Perhaps like me, you were unaware of the effects of heart disease until you were exposed to it through Alpha Phi. The first time I considered my personal heart health was during sorority recruitment. Before Alpha Phi, I was blind to the effects of heart disease; I was uneducated and blissfully ignorant. After watching the Alpha Phi Foundation video, Changing Lives, One Heartbeat at a Time, I began to understand the tragedy of heart disease and Alpha Phi’s passion for women’s heart health. The video says the following:
“Each year, 1 in 3 women will die of a broken heart”
Those words have always stuck with me. If I applied this statistic to my chapter, 53 out of 160 of my sisters would somehow be affected by heart disease. Before Alpha Phi, I had personally never been affected by heart disease. Now, I have 160 reasons to spread heart disease awareness and to educate women about heart health.
Alpha Phi has advocated heart health since 1946 when Alpha Phi International was looking to adopt a philanthropic cause. During this time, rheumatic fever- a disease common in children that causes detrimental damage to the heart- became this focus for Alpha Phi. As technology advanced, rheumatic fever declined. In 1956, Alpha Phi became one of the first women’s fraternities to establish a Foundation; its philanthropic focus: women’s heart health.
February is annually proclaimed by the White House administration as American Heart Health month. This declaration follows a 50-year tradition that began during the Lyndon Johnson administration. Since the beginning of the proclamation in the early 1960s, the number of cardiovascular disease deaths has decreased approximately one million per year.
“It only takes one sisterhood to make a difference.”
As a collegiate member of Alpha Phi, I was astonished to learn that Alpha Phi International had begun encouraging heart health decades before the American government realized the importance of the issue. More astonishing, is how much of a difference Alpha Phi International truly makes.
Each year, Alpha Phi Foundation awards the Heart to Heart Grant (an award of $50,000) in order to fund research and educational programs that progress women’s heart health. This Foundation grant supports programs that investigate and study the causes of heart disease in women, specifically focusing on symptoms, treatment and prevention. Beginning this year, the Foundation will be doubling the Heart to Heart Grant to $100,000. This increase reflects the amazing commitment of our sisterhood.
Alpha Phi Foundation has also started a new initiative to educate women about heart disease. By partnering with the American Heart Association, Alpha Phi will offer Hands-Only CPR training to all collegiate members. Take Heart. Take Part. is a unique opportunity for Alpha Phi collegians to become aware of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) treatment. In the US alone, emergency medical services (EMS) treat approximately 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests per year. This amounts to more than 1,000 arrests per day. Of these sudden cardiac arrests, 92% of victims will die before reaching the hospital. Alpha Phi is training nearly 20,000 collegiate women in Hands-Only CPR; this procedure potentially doubles and even triples a SCA victim’s chance of survival.
Alpha Phi collegiate chapters continue to raise over $1,000,000 annually for Alpha Phi Foundation. Chapters hold various fundraisers and philanthropic events in order to support the Foundation and to educate their campuses and communities about heart health. Through Red Dress Galas and King of Hearts competitions, we expand our philanthropic network and promote the Foundation. Through Move Your Phi’t, we encourage physical activity to improve heart health and as a deterrent of heart disease. Chapters normally schedule these events during February as an extension of American Heart Health month. We should use this whole month to reach out to our communities through social media, events, word of mouth, etc. in order to embody our values and to appreciate the knowledge Alpha Phi has given us.
As collegians, we should be living our Alpha Phi values every day by empowering and educating others through our philanthropy. Every minute, approximately one woman dies of heart disease. This is our challenge. This is the change our sisterhood can make. This is the difference of Alpha Phi.
Tara Bresette is a collegiate member at Kent State (Beta Omega). Learn more about Tara by clicking here.