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Turning over a new page, Pauley Heart Center teams up with Richmond Public Library to offer free blood pressure screenings

The VCU Health Pauley Heart Center is building on its relationships throughout Richmond to provide free blood pressure screenings to community members.

Student measures the blood pressure of a seated man. They are surrounded by bookshelves. Susie Turkson, a M.D.-Ph.D. candidate at the VCU School of Medicine, is one of the many volunteers helping with a new collaboration offering free blood pressure screenings in Richmond Public Library. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Konrad Solberg

The Ginter Park Library in Richmond was recently filled with more than just books and eager readers. At an event in mid-April, dozens of people came to the library to receive a free blood pressure screening.

“It’s good to be proactive,” Yolanda Little, a library technician, said. She stopped by during her shift to get her blood pressure checked. “This is a good service because sometimes you may not know what’s going on.”

Often referred to as a silent killer because it shows no symptoms, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, was attributed to more than 670,000 deaths across the country in 2020. High blood pressure also puts people at a higher risk for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, among other things. To address this problem and reduce these numbers, health care providers like the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, are looking to engage their communities locally and prevent hypertension before it begins.

Pauley’s community engagement programs, such as Teach BP, have become a vital part of their mission to improve cardiovascular health for all. The new program is provided by a collaboration with Pauley Heart Center, Richmond Public Library, Capital Area Health Network (CAHN), Capital Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the American Heart Association and Daily Planet Health Services.

Pauley director Greg Hundley, M.D., sees community engagement as a necessary part of Pauley’s mission to improve heart health for everyone. The development of this partnership, he says, is a great way for the center to inform community members about healthier lifestyles.

“We are excited to work with the City of Richmond and other partners to raise awareness regarding the importance of diagnosing and treating hypertension,” Hundley said.

Pauley works with these partners to provide free blood pressure screenings to local Richmond Public Libraries, giving Richmond community members the information they need to improve or maintain their blood pressure. During the screening, people meet with representatives from CAHN to have their blood pressure measured.

Jackie Harris, a member of CAHN’s outreach team, says the screenings offer much more than numbers.

“We can get patients an appointment with their primary care physician if their blood pressure is too high or even connect them with a primary care physician (PCP) if they don’t have one,” she said. “We also have resources for mental health and infectious diseases, such as HIV.”

Harris greeted patients at the event, checking them in prior to screening and connecting them to needed resources after. What drew her to the work, she says, was the opportunity to provide services to the communities that need it the most.

“I enjoy helping the people,” Harris said with a smile.

Shante Williams, a trained lay health promoter provided by the Capital Area Health Education Center, performed the blood pressure screenings for the Ginter Park event. She says people have been happy to have their help.

“There’s been good participation from the community,” Williams said.

In addition to screenings held at the Ginter Park Branch Library, held the 3rd Tuesday of every month, screenings are also available at the Main Library on the 1st Monday and 3rd Saturday of each month and at the Hull Street Branch Library on the 2nd Thursday of each month.

As for the future of the program, Harris beamed with optimism.

“We’re looking to expand into communities who need it the most,” she said.