In the heart of Galway a state of the art heart and stroke centre is leading the way in preventive and rehabilitative care for those impacted by heart disease.
The €4 million centre opened its doors in 2012 funded by Croí, a Galway based charity focused on improving quality of life through the prevention and control of cardio vascular disease.
“When Croí was established in 1985 our focus was on supporting the development of cardiac services and facilities in the west of Ireland, “explains Neil Johnson, the charity’s CEO. “In the last 10 years, our focus has shifted to the community, and the areas of prevention and recovery.”
In the last year alone, over 10,000 individuals have participated in various health programmes at the Croi Heart & Stroke Centre and Mr Johnson hopes the impact will stretch even further.
Most people know about heart disease, but the big challenge is getting people to make the lifestyle changes they need to prevent against it.
Cardiovascular disease is a huge problem accounting for 36% of all deaths in Ireland, more than any other disease. However, as many as 80% of cases could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. “Most people know about heart disease, but the big challenge is getting people to make the lifestyle changes they need to prevent against it,” continues Mr Johnson.
Through the centre, a multidisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, dieticians, physiotherapists and psychologists work together to provide complete support for those impacted. The team are also in a great position to carry out targeted research into behaviour modelling, which could help support change on a wider scale.
“We’ve been carrying out studies into a number of initiatives such as a 16-week lifestyle change programme called ‘MyAction’, weight gain management and structured programmes to get those who’ve not been active back to doing regular exercise, ” explains Mr Johnson. “If successful, these are models that could be rolled out on a national scale.”
With such expertise onsite, the centre is also becoming a hub for training healthcare professionals. Croí are also partnering with NUI Galway to offer postgraduate courses in preventive therapies. That influence looks set to increase as the team are currently collaborating with other heart charities to establish patient networks and alliances for those impacted by heart failure.
As Mr Johnson, explains, “As a global condition, heart failure is almost forgotten. There’s a huge financial burden to the system, so we’re working on establishing local, national, European and even global alliances to raise awareness of the needs of patients and provide a clear pathway from diagnosis to treatment.” In the process, the charity remains focused on using their expertise to improve the lives of as many people as possible.