Blood Pressure Ambassadors take screenings to the city’s most vulnerable

Blood Pressure Ambassadors take screenings to the city’s most vulnerable

Joseph Hickey, executive director, St. Patrick's Center.
Joseph Hickey, executive director, St. Patrick’s Center.

At St. Patrick’s Center, Christiana Care Blood Pressure Ambassadors bring screenings and health education directly to people who otherwise would have little access to preventive care.

“St. Pat’s is in the poorest section of Wilmington,” says Joseph Hickey, executive director. “And poor people are often in poor health.”

Blood Pressure Ambassadors are volunteers, trained and supported by Christiana Care Health System’s Center for Heart & Vascular Health. Their work is an integral part of Christiana Care’s ongoing partnership with St. Pat’s, a center that serves senior citizens and homeless people in the heart of the city.

“We are trying to get poor and homeless people, many of whom haven’t seen a doctor in years, into a routine of getting screened,” Hickey said. “We want them to know their numbers so they can take preventive measures to avoid going to the Emergency Department.”

Hickey has seen firsthand the devastating impact of untreated hypertension.

“We had an employee who was diagnosed with high blood pressure when he went to the doctor for a headache,” he said. “But he didn’t like his medications and stopped taking them. Then his kidneys shut down. He is now on dialysis, which means that he can’t work anymore.”

In addition to screenings, Blood Pressure Ambassadors educate the people they serve on such topics as eating healthy foods, exercising and taking medicine as prescribed by the doctor.

The partnership between Christiana Care and St. Pat’s makes it more likely that people with hypertension will seek treatment and stick with their plan of care, Hickey said.

“We can provide them with transportation to their doctor’s appointments, and we have their medications delivered to St. Pat’s,” he said. “We assist them with paying for their medications. We see people who are so poor they can’t pay a $2 co-pay.”

Getting screened is the first step on what could be a life-saving journey.

The Blood Pressure Ambassadors do their outreach work during events at St. Pat’s, such as community meals served at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and at events such as St. Pat’s monthly Free Lunch Day. Blood Pressure Ambassadors volunteer during the times in between events, too.

“In a typical year, we see 3,000 to 4,000 people,” Hickey said. “There’s a certain level of trust here, which makes it a good place for the Blood Pressure Ambassadors to do their important work.”

Serving as respectful, caring partners in their neighbors’ health is The Christiana Care Way.

“We are very appreciative of the support we receive from Christiana Care in getting screenings and education to people who otherwise would not have access to care,” he said. “The Blood Pressure Ambassadors truly make a difference in many lives.”