Good Sport Rewarded For Service To Heart Health By Nation’s Heart Charity

A man who delivers an innovative, highly successful project to improve patients’ heart health in Wales has been awarded with a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Excellence Award.

Daniel Harries works on the Heartlinks Project which provides a three-pronged approach to encourage people at risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Daniel runs the exercise component of the programme in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, which has led to a significant 28% reduction in risk from CHD in medium-risk patients, along with an 11 fold increase in physical health scores.

Patients are referred to the scheme by health professionals and a personal exercise programme is then created for them with help from a Sport & Exercise Scientist. The individually tailored programme offers a range of activity options to the patient – a new approach to exercise referral programmes – which leads to longer-term uptake of physical activity.

Patients referred to the scheme are also given 3, 6 and 12 month one-to-one sessions with the Heartlinks team to ensure patients are happy with their exercise programme, and to offer them support and encouragement. Results show that 65% of people starting the project are still taking part in it a year later.

An equally unique and effective weight management programme called swim-slim makes up another part of the Heartlinks programme and a community focussed lifestyle education component is also key to helping people get healthy. The project also links to other services such as smoking cessation support and cardiac rehabilitation.

CHD causes over 117,000 deaths a year in the UK: approximately one in five deaths in men and one in six deaths in women1. Yet people who take regular physical activity have twice the protection against CHD as people who are inactive2.

Daniel Harries is receiving the fourth BHF Excellence Award since it launched in 2005. The awards are open to all nurses and allied health professionals working to improve heart health in any way in the UK. Awarded twice a year, the aim is to highlight and reward work which has been shown to improve the quality of service in their area of work.

Daniel was awarded £1,000 by the BHF on Thursday 15 March 2007 to spend on his professional development. He plans to spend the money on either BACR (British Association Cardiac Rehabilitation) Phase IV Instructor Training or an MSc in Sport Psychology with UWIC University.

Daniel says: “I’m delighted that this project is so successful. There is a real need for more support and information about lifestyle changes that can truly make a difference to people’s health. By giving patients in Merthyr Tydfil a choice of activities and encouragement they are making real health improvements.”

Peter Weissberg, Medical Director, BHF, says: “The Heartlinks project is one we would like to see replicated in other parts of the UK that face a burgeoning threat of heart disease.”

The Heartlinks Project was made possible through the Inequalities in Health Fund supported by the National Assembly for Wales, which contributes to the implementation of the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease.

There is one further opportunity to win an Excellence Award in 2007 and entries are welcomed from nurses and allied health professionals working to improve heart health. As well as the cash award to spend on their own professional development, winners will be showcased on the BHF website as examples of excellent healthcare practice.

The next closing date is September 27th 2007. For further information email Judy O’Sullivan at [email protected] or contact her on 020 7725 0654.