Quality of life is significantly lower for women than men after a cardiac event, and women who lack social support have a higher risk of fatal heart disease. The Women@Heart program is a peer support program led by women with heart disease, for women with heart disease that aims to create a caring environment for women to learn from each other and support one another on the road to recovery. The program provides women with heart disease, in every community, with access to emotional support, education support and a caring environment for a better recovery.
How Women@Heart Works
Women@Heart lasts six months and consists of 12 two-hour sessions held bi-weekly in community settings across the region. It is free and physician referral is not required.
The sessions are run by Peer Leaders who are women who have had a successful recovery from heart disease and have a strong passion for supporting and helping other women on their road to recovery. Through a three-day training workshop, Women@Heart Peer Leaders are trained to become support network leaders within their local communities.
"Yeah the group becomes your family because they understand what you’re going through for the particular situation. They understand better than anybody else.”
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Are You Eligible?
To be eligible for Women@Heart, you must:
- Be a woman with heart disease (heart attack, angina, stent, bypass surgery, valve disorder, pacemaker)
- Have not been hospitalized or experienced significant cardiac symptoms within the last 6 weeks.
- Geographically available for attending local group sessions.
- Understand English or French.
How to Register
Interested in Becoming a Peer Leader?
Peer leaders are women who have been diagnosed with CVD and have a strong passion for supporting and helping other women in their recovery. Leaders must have come to terms with own cardiovascular diagnosis and be physically, emotionally and psychologically ready to help other women. To receive a Peer Leader Certification, interested individuals undergo a screening process to determine eligibility, after which they complete a three-day training workshop led by experts at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
Peer leader training consists of:
- Disease-specific information (general disease information, women and heart disease, risk factor management, stress coping and emotional management)
- Communication skills (active listening, sharing stories, facilitation skills, coaching skills, public speaking)
- Support skills (non-directive support, building motivation)
- Self-care skills (goal setting, action plan, problem solving)
- Access to community resources to address ethical concerns, role conflict, crisis management
Community of Practice
Peer Leaders meet every six to eight weeks to support each other, share knowledge and experiential learning, and, most importantly, keep each other committed to, and consistent with, the values and principles of peer support.
The camaraderie experienced within a group of like-minded individuals who share similar values and lived experience can help to maintain the health, hopefulness and wellness of the leaders, provide opportunity for learning and the sharing of wisdom, and remind each other of the guiding values of peer support.
People who provide peer support experience higher rates of physical health and life satisfaction, lower rates of distress and are more optimistic about their health1. Here are some of the benefits that Peer Leaders can gain by becoming involved:
- Sense of purpose (accomplishment and competence)
- Well-being (making people feel good about themselves)
- Knowledge gain (more knowledgeable and confident in own skills)
- Acceptance (opportunity to come to greater terms with own illness)
- Self-help (protection from social isolation and physical decline)
How Can Healthcare Providers Get Involved?
Health care providers can encourage their female patients with heart disease to join Women@Heart. People living with chronic conditions need more than medical treatment from their health care providers; they need support in mastering and sustaining self-care behaviours that are necessary to enable them to live as healthy as possible. The primary rehabilitative need of women may be that of support, particularly from women with similar experiences. We know that people are more likely to hear and personalize messages, and consequently to change their attitudes and behaviours, if they believe the peer is similar to them and faced the same concerns and pressures.
For more information call the Prevention and Wellness Centre at 613-696-7071 or 1-866-399-4432, we can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prevention and Wellness Centre
University of Ottawa Heart institute
40 Ruskin Street, Room H2353