Get creative with your Heart Month activities

Draw upon community and in-house resources

For the past four years, Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, NJ, has sponsored the Deborah Heart Challenge during American Heart Month in February. Similar to a spelling bee, the challenge raises awareness about heart disease within the schools and community and increases understanding about the services this specialty hospital provides, says Tom Campbell, MS, director of marketing and managed care at Deborah.

The idea for the challenge came up during the monthly meeting of the Deborah Town School Committee, which consists of representatives from the hospital, local community and school district. The committee was formed to create dialogue between the regional specialty hospital and the community.

To compete in the competition, students must take a test on the heart written by the high school science curriculum supervisor who is a member of the committee. Only the top-scoring students can compete in the challenge. Those who are selected are given a study guide from which questions are drawn during the challenge. "Physicians choose the questions and sit on the side as the panel of judges. As we move along, the answers get more difficult and require more explanation," says Campbell.

Students address questions by the physicians in rounds, and when they give an incorrect answer they are eliminated. During the playoff round, the final two students left in the competition write their answers. The winners receive a savings bond and a plaque.

An emcee introduces the students, moves the competition along, and gives facts about Deborah in between rounds. The show is videotaped and broadcast on local cable.

In conjunction with the Heart Challenge, a Heart Art competition takes place. Students from the local high schools can enter art projects that are developed around the heart and many are three-dimensional. The winners receive savings bonds.

"The art is displayed with the winners to the categories prior to the Heart Challenge," says Campbell. The heart art projects also are displayed in the hospital lobby for three weeks following the competition.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has used a slightly more traditional activity to educate the public about heart health. Last year, the patient family education committee and cardiac/vascular nursing celebrated American Heart Month in the health learning center by hosting a multistation information session.

"Staff at each station were well versed in answering questions related to risk factors and methods to reduce risk for cardio vascular disease," says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, advanced practice nurse, patient education.

At the information session held from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., staff and the public learned more about a heart healthy lifestyle by talking with advanced practice nurses, registered dietitians, representatives from cardiac rehabilitation, the Wellness Institute, and physician referral. A smoking cessation specialist also participated.

Staff at each station selected their own handouts related to the topic. For example, the dietitians had information on healthy eating and provided mini consults. Also, appropriate Health Learning Center resources were on display such as models, books, and videos.

Cookbooks from the American Heart Association were given away to everyone who attended.


For more information about activities for American Heart Month contact your local chapter of the American Heart Association. For more details on hosting a Heart Challenge or information session, contact:

  • Tom Campbell, MS, Director of Marketing and Managed Care, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, 200 Trenton Road, Browns Mills, NJ 08015. Telephone: (609) 893-1200, ext. 5843. E-mail:
  • Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, Advanced Practice Nurse, Patient Education, Nursing Development, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron, Suite 4-708, Chicago, IL 60611-2908. Telephone: (312) 926-2173. E-mail: