Montefiore Medical Center is sponsoring screenings and educational workshops at churches in the Bronx in order to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in congregants with hypertension. Congregants will learn about hypertension, medication management, weight control, healthy cooking habits and yoga exercises to reduce stress. The program is funded and coordinated by Montefiore’s Care Management Company (CMO) and the Office of Community Health.

“In the northeast Bronx, an astonishing 32 percent of adults have high blood pressure, a medical condition that puts these individuals at very high risk for heart disease, stroke and death,” said Peter Selwyn, MD, MPH, director of Montefiore Medical Center’s Office of Community Health. “This is a grassroots effort to reach people in the hopes of making a difference in their health.”

“We tailor our workshops to the needs of each congregation, and that generates a lot of discussion and questions,” said Helene Mayo, program director of community education at Montefiore’s CMO. “We are beginning to see a change in the mindset among many of the congregants, especially women. In fact, at a recent screening, nurses identified three women with critically high blood pressure who were sent immediately to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.”

At Jubilee Baptist Church, 10 women over the age of 55 signed up for the program. After initial blood pressure screenings, nine of the women were diagnosed as pre-hypertensive or hypertensive. A series of workshops over the following several months were tailored to address the specific needs of this group.

“This series of workshops was very beneficial to our church family in terms of making important lifestyle changes,” said Pastor Liz Townes-Shuler of Jubilee, who learned for the first time through the screenings that she had high blood pressure. “Some of us discovered new ways to exercise; others learned how to control weight or how to change our cooking habits. As a result, I was able to reduce my blood pressure from ‘borderline’ to ‘normal.’”

To date, Montefiore has worked with nearly 150 congregants at nine churches in the northeast Bronx. For more information and to learn how to get involved, contact Helene Mayo at or call (718) 920-9473.