SANSAR’s mission is to promote cardiovascular health through awareness, education and research. Research in school-age children has shown that students with 3 or more risk factors for heart disease (weight, blood sugar, lipids) are 13 times more likely to have a heart attack by the age of 48 than their healthier classmates. Thus, there is an urgent need to address this issue in our youth where lifestyle habits are being established and risk factors are already beginning to develop.
In 2014, SANSAR piloted the KIDS at heART program in Peel Region, Ontario. Peel Region is home to over 788,000 South Asians (Census 2021), therefore, it has always been an ideal location for SANSAR to pilot this program. Through this program, SANSAR has educated approximately 1000 students in grades 6 to 8 in 60-minute live and interactive education sessions. The content is designed to help the students understand what heart disease is, as well as grasp the importance of implementing healthy living patterns now to prevent the development of this disease in future. We provide the students with 3 easy ways to remember the take-away messages:
Eat Healthy, Get Active and Avoid Cigarette Smoke. This program teaches students how to set important personal healthy living goals and schools are encouraged to have the students continue to share their ideas with their peers in the classroom.
All participating students are provided with a personal goal setting tool in the form of a calendar to use throughout the year. This tool is designed to serve as a reminder throughout the year to maintain a consistent pattern of healthy living and to provide a mechanism by which the students can track their own success. The art work selected for inclusion in the calendar is developed by the student participants themselves in the form of comic strip messages depicting heart healthy living.
By educating our youth on heart disease and enabling them through education to reduce their risk factors, we can empower them to begin making important lifestyle changes now that will reduce their risk for developing heart disease later in life. In future, SANSAR plans to expand this program to other communities across Canada that have a high South Asian population to reach out to the people at a greater risk of CVD.