By Bill Poteat bpoteat@gastongazette.com

February is Heart Month — a time measures which can be obtained to keep the heart healthy. Renee Anthony, executive director of Gaston Society’s Heart Societysat down to to discuss the Heart Society and its focus on core health problems.

GAZETTE: How does Gaston County’s Heart Society differ from the American Heart Association?

Anthony: All money that is contributed into the Heart Society can be used here in Gaston County. We provide programs and services which are tailored to fulfill the requirements of the community. And for all our programs, we do outcome measuring to prove their impact and their value.

GAZETTE: Where will the support for your Heart Society come in?

Anthony We owe a Good Deal of our success into the Gaston County United Way’s financial generosity. Since 1982, 30% of our funding has been provided every year by the United Way. We have three major fundraising events — that the Heart Ball in February, the Heart Walk in May, and the Open Heart Open golf championship in the summer. We receive grant funds and individual contributions.

GAZETTE: What are the general goals of this Heart Society?

Anthony: We now have three primary targets. One is increasing awareness of heart health through instruction. The second is promoting heart healthy lifestyles. And providing needed services.

GAZETTE: What do your schooling efforts focus on?

Anthony: We first attempt to educate folks about what the heart is, what its job is, and how it works. We look at the risk and lifestyle factors which can promote heart disease.

GAZETTE: What efforts would you really aim at folks?

Anthony: We begin with kindergarten students. We supply them with a coloring book called “My Healthy Heart.” For fourth- and – fifth-graders annually we have a program. Each pupil receives an booklet regarding heart health and then the students make posters illustrating what they heard. The posters are exhibited in the schools. At teachers’ request, we also do individual course presentations. At the high school level, we have exactly the Junior Heart Board at which we utilize students as volunteers to spread the material in their schools on heart health.

GAZETTE: What about your adult education attempts?

Anthony: We concentrate on our screening applications because of cholesterol and blood pressure. With the screenings, we are ready to provide not only information, but numbers that are personal to people. And we strongly advise them to follow up with their doctors. A screening has to be non-fasting, therefore we do the cholesterol number and the HDL number. We can do almost everywhere. Cholesterol screenings, because blood has to be utilized and there is a wait time for results, require a controlled environment. We offer counselling that is immediate. This is what is currently happening. That is what the figures mean. We make the imformation applicable to them. We know that these screenings have an impact. Folks are currently making doctor appointments after the screenings.

GAZETTE: Tell us about your services to individuals.

Anthony: Our Primary focus is that the Medication Assistance Program. We have customers from their 20s to their 90s. Only about 13 percent of our customers are seniors. Of us don’t have health insurance or don’t have the money. Our focus is local, local, neighborhood. To an medication, $ 3 can be an obstruction for some people. That $3 can make a life difference difference.

GAZETTE: Any last words you’d like to share?

Anthony: I can not say enough. We have just two team members, administrative and myself assistant Pat Lanier. We couldn’t do so much of that which we do withouth the time, energy, and assistance of our volunteers.

Bill Poteat may be reached in 704-869-1855.