Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has serious physical, psychological and social ramifications for women, different from those found in men. Some research have found that women’s quality of life is significantly lower than men’s after a cardiac event and women who lacked social support had a higher risk of fatal CHD after adjustment for other coronary risk factors. Women’s primary rehabilitative need may be that of support, particularly from women with similar experiences.
Health professionals alone are unable to address evolving health needs. People living with chronic conditions need more than medical treatment from their health care providers; they need support in mastering and sustaining self-care behaviors that are necessary to enable them to live as healthy as possible. We know that people are more likely to hear and personalize messages, and consequently to change their attitudes and behaviors, if they believe the peer is similar to them and face the same concerns and pressures. Peer support interventions empower patients to improve the management of their health and provide meaningful opportunities to help others facing similar challenges.
In Canada, there is a lack of standardization in the support women receive regarding their heart health. Therefore, developing an exemplary model of excellence in peer support for women with heart disease would be a valuable contribution to the field because without sustained support, many women do not succeed in managing their condition well, leading to poor health outcomes, including expensive and debilitating complications.
The WomenHeart Champion Program will be dedicated to promoting women's heart health through advocacy, community education and peer support to ensure that women with heart disease in every community have access to information, education and support services.
The development of WomenHeart Peer Leaders will result in women who are trained to serve as local support group leaders and community educators with the support of the Canadian Women Heart Health Centre (CWHHC). Through training, WomenHeart Peer Leaders will serve as paraprofessional* to conduct cardiovascular education and outreach activities in the communities where they live.
As part of the Canadian Women Heart Health Centre, once trained, Peer Leaders will:
- Provide emotional support and promote coping to reduce risk of isolation associated with heart disease diagnosis in women,
- Offer educational support to empower women to take charge of their heart health and to better understand their condition,
- Create a caring environment for women to learn from each other by sharing their stories, and
- Represent a volunteer force of women who will become agents of change by being advocates for heart healthy women in their communities.
The goal of the letter of recommendation is to help a referee make a statement of support for an applicant. It includes how long the referee has known the applicant and in what capacity, a few remarks about the applicants personal qualities and accomplishments, and experiences that make the applicant a good fit for the role of Peer Leader.
The information provided is to help the selection committee get a better picture of the applicant and their potential.