Program will help combat blood pressure in Oneida County, which is above New York’s and the national average

They’ve always been a resource center for the community, and a new program in the Mohawk Valley is letting libraries add one more important asset to their lending opportunities: blood pressure cuffs.

This November, the Utica Public Library and the Jervis Public Library in Rome joined the American Heart Association and the Mohawk Valley Partnership to Combat Heart Disease to make it easier for their patrons to keep track of their blood pressure.

The American Heart Association is providing each library with 10 blood pressure cuffs for patrons to borrow. Jervis Public Library has two cuffs that will remain at the library for patrons to use there.

Nurses or community health navigators with the Mohawk Valley Partnership to Combat Heart Disease will be at the Utica Public Library on the third Monday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to conduct screenings, offer education and provide referrals for patrons with high blood pressure.

Library staff will be trained in the use of the cuffs and pointing patrons to resources, but will not provide medical advice. Those with high blood pressure readings will be encouraged to visit their doctors, and those without a medical home will be encouraged to reach out to medical providers for further guidance. Upstate Family Health Center, a federally qualified health center in Utica, and Mohawk Valley Health System’s Sister Rose Vincent Family Medical Center, also in Utica, are prepared to receive referrals.

“The American Heart Association is proud to extend its blood pressure work to libraries,” said Cynthia Jones, M.D., president of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley, and chief medical officer of Mosaic Health. “Blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease, the nation’s number-one killer. In Oneida County, 32.7 percent of adults report having high blood pressure, and that number rises to 33.4 percent in Utica.

“This is much higher than both the New York and national averages – 29.9 percent and 32.6 percent, respectively – and that puts too many people at risk. Since high blood pressure often has no symptoms, there are very likely many more people in the community with undiagnosed high blood pressure. Knowledge is power, and we’re glad the libraries have joined this initiative.”

Lisa Matte, director of the Jervis Public Library in Rome, sees the blood pressure monitoring as a continuation of work that began in the library during COVID.

“One thing the pandemic showed us was how much libraries can support community health,” she said. “We became a trusted source during the pandemic to help people make medical appointments and helped bridge the digital divide for some older patrons. If people have no idea what their blood pressure is, they can borrow a cuff and try it out before they buy it. The stationary cuffs can be part of their routine.”

Chris Sagaas, director of the Utica Public Library, said libraries serve an important social role that the blood pressure cuffs fit into.

“Libraries have evolved and adapted,” he said. “People still look to libraries as the arbiter of information, authority and trust. The fraying of the social safety net has forced people to find information and resources in a variety of different places, and the library has stepped in to help support that. Urban public libraries are an extension of social services, mental health care and physical well-being for people in the city.”

Both librarians welcome working collaboratively with the American Heart Association and the Mohawk Valley Partnership to Combat Heart Disease.

“Because we have limited capacity and resources, we like to engage with community partners so we can all carry a modest load, and make a great impact,” Sagaas said.
“The library isn’t there to provide medical advice,” Matte said. “The loaner cuffs come with information packets that inform patrons what to do if their blood pressure is high.”

Both librarians touted the best thing about the library: there is no cost. The loaner cuffs are available to library patrons, and anyone is welcome to receive a library card.

“Your library card is free, which means the loaner cuffs are free,” Matte said. “It’s our pleasure to provide this service to the community.”

“We are proud to be part of this initiative and partnership to improve our community’s health,” said Patricia Charvat, MVHS senior vice president of strategy and marketing. “With the American Heart Association and other community partners, we are expanding the number of sites for education and screening for heart disease and stroke and are delighted that the libraries are joining in this important health initiative.”

Last March, the American Heart Association, with the support of local sponsors, launched the Mohawk Valley Blood Pressure Initiative to help reduce blood pressure. The Check It! Challenge will begin again in February 2023, as the American Heart Association continues its efforts to fight cardiovascular diseases.

The Jervis Public Library is located at 613 N. Washington Ave., Rome (; the Utica Public Library is located at 303 Genesee St.

By martha

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