight against health disparities, we need action in every sector.”

“Everyone plays a role in creating and sustaining healthy communities and we know that technology can be particularly impactful in that effort,” said Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. “We were thrilled to bring our healthy codeathon series to Cal State LA students to identify what works and how technology can spur innovation that will lead to healthier communities for years to come.”

Cal State LA’s population reflects the diversity of greater Los Angeles’s residents, with a student body of 27,000, about 60 percent of whom are Latino, 15 percent Asian American and four percent African American. As gender disparities are evident in heart disease research funding and mortality, and sixty percent of students are women, the Cal State LA campus served as an appropriate audience for the forum’s message of action.

“At Cal State LA, we launched our Mind Matters initiative last year because we realize that without student wellbeing there is no academic success,” President Covino said. “We’re confident that our students’ awareness of heart disease will increase through our partnership with the Women’s Heart Alliance and Clinton Health Matters Initiative.”

NCLR is proud to partner with the Women’s Heart Alliance to increase awareness of women’s heart health,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR. “Latinas face a higher risk of cardiovascular disease yet one in three Latinas are unaware that heart disease is their number one cause of death. That is why not only in my role as the leader of the nation’s largest Hispanic organization, but also as a Latina, I want to ensure women, especially young Latinas, are aware of their heart risks.”

The Cal State LA campus served as a pilot location this weekend for the formal launch of a new partnership between the Women’s Heart Alliance and Clinton Health Matters Initiative, aimed at reducing women’s heart disease and its precursors in young women. The partnership, which will expand to more campuses in 2016, will identify women at risk of developing or who have heart disease and link them to care, while promoting best practices in screening, diagnosing and treatment of the disease and its risk factors.

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