Medical Professionals Team Up with Volunteer Firefighters for Heart-Healthy Initiative

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is offering the support of its local volunteer chapters for the The National Volunteer Fire Council's (NVFC) Heart-Healthy Firefighter program.

The NVFC's Heart-Healthy Firefighter program has established an aggressive goal of reducing heart-related on-duty firefighter deaths by 25 percent by the year 2008. Now in its second year, the program educates firefighters and the communities they serve about the risks of heart attacks and other heart-related dangers inherent in firefighting.

According to Grace Middleton, spokesperson for the Medical Reserve Corps, MRC units will support the Heart-Healthy Firefighter initiative by providing, overseeing or assisting in performing physical exams for firefighters, as well as educating fire department members on healthy lifestyles and the ways they can begin to make healthy changes.

"We're delighted to receive support from the Medical Reserve Corps. The MRC provides an invaluable service to local communities, whether it's in times of crisis or simply in meeting day-to-day medical needs. We fully expect them to play a vital role in our program, not only in health services, but also in educating firefighters about the risks of heart disease," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg.

According to NVFC officers, inquiries and interest in participating in the program are very high. Organizations in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Tennesse have already expressed interest in the program.

A Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit developed by the NVFC has already provided thousands of firefighters with valuable information on fighting cholesterol and heart disease, as well as promoting better nutrition and overall physical fitness. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit is available by visiting www.healthy-firefighter.org. The Web site also offers other heart-healthy tools, including a medical history form that firefighters can print out and provide to their doctor.

"We've been quite successful in educating firefighters about cardiac-related health issues," said Heather Schafer, NVFC executive director. "Not only have we put information into the hands of over 5,000 firefighters, we've also provided thousands of free cholesterol screenings at key fire service conferences. Of course, much work needs to be done at the local level, which is why we're so grateful for the Medical Reserve Corps' support. They will make it far easier to reach the many thousands of volunteer firefighters who can benefit from our heart-healthy program."

The mission of the Medical Reserve Corps is to build teams of volunteer medical and public health professionals who lend their time and expertise at the local level. The all-volunteer units assist their communities during times of medical, environmental or terror emergencies. MRC volunteers also provide education and prevention services to improve the public health infrastructure of local communities and neighborhoods.

For more information on resource materials available to Medical Reserve Corps units to support the National Volunteer Fire Council's Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program, contact Maggie Wilson, director of Health and Safety, at (888) ASK-NVFC or (202) 887-5700, or via e-mail at [email protected]

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