Boston organization offers free, online health lessons to the community

During a live webinar held on a Saturday morning in March, two Massachusetts nurses answer a series of questions on heart health from various members of the community.

“If someone is having a heart attack, is it safer to call 911 or drive them to the hospital?” asks one person.

“How do we take care of our heart when we already do very stressful jobs?” asks another.

The nurses – Maria Dalomba and Shirline Luxcin – provide thoughtful and expert answers to each question, calling on their years of experience treating patients throughout Greater Boston.

The webinar is part of a series launched in February by Heart of a Giant Foundation, an organization working to improve health outcomes for people living in historically under resourced neighborhoods in Boston. Each webinar focuses on a different health topic, such as controlling blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, and managing diabetes.

Heart of a Giant is basing each lesson around health curriculum provided by the American Heart Association. This curriculum is part of the Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve platform, which provides community organizations with lesson plans they can use to educate the populations they serve.

Bouba Diemé

“Having this community approach is key to be able to have the impact that we want to have in the long term,” said Bouba Diemé, the founder of Heart of a Giant.

In Boston, the American Heart Association is helping four community groups implement EmPOWERED to Serve thanks to the support of sponsor Sage Therapeutics.

In addition to Heart of a Giant, the Association is working with Healthworks Community Fitness, a Dorchester fitness center dedicated to promoting the health and empowerment of women and children; Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center, a Dorchester organization that offers free and low-cost tennis, academic, and life skills programming; Madison Park Development Corporation, a non-profit that develops affordable housing; and Breaktime, an organization working to combat youth homelessness.

The goal for the American Heart Association and Sage Therapeutics is that the attendees take something away from each lesson and apply it in their homes and communities.

“Healthy living is not just a goal, it’s a journey, and programs that empower people to take charge of their health are key to creating a world free of heart disease and stroke,” said Karen A. Whitefield, executive director of the American Heart Association in Boston. “They give individuals the tools they need to make informed decisions about their lifestyle choices, which can have a profound impact on their overall well-being.”

After Sage Therapeutics committed to helping launch an EmPOWERED to Serve program in Boston, the American Heart Association quickly identified Heart of a Giant as an ideal partner.

Diemé was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2012 that required him to have a heart transplant in 2022. As a result of his experience, he committed himself to raising awareness about heart disease.

In addition to volunteering for the American Heart Association, Diemé founded the Heart of a Giant Foundation in 2018, which has worked with the American Heart Association on multiple initiatives to improve the health of Boston residents.

“It’s been incredibly helpful to have these American Heart Association materials, which have been vetted and are rooted in science,” said Diemé, of the EmPOWERED to Serve curriculum.

EmPOWERED to Serve is part of the American Heart Association’s efforts to advance cardiovascular health for all by identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.

“As a result of this program, we hope more people in our community will be able to make healthier diet choices, prevent and assist in medical emergencies, and to understand the importance of how getting active can lead to a longer, heart healthy life,” said Whitefield.