Healthy Hearts Make Happy People

Adventist churches throughout Portland, Ore., are catching the vision of health ministry, all because of the initiative of a group of retired nurses and their friends from The Village retirement complex in Gresham, Ore.

When Molly Geddis, parish nurse for the Sunnyside (Ore.) Church, became the lifestyle director of the Healthy Heart team, she received permission from the corporate office of a large chain store to do blood pressure screenings at one of their stores. At that first screening more than two years ago, 144 people were seen. After three months, the corporate director of pharmacy operations for the store asked if the group was willing to do the Healthy Heart program in more stores.

The program has blossomed from there. During 2009, Gladstone, Pleasant Valley, Stone Tower, and Meadow Glade churches, all within the Portland (Ore.)/Vancouver (Wash.) metro area, began their own Healthy Heart teams. The overall program sees more than 650 people at the monthly screenings and involves 140 volunteers.

Greeters, secretaries and nurses make up the team. Two nurses check blood pressure, one counselor helps those with elevated blood pressure make lifestyle changes. Fifty percent of the people seen have elevated blood pressure, and many of them are not aware of it.

Each church team has a unique follow-up program. Marge Baker, a nurse counselor from the The Village complex, signs people up who want follow-up counseling, calling them for an appointment. Baker says, "Each month we add 10 more people to our list. We give them a little booklet, a promise book or Bible Answers."

The Pleasant Valley Church held a six-week class. Baker brought four of her clients to the class. One lady and her daughter attend church on Sabbath and are taking Bible studies.

Chris Binder, of the Gladstone team says, "My husband and I love this program. We could write a book about our experiences."

Featured in: January 2010