Healthy heart program improves staff knowledge

By Deirdre Holly
Cardiac Psychology Service, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, The Lister Centre, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, UK

People with learning disabilities (LD) have higher risk of having problems with their heart than the rest of the population. However, we are often not sure of the best way to help.

What did you do in your research?
We trained 17 staff working within two community supports organizations with people with LD in the UK. The goal was to help their clients remain healthy and avoid developing heart problems. This training involved teaching clients about the heart, the things that can be harmful for it (e.g. smoking), and the best ways to help someone stay healthy. We used the Healthy Hearts Kit which is comprised of four evidence based training topics: 1) about the heart, 2) how the heart works, 3) making lifestyle changes, and, 4) preventing risk factors. The Healthy Hearts Kit included nine, day-long training sessions. Staff knowledge was assessed at three different points: before training, immediately post-training, and three months later.

What did you find out?
This training helped improve the knowledge of staff working with people with LD. After the training, staff felt more confident and better able to help their clients to remain healthy. Staff also enjoyed the training and found it useful.

What are the take-home messages?
Training staff working with people with LD may be a good way to improve knowledge about health and heart disease. In turn, this may help improve the health of people with LD and teach them to look after their own health.

To learn more about these findings contact Deirdre Holly.

Full Journal Article
Holly, D., & Sharp, J. (2014). Addressing health inequities: coronary heart disease training within learning disabilities services. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(2), 110–116.