The American Heart Association is on a mission to be a relentless force for longer, healthier lives and that is something that we strive to do every day at a local level here in Central Texas. Many people think of the American Heart Association as an organization that is solely focused only on heart disease and stroke, but our scope of work goes beyond. Our five focus areas are currently Hypertension and Chronic Disease, Nutrition Security, Tobacco and Vaping Cessation, Reducing Risk in Women, and Covid-19.
All five of these are impacting our communities and specifically our marginalized communities at alarming rates. We are aware of the health disparities and the association published a Presidential Advisory where the health impact of structural racism is shared. Along with the Presidential Advisory, the American Heart Association has set a goal for the organization to advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality by 2024.
Locally, we conducted stakeholder conversations in December 2020 with a diverse group of leaders in the community to hear their perspectives and where they think Central Texas needs more attention. The group highlighted nutrition insecurity, chronic disease in at-risk communities, and teen vaping. Our work around these priorities will be done through a health equity lens. And, we are bringing this new area of focus into our community events (Heart and Stroke Walk, Heart Ball of Austin, etc.), too. As we shift our work towards policy, systems, and environmental changes, we will work with key stakeholders and community coalitions to ensure that the impact we are making is sustainable and long lasting.
Examples of this include working with school districts to ensure that their policies cover all tobacco products at all times, on all district property (including vehicles) and during school-sponsored events (whether on or off campus) and most importantly we want to ensure that policies provide a progressive, supportive approach to discipline, instead of exclusionary practices. We are also working school districts to ensure no-cost, clean water is accessible during the school day and extended hours while children are in programming in school buildings.
Of course, we are continuing our partnerships with clinics around hypertension specifically with our ambulatory care programs that include Target BP, Check, Change, Control Cholesterol, and Target Type 2 Diabetes. We are working with local health centers to ensure they are all of the resources they need to provide the best quality of care to all. And, we will continue to support and educate our Latina community through our annual Vestido Rojo event. This year we hope to add more programming and information to all communities and we strive to meet our communities where they are.
As the Community Impact Director, I am very excited about the work we are doing and I know that together, we can truly make an impact and be a relentless force in Central Texas and beyond.
Meet Austin’s Community Impact Director – Catalina Berry
Catalina Berry is passionate about inspiring healthy living, community and giving back in her personal and professional life. After being an active volunteer for the American Heart Association for over ten years, Catalina is now the Community Impact Director for the American Heart Association Central Texas Market. Her work in her current role is around policy, systems, and environmental changes in the community with a focus in health equity. Growing up bi-cultural and bilingual has helped shape Catalina into who she is today as she strives to be a positive influence in the community.