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DHS news release

Feb. 1, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Mel Kohn, M.D., 971-673-0982

Building dome goes red to draw attention to heart health

The dome of the Portland state office building is going red Feb. 2, and it's not because Valentine's Day is coming. The intent is to draw attention to another matter of the heart -- its health.

The dome is going red in partnership with the American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" movement to raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 health threat facing women, and that by taking action now they can reduce their risk.

"The broad visibility of the Go Red campaign has brought attention to heart disease and the high risk it poses to all of us -- but especially women," said Rick Lindquist, M.D., McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield. "It has increased awareness that women may present signs and symptoms of heart disease differently than men. The campaign is easy for people to relate to and has great marketing. Who doesn't like red dresses!"

Heart disease is a leading cause of death among Oregonians for both men and women. More than 3,000 people die of heart disease each year, accounting for almost one-fourth of all deaths. Another 100,000 Oregon residents live with heart disease, a condition that often interferes with their daily lives, said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.

"The good news is that heart disease doesn't have to happen," said Kohn. "While public health staff have always encouraged healthy eating and physical activity and warned of the dangers of tobacco, we're now working with employers to help people put that advice into action."

Kohn said that many people want to make healthy changes in their lives, but too often encounter barriers at work and in the community. "If your main meal options are fast food or vending machines, or you work in a smoke-filled environment or don't have a safe place to walk -- or the time to do so -- you're at a disadvantage," he said.

Changes in the workplace environment can have a positive impact on the heart, Kohn noted. He pointed to "Healthy Worksites," a new pilot program under way in 18 public and private agencies as an example. The Portland state office building at 800 N.E. Oregon Street is one of the participating worksites.

Healthy Worksites encourages healthy behaviors through activities, policies and guidelines that support those choices.

"It's about changing the workplace culture so that employees find it easy to make healthy choices," Kohn said. "Smoke-free campuses; easy availability of fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods; support for bicycling and walking; health care benefit plans that support annual health checks; and support for employees who want to quit smoking -- these are all examples of things an employer can do."

Kohn said changes outside of work are important, too. "Such things as ensuring safe sidewalks and street crossings, designated lanes for bicyclists, neighborhood grocery stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, a park with walking paths and playground equipment can have broad benefit to the community."

The Healthy Worksites project is a partnership between DHS and the Public Employees Benefit Board. More information on the project is available on the DHS Healthy Worksites Web site.

For more information about the American Heart Association's efforts to prevent and treat heart disease, visit www.americanheart.org.