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Program provides ‘pathway’ to healthy hearts

West Virginia Health Right is in the middle of a three-year program geared to improving heart health and the results are exciting, said Keith Settle, coordinator of health education.

"It is extremely successful, much greater than anticipated," Settle said. "West Virginia has drastic statistics of how bad off we are. We didn't expect people to grab hold of this. We have people who come to every class. They want to live longer and get off medication."

Settle's enthusiasm is obvious about the program called "Pathways to a Healthy Heart," made possible through a grant distributed over a three-year period by AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation.

Since the program began, Settle has seen people experience better blood pressure readings along with weight loss and improved overall health.

West Virginia Health Right was formed in 1982 under the auspices of Covenant House. It is now located at 1520 Washington St. E. where low-income, uninsured West Virginians receive free medical care, prescriptions, educational materials, counseling, dental care and eye exams.

Services are provided by an array of volunteers, including area medical professionals.

"Pathways to a Healthy Heart" includes numerous classes and activities that are linked to heart health, Settle said.

Classes focus on everything from cooking, weight loss, and smoking cessation to yoga, line dancing and food preservation.

An estimated 400 people attend classes each month.

"They are really committed to improving their health," he said.

Focusing on preventive care keeps people out of emergency rooms and hospitals and lowers the number of required medications, he pointed out.

"We have increased our health education dramatically," he said.

Each year the clinic sees about 20,000 patients translating into about 85,000 clinic visits, he said.

Those taking advantage of the classes linked to heart health register for monthly prizes and some qualify for gas cards in order to afford transportation to get to the clinic.

Those who are not Health Right patients may attend classes but do not qualify for prizes or gas cards. All classes are free.

Settle wants the entire community to focus on better health and he points out that Saturday is World Heart Day.

Settle is grateful for the support from AstraZeneca.

Since 2010, West Virginia Health Right has received nearly $372,000 from AstraZeneca Health Care Foundation.

The foundation launched "Connections for Cardiovascular Health" in 2010 through a charitable contribution of $25 million.

The program awards grants of $150,000 and up to U.S.-based, nonprofit organizations that are doing innovative work in the field of cardiovascular health.

Those who have participated in the "Pathways to Healthy Heart" classes at West Virginia Health Right have reported feeling better mentally and physically. They have lost weight and gained healthier lifestyles.    

Go to for more information or call 304-414-5947.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.


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