(HARTFORD, Conn.) – The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded the Hoffman Heart Institute at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center a $450,000, three-year grant to help fund an outreach initiative that is part of the new Women’s Heart Health Program.

The community outreach initiative is part of a new comprehensive Women’s Heart Program of the Hoffman Heart Institute, located at Saint Francis. The initiative is designed to educate women about the risk of heart disease and provide venues to assess risk and take action to prevent or manage cardiovascular disease. The goal is to empower women to understand the signs of a heart attack that are unique to women so that they seek treatment in a timely manner.

The facts around women and heart disease tell a clear and troubling story. Previously thought to be a man’s disease, heart disease has killed more women than men in the United States each year since 1984. More women die of heart disease than all cancers combined.

Unfortunately women have been underrepresented in heart disease research over the past 20 years. As a result, the medical community and women themselves underestimate the risk of heart disease and fail to adequately address its risk factors. In fact, research shows that poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are major, preventable causes of heart disease for women as well as men.

“The Women’s Heart Health Program uniquely offers both education and risk-reduction services,” said Anita Kelsey, M.D., the Saint Francis cardiologist leading the program. “This is a tremendously important program when you consider that about 500,000 women in this country die of cardiovascular disease each year, by far the leading cause of death among women.”

“Currently women are being diagnosed later and historically have not had the same treatment options as men. We need to provide the same care for women that we currently do for men – reducing the risk of heart disease, providing aggressive diagnosis and treatment and consistently involving women in cardiac rehabilitation therapy.”

This program features community collaboration in which Hoffman Heart clinicians work with local partners to promote women’s cardiac wellness. These women will be able to participate in educational programs, learn their own personal cardiovascular risk factors and develop the tools to reduce their risk through clinical assessment and/or lifestyle change. Churches, clinics, shopping malls and schools will facilitate access to the program. “We anticipate that in a program that is community-centered and wellness-focused, direct measurement of the tangible benefits of such an endeavor will be evidenced in declining rates of heart disease for women in the Greater Hartford area,” said Dr. Kelsey.

With the goal of serving 1,500 women per year from Greater Hartford, the Women’s Heart Health Program has been designed to reach three distinct groups: women of color, perimenopausal women and postmenopausal women who may already have cardiovascular disease. One facet of the program has been structured to build community alliances with women of color through a faith-based initiative developed in partnership with the Capitol Region Conference of Churches.

For the post menopausal component, the Saint Francis Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association has taken their commitment to the program one step further with a commitment to the active involvement of well over 1,500 members, as well as providing financial support of the program.

“Cardiology is one of Saint Francis’ established centers of excellence,” said Christopher M. Dadlez, the Hospital’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The Women’s Heart Health Program will build on that foundation and make a difference in the lives of the women it serves.”

“Our hope with this grant is that women in our community are armed with the education and strategies they need to prevent heart disease,” said Linda Kelly, President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

“We see this program as a chance to reach out in the community to save the lives of our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends,” said Rev. Shelly D.B. Copeland, Executive Director of the Capitol Region Conference of Churches.

The Capitol Region Conference of Churches is a 105-year-old faith-based organization serving a Hartford regional network of over 400 Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. They specialize in the development of volunteers as community-change-agents, especially in the area of health education and advocacy.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Capitol Region. For 80 years, it has built successful partnerships with donors and nonprofits to enhance the quality of life for people in the community. With assets of more than $665 million, the Foundation awards grants of about $25 million each year and receives gifts from thousands of generous individuals and families. For more information about the Foundation, visit or call 860-548-1888.

Located at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, the Hoffman Heart Institute of Connecticut is Southern New England’s oldest comprehensive heart institute. It was established in 1991 through a grant from the Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Inc. and offers a complete range of state-of-the-art diagnostic and interventional technologies, corrective surgical procedures, cardiac disease prevention and rehabilitation services. Saint Francis is New England’s largest open-heart surgery center.

For information on the Women’s Heart Health Program, call 860-714-6389.