Empowering Community Members with Heart Health and Stroke Prevention

In the fall of 2020, the Muscogee Tribe launched their Stroke Prevention Program with a commitment to transforming lives and fostering a healthier community. Over the years, they have seen remarkable success, with 581 individuals benefiting from the program since its inception, and 126 completing through the end of Dec 2023.

The six-monthly visits form the backbone of the program, ensuring comprehensive coverage of vital aspects for stroke & heart disease prevention. Muscogee staff dive deep into risk factors and blood pressure management, introducing the DASH diet and advocating sodium reduction. Cholesterol discussions involve a personalized examination of recent numbers, allowing participants to track their progress.

The prevention program takes a holistic approach which extends beyond medical aspects. Program staff address the importance of physical activity, quality sleep, and stress management during dedicated sessions. Recognizing the connection between lifestyle choices and heart health, staff educate on the dangers of tobacco and alcohol, especially crucial for those with a history of stroke.

In February and May, community outreach is prioritized, aligning with Heart Health Month and Stroke Awareness Month. Heart Health Month Stroke Prevention with the Health & Wellness staff organize walking programs, encompassing the Muscogee Nation boundaries, at various Indian community centers, health clinics, nutrition centers, & schools conducting assessments and providing health promotion education. For Stroke Awareness Month teams visit 11 different community centers, providing group education on recognizing stroke and easy ways to reduce risk. The success from previous years inspire staff to make each year more impactful.

To boost community engagement, the Stroke Prevention staff present as a speaker to promote awareness: the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetics, recognizing signs of stroke and heart attack, & actions to take to reduce risk of complications during the Diabetes Summit, an annual event to promote education to natives with diabetes or caring for someone with diabetes, education to promote wellness, increase access to health promoting services. Provided support and education during the annual Senior Games (this is put on by Muscogee Nation senior services. Stroke prevention & Health & Wellness educators serve to assist with as vendors and reps/coaches for each the games), encouraging outdoor activities tailored to seniors. This event has become a beacon for promoting an active lifestyle, with enthusiastic participation and assistance from both participants and organizers.

Despite initial skepticism from some participants about the time commitment, the Stroke Prevention program has exceeded expectations. They have made it relatable by not just bombarding participants with information but by showing them how to apply it in their lives. Stress reduction, for instance, isn’t just a phrase but a set of practical coping mechanisms.

Staff identify one of their biggest wins lies in reframing resistance. When faced with individuals reluctant to change their habits, we emphasize harm reduction and improvement, framing the program not as a drastic overhaul but a gradual path to recovery.

The success isn’t just in numbers; it’s in the personal stories shared with staff and the lives impacted by this program. Participants frequently express gratitude, stating that they wish they had joined sooner. The positive feedback, the realization that there’s more to their health than they initially thought, and the eagerness to return for subsequent visits showcase the program’s impact.

The Muscogee Tribe Stroke Prevention Program isn’t just a health initiative; it’s a community movement. By empowering community members with knowledge, making health relatable, and celebrating small victories, the team did not just prevent strokes & heart disease, but transformed lives. As we continue this journey, we look forward to more success stories, more lives changed, and a community that thrives in heart health and well-being.