Stronger Hearts Helpline - Why are we involved and to what end?

Gary Madden

Director of 211 San Bernardino

January 4, 2016


When your car breaks down, you take it to a shop with the tools, parts, and competent staff who can properly diagnose the problem, prescribe the solution, and perform the work, disassembling and reassembling.  Voila!!  Your car is fixed.

For the past couple of centuries, the human body has been thought of the same way, like a mechanical device.  Cut out the bad parts and if possible, replace them.  Dump some of the right fluid into the tank and clean out the gunk.  Swallow a pill.

But the human body is not a machine.  It is an amazingly complex living system of systems with millions of interlaced functions happening every second, totally beneath conscious thought and control.  Thousands of studies have shown that thoughts and beliefs can have dramatic effects on health, both good and bad.  But probably the most important factor of all is a person’s environment. [See or]

Heart Disease is the number one killer in the US. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.  San Bernardino County has the second-highest rate of heart failure treatment in the state. 

Nearly 20% of the county’s Medicare patients are being treated for heart failure. That’s 2 in 5 of San Bernardino seniors, which is higher than the state and national average.

Heart failure is expensive. One local public hospital has indicated a cost of more than $40 million a year to treat heart failure patients rushed to their ER by ambulance.  We all share in paying the terrible price.

People can live successfully and even thrive with heart disease if the known protocols are followed: proper medication regimen, a healthy low salt diet, plenty of exercise and fresh air, and low stress!  But as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the best medical care in the world fails if the patient returns home to an environment full of barriers, with a support system unable to gain or maintain the prescription.

In a phrase, what is it that 211 staff do in the one to one connection with callers?  In a compassionate, professional way, you help people overcome the barriers in their life!  This is why we are involved in this pilot program, because 211 is perfectly suited to assisting those living with this dis-ease.

The casual giving of information and referrals to callers is not powerful enough to sustain funding for 211 into the future.  It will be the integration of our special knowledge (data), skills, and technology into community systems that will sustain 211 and ensure that it is an essential part of the social fabric.

So when you get a Stronger Hearts Helpline caller, please do your very best to show that you care about the caller’s quality of life, capture as much rich detailed information as you can elegantly, obtain permission to follow up in a subsequent call, and recognize that you are part of a nationally recognized pilot program that has the potential to completely revolutionize the way 211s nationwide operate and how they are funded!

It is no small thing, what you do every day.   Be proud.  Be the best.  You have made this opportunity possible.

This post is an email written to 211/Stronger Hearts Helpline staff to remind them why the Helpline is vital to San Bernardino County.

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